Too much choice?

Only one of these size will survive...

A lot has been written about the many decisions we make in our lives, and the idea of too much choice. A few years ago I read the book, The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz. He explores the idea that although we would think that having lots of choices would be a good thing, it actually fries our brains. The brain tires of having to make the constant decisions, and begins to shut down. At first, the brain is as bright and perky as an energetic preschooler, but after having to decide breakfast, what to wear, which route to take to avoid the accident, and then all the work decisions… by the end of the day the brain is as exhausted as that preschooler’s mother at 5:00 pm. “Whatever,” the brain says, “I don’t care anymore.” This whole idea of too much choice has given birth to voluntary simplicity movements and ideas of non-consumption.

I completely agree with this idea. One way I simplify is to make choices by colour. I prefer bright, true shades, the kind you see in my paintings. To the despair of my technophile son, my cellphone was chosen because it came in this great turquoise colour. My camera is hot pink. My car is cherry red. And this works for me because I’m happy each time I use the item, its colour cheers me up.

Yet when it comes to my paintings, I have to admit I do a lot of experimentation. And one way I’ve experimented has been size. I created smaller sizes to make more affordable work for certain shows and events.  But because a lot of my work is dense and layered, I feel that detail doesn’t work on a small scale and I usually work as large as I can. Currently that size is limited by what fits in my cherry red car, so what I’ve done lately is to work on diptychs. The work is larger in total, but more portable.

When life hands you a bunch of 36" square panels, make a diptych.

But I feel many sizes are actually confusing for people who come to my studio. They say they love the work but they can’t make up their mind. The second year I displayed my resin art in the Culture Crawl, I had only two sizes and eight paintings and they sold out. The only decision that had to be made was: Which one do I like best? These days I can hardly keep track of all the prices and sizes. So in order to simplify things, I’m going to cut down on the number of sizes of panels that I work on. I currently have 16 different sizes and in the upcoming year, I’ll cut that down to six. I’m looking forward to having fewer decisions in my art. It’s important to really get to know a size or shape and be able to explore all the compositional possibilities. Limits are what fuels creativity. I enjoy playing with small panels, but my main practice is creating the large pieces. Years ago, I made a philosophical decision that I wanted my artwork to have impact when it was displayed, and size is a part of that.

Phew, having made that decision, my brain feels better already.