Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thoughts on Hanging Paintings

Fremont Cottonwood

Now that the leaves have fallen, I'm spending a lot of time looking at trees.  I take a couple of walks each day down by the creek among the cottonwoods, sycamores and willows.  Each species shows its own grace and strength, and even within the species, every tree displays an individual character.  I particularly enjoy the muscular arms of the Fremont cottonwood and the curving dance of the Arizona sycamore.  These are tall trees, and sometimes you hurt your neck looking up at them.

As a painter, I look at these trees with an eye to representing their majesty.  If I place the horizon low in my painting and a big canvas, I'll be able to capture the whole tree, but I'm not sure this will necessarily convey the visceral sense.  That is, I want to create a real feeling in my viewer of standing on the creek bank and tilting his head back to take it all in.  How could I do this better?

When I look at these trees, I am tilting my head back so much it makes me dizzy.  And my neck hurts.  How can I reproduce this (but with a little less neck pain) in a gallery setting?

I think that if the painting is hung so that the horizon line is at eye level, it may work.  In fact, to get a true sense of any landscape, maybe every painting should be hung this way.

Here is an example below of how this might work.  Rather than use my creek scenes, where the horizon level is often obscured by vegetation, I've used some shots of the Grand Canyon.   Eye level is represented by the horizontal red line.

Of course, hanging paintings this way would be problematic for many galleries and domestic situations.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

By the way, I have a three-day plein air class coming up with the Sedona Arts Center.  This "Plein Air Essentials" class will take place over three Saturdays - February 15 & 22 and March 1 - from 9-4 each day.  If you've always wanted to paint in the Great Outdoors but felt overwhelmed by the prospect, this beginning-level class is for you!  Visit  for details.

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