Multiple panel paintings have been around for thousands of years.
They are known as Diptych and Triptych, which translates to two and three panel paintings.
In early history, they were painted to show religious images, and were hinged so they could be closed for portability.
Currently, multiple panel paintings are a popular decorating choice and an interesting project for an artist.
One, Two, Three – Go
Almost any composition can be broken into several panels. The artist may have to make some minor changes to accommodate the multiple supports, but a good, basic composition should be able to withstand fragmenting without loss of compositional integrity.
The student should begin with sketching his composition. Use 8-1/2” x 11” paper and pencil to create a rough preliminary drawing. When satisfied with the overall composition, photocopy it several times. Cut a copy into two or three of panels. By using photocopies, the artist has the ability to view the composition in various shapes and number of panels. After the preliminary selection is made, transfer the composition to the supports. Now it is time to for the fun part; painting.
Three, Two, One – Paint
When painting a multi-panel work, make sure that there is enough paint mixed for all the panels. Running out of paint that is used throughout the panels may be a real problem for foregrounds and backgrounds. Blending color to match exactly is difficult and if the sky is a different color on one panel, it will ruin the cohesive appearance of the set.
Do not change technique midstream. Maintain consistency in all aspects of the work. Keep the texture, coloration and shadowing harmonious on similar items through the pieces, and especially if a single focal point spans multiple supports. Shadows must be painted in a manner that shows the light source emanates from the same location for all the panels. Pick an angle and stay with it.
Turn Ho-Hum Into Wow
Using multiple panels to create a work can add real punch to a relatively mundane, overused subject. Visually breaking up the composition gives each panel more impact and gives the overall series a stronger impression.
This also gives the artist the opportunity to blow up the size of objects in the composition without the need for the purchase of a huge support. Magnified objects can be an interesting subject for a painting. They can be treated as realistic renderings, or the basis for abstraction.
Multiple panels do not have to be all the same size. Two narrow panels could flank a wide panel. A wider panel next to a narrow one may make an exciting presentation. The panels should have at least one dimension in common, either the vertical or horizontal for a uniform appearance. Another combination of panels could be squares instead of rectangles. A series of four, six or nine squares could make visually interesting combination in which to paint the composition.
Big And Bulky
Multiple panel painting has some economic and logistical points to consider. The larger the support, the more costly it becomes. Very large canvases may need to be special ordered, and if they need to be delivered, shipping prices can be prohibitive. Painting the subject on smaller, multiple panels can reduce that cost considerably.
If the painting will be moved, perhaps to and from an art show, transportation is much simpler if the supports are small enough to fit in a regular vehicle. Shipping a painting requires substantial packaging, and smaller supports means less cost for delivery.
Experimenting with multiple panels can spark sagging creativity. It may be the impetus an artist needs to get the juices flowing again
Today’s interior design market has taken hold of the Diptych and Triptych style as a popular decorating trend. For the artist who wants to increase his clientele and expand his business, painting multiple panel paintings may be a lucrative addition.