Diptychs, Triptychs and Polyptychs

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Have you ever had an idea for a painting that just couldn’t be confined?

No matter how you struggle, it just won’t stay within the boundaries of your largest canvas.

Preliminary drawings stretch out side by side as your concept grows and expands past the perimeters of your sketchpad.

Perhaps it’s time to venture into the world of polyptychs.

Diptychs and triptychs are the most common incarnations of the multiple support paintings known as polyptychs, but any number of canvases can be used in whatever formation works for the artist.

Diptychs And Triptychs In History

Historically, diptychs and triptychs were used for religious paintings. They graced the altars of churches and cathedrals during the Renaissance. They were composed of great scenes that represented places, events and people depicted in the bible.

Smaller sets of paintings were also commonly mounted into hinged frames, so they could be folded for easy transportation. Itinerant priests and the wealthy often traveled with artwork, so the multiple panels were convenient in size and more safely packaged for transport.

Polyptychs Today

Today contemporary artists use multiple panel paintings for a variety of reasons. As simple as the concept seems, relatively few artist take a turn at the method. For the most part, painters are content with their work seen in a traditional format of a scaled-down size.

From a marketing standpoint, the viewing and buying audience also needs a reason to want the multi-panel pieces. Commercial entities often have the room to display large-sized works of art. It may be that these collectors are more open to the purchase of heroic works, provided they fall within their buying guidelines. Private collectors and decorators, on the other hand, have more modest means and spaces available for display. They are limited in the size and scope that fits within private homes and smaller public spaces.

Why Should I Consider Doing Diptychs And Triptychs?

As an artist, you are constantly striving to push yourself to the next level and test your limits. Typically, we are content to remain within the confines of the supports we purchase at the local art supply stores or create with the tools and materials we have at our disposal.

Expanding an artistic concept to heroic proportions may seem self-important or that the concept itself is unworthy of the expanse of real estate required. Polyptychs require a broadening of the artist’s mindset. Yes, the idea is a good one and is deserving of the time, effort and expense involved. Plus, it’s a fun and creative way to stretch your artistic muscles.

More Supports Multiplies Interest

By not confining yourself to a single canvas or sheet of paper, you are allowing yourself to dig more deeply into your theme. The flower that once inhabited a tiny spot on the canvas can now be subjected to intense scrutiny. You have the opportunity to examine what you feel is the essence of the theme.

Your audience has the opportunity to see your vision in greater detail or scope. The fact that your artwork now encompasses multiple panels itself is an interesting change of course and is visually stimulating to viewers.

Multiple Panel Paintings Make Moving Painless

Proper packing and transportation of oversized artwork is problematic. The physical act of setting up and removing a heavy and cumbersome work is strenuous and can be a danger to the safety of the delicate surface.

Multiple panels can be handled more easily alone, and they do not require the services of a professional packing and moving company. A gallery does not require additional set-up crew to place and remove the work.

Cost Effective Budgeting For Art Supports

You get a better deal when you buy in bulk. Standard size, mass produced canvases and watercolor sheets are more reasonably priced than oversized products that are custom made or are in low demand. Mounting and framing costs also stay within the financial resources of an artist’s budget. Translated, it’s cheaper to use a bunch of smaller canvases than have a huge support custom made.

Polyptychs Spark Creativity

For most of us, art training includes composition, sketching and preliminary drawings. The student fleshes out a concept on a piece of paper, refining and expanding the concept. If a particular setup doesn’t work, start with a fresh scrap of paper and begin again.

Painting multiple panels allows the student to expand visually as well as creatively. An initial composition may not be bad, but just needs to develop past the perimeter of the sketch pad or perhaps shift directionally to encompass additional parts of the puzzle. How nice to be able to do just that, and accommodate your subject by adding square footage to give room for growth and expansion.

A polyptych doesn’t necessarily have to be a horizontal row of panels. They can be arranged as the artist sees fit. They can form a block or be staggered. Multiple panel paintings don’t have to be huge. It’s perfectly fine to use several small panels to create a mini-triptych. These smaller versions are visually appealing and fit in an average room.

If you haven’t tried multiple panel painting, put it on your short list for future projects. It’s an interesting concept that has been used by artists for hundreds of years. As you explore the possibilities, you may find that it opens doors and puts a new spark of creativity into your artwork.

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