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View Full Version : Any opinions on "Viewing Distance"...


Mike Finn
08-31-2004, 02:47 AM
... of paintings. There is a quote from some painter of old that his works were to be viewed not nosed :) I wonder if there is some accepted distance that we should check our work from..??

Mike Finn

Richard Saylor
08-31-2004, 03:05 AM
The optimum viewing distance probably depends (among other things) on the size of the painting.

Bioartist
08-31-2004, 04:11 AM
I was taught to stand three times the width of the painting. But best to stand back so you can see the whole painting without having to move your eyes - then you get an idea of what most people will see when they walk past it.
Hope this helps a little.
Stacey

amaze_1101
08-31-2004, 04:11 AM
I view mine from as far back as it takes to no longer see the mistakes. In most cases it's at least 100 meters! :D

quinacridonemagenta
08-31-2004, 05:23 AM
When I was in college i was taught that a painting needs to stand up to two viewing distances: first: it has to GRAB attention from the viewer from across the room. think about being in a show or gallery where there are tons of paintings. How can you make your painting get their attention. Key: size is not always the answer.

then once you got their attention, it had to hold their attention as they approached and once they got there.

so i always try to inspect objectively from as many distances as possible.
honestly: i agree with my teacher's assertions wholeheartedly. i've seen myself walk past way way way too many paintings for others.

lensman
08-31-2004, 07:20 AM
I view mine from as far back as it takes to no longer see the mistakes. In most cases it's at least 100 meters! :D

Ha, too funny... I find it also helps to wear dark glasses and look at my paintings at night - with no lights on.


Distance...hhmm, well that is something I have always had difficulty dealing with. When I'm working on paintings I try to get way too much detail in which I'm never satisfied with. I have to learn to stand back and observe.

Glenn

coherent
08-31-2004, 09:42 AM
I've read that you should stop now and then as you paint and stand back 6-7 feet so you can see if there are any perspective, contrast or color issues that don't look right. Then ocassionally double that, which go's along with "q's" comment above about grabbing you from across the room. Of course this is for smaller stuff..16x20 etc... not for mural size. I like the comment above about at night with the lights out... that may help mine! Also get up and walk away for a while or a day and of course you'll look at it a bit different then also...
-marc

Lady Carol
08-31-2004, 09:59 AM
My husband is into viewing some of my works from a distance...he thinks I should stand out in the street with it and he will shut the door :D

Enchanted
08-31-2004, 10:14 AM
My husband is into viewing some of my works from a distance...he thinks I should stand out in the street with it and he will shut the door :D

I should see if I can find an old clipping from the newspaper that reviewed my "one man show" in a local gallery. The "art reporter" said of my brightly colored paintings that, "they can best be appreciated from a great distance" - meaning the reviewer couldn't really relate to my pure colors in my representational paintings.

metalhead
08-31-2004, 10:29 AM
I think it depends on how the painting was painted. For example, if I take a photograph with a very very wide 15mm fisheye lens, and blow a print up to 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall, it might look fairly normal (not so fisheye, and very panoromic and cool) if viewed from a distance of about 3 feet. The same subject taken with a rectilinear 24mm lens (still wide) would look better viewed from a bit further back. Totally depends on the painting. You can paint something with the specific intention that it be viewed from close up, or from further back.

But ordinarily, I'd conjecture that choosing the distance would be much like choosing a seat in a movie theatre. You don't want to have to "pan and scan" your fovea all over the place to see the thing.

LarrySeiler
08-31-2004, 12:51 PM
I painted 20 years with painstaking effort and 200-300 hours per painting for as much detail and little detectable brushwork to now a painterly realism, and the major difference really other than freeing up a lot of time for myself (a painterly realistic work takes me from 2-3 hours afield), is the idea of where folks should stand viewing the work.

To be able to stand six inches away before seeing possible signs of the artist's efforts technically...or from 3-4 paces back. The more I thought about that the more ridiculous it seemed to be for me. That led to changing (after 20 years) my painting philosophy.

I go into it in fair depth here-
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=202063

for those interested in the topic...

Larry

amaze_1101
08-31-2004, 02:18 PM
Ha, too funny... I find it also helps to wear dark glasses and look at my paintings at night - with no lights on.
Glenn

HAHA Oh MANNN! I wish I'd thought of that. Would save me the 100 meter walk! :rolleyes:

sassybird
08-31-2004, 04:30 PM
Well, I wear tri-focals so distances is not that big an issue for me. It just depends on what part of my glasses I am looking through;)

Seriously though I agree that attention grabbing from a distance is as important as standing back just far enough to see the whole piece.

Einion
08-31-2004, 08:32 PM
Mike, are you asking in relation to viewing others' work or your own?

There is no one ideal distance to look at paintings, all can be experienced differently both close up and from further away and as has been mentioned the size of the piece is often an important consideration. Any realistic work can be appreciated from across a room as a cohesive, naturalistic whole and many are well worth viewing very close if you enjoy studying brushmarks, varied transparency, broken-colour effects etc. Somewhere in between is often the ideal stance, where you can see the painter's marks while simultaneously viewing the whole.

Abstract work is often best appreciated from a good body's length or two away and many don't reward close viewing because they are either too uniform to be interesting close up, or they are just too irregularly or carelessly brushed to be worth studying the surface. There are exceptions, Barnett Newman's work being perhaps the best known; he intended his paintings to be viewed much closer than one would generally view a Rothko for example, whose work is superficially very similar. Some of Newman's paintings appear to be featureless in reproductions because they miss the subtlety of the surface and small tonal variations that can only really be seen quite close in the flesh, assuming one is interested!

Some Impressionist/Neo-Impressionist paintings, Pointillist pieces in particular, only really work from a certain distance or greater, up close they 'fall apart' and don't really work as paintings; although they can still be fascinating to view in detail. I find it really interesting to back away from a Monet or a Seurat and watch it coalesce into a painting from what appears to be a random collection of coloured marks.

For myself I would want my work to be appreciated from whatever distance is appropriate given its size while being detailed enough to reward 'nose to canvas' viewing if someone wants. I used to paint with far too much consideration for close scrutiny though, which I think is almost always a mistake. As someone else said, there comes a point when you have to consider whether adding further detail actually improves the painting or if it's just for detail's sake.

Einion

maltman
08-31-2004, 09:09 PM
I view mine from as far back as it takes to no longer see the mistakes. In most cases it's at least 100 meters! :D
If I did a 100 metre walk, by the time I got there and looked back, I would have forgoten why I went in the first place :so the painting would be irrelevent anyway!

Mike Finn
08-31-2004, 09:19 PM
Mike, are you asking in relation to viewing others' work or your own?

Einion

I guess the question was relating to my own work. But I visited the Auckland Art Gallery a week or so back and watched carefully people viewing the works. There seemed to be an invisible barrier between the public and the paintings... As Larry said, about 3 paces back. Only a few people went any closer and those that did went right up close and scrutinised it closely... I guess they were painters themselves :).

In my own work I tend to want to smooth the edges and lines etc especially on canvas but step back a pace or two and they are fine.... so was just wondering if there was any need to fuss so much, the answers and comments above indicate there isn't :) Thankyou all.

Mike Finn

Artguy29
09-01-2004, 09:38 AM
Mike,

Just to second everyones opinion, you should look as far back as it feels right (or until you walk into a wall :D ). If you are still unhappy with a part of your painting as you move back, that tells you there is something to be fixed.

Dave