Small Abstract Paintings on Paper

February 26, 2013

Many artists in history have created small paintings on paper.  Many of these works are considered among the artist’s masterworks despite producing larger, magnificent canvases.  Many sculptors work on paper as well, sometimes creating fine works as preliminary to a sculpture.  While works on paper are generally less valuble than works on canvas or sculptures, they are often valuble to collectors as excellent compositions and may approach the valuation of larger pieces by a particular artist.

Some artists are most well known for their works on paper, Honore’ Daumier and Toulouse Lautrec are two, but there are many artists who worked on paper notably as a variant to their main production, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas and August Renoir among the many.

The media of prints, drawing and pastels are all found almost exclusively on paper.  Paper as a support is also very important in the art of many Asian countries.  I will not digress into a discussion of types or qualities of the various papers of history or those available at present, but in fact suggest that many quality papers are still used with great facility by numerous artists.

Painting on paper has been done with inks, pigments of many kinds and many different paints with various vehicles through history – egg tempera, oils, and acrylics.  Each paper lends itself to some media more than others.  And each medium demands a varying ground on the paper for good execution and for good stability of the paint’s chemical properties.

Modern painters are working on paper in various paints, but most often with acrylic paints.  There are a number of artists such as Robert Vickrey and Sam Francis who worked on larger pieces of paper, but most paint on paper is done in small paintings – usually under 36″ in both dimensions.

With a cursory review of strong, contemporary works, paintings on paper, you will see artists working in watercolor for representational or objective works and artists working in acrylic for abstract paintings, especially nonobjective artists and action painters.

Watercolorists receive a great deal of public support and are celebrated as an old and established art form with many larger regional, national and international shows.  Abstract artists working in acrylic on paper to produce small nonobjective paintings receive little of the recognition afforded by the old, national art shows that tour, like “Watercolor USA”.  Yet the small acrylic paintings on paper that abstract artists now turn out are often very strong in composition.  A good example of small abstract paintings done on paper can be found at this website.  These works, acrylic on paper, are exemplary of the work available in contemporary media.

Good abstract paintings are collectible, but on paper, as smaller works, they are more affordable even though they usually offer great examples of an artist’s style in compact format. Collectors of such artists as Red Grooms and Andy Warhol see small works on paper going for many thousands of dollars now.  A contemporary, small painting on paper that is matted and framed can make a great buy for collector or investor.

– Daniel Ferris


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