How to use scale and proportion in abstract painting

Blue and yellow abstract painting by artist Claire Desjardins, "Fill in the Blanks".

As an abstract artist who thrives on the interplay of colors and forms, I've discovered that mastering scale and proportion can truly elevate a painting to new heights. These fundamental principles not only guide the arrangement of elements within a composition but also evoke emotion and depth in the viewer's experience. Let me share with you some insights into how I use scale and proportion in my own  abstract creations.

Blue and yellow abstract painting by artist Claire Desjardins, "Cut In Line", plays with scale and proportion.

Understanding scale

Scale, in essence, refers to the relative size of objects within a painting. It's about how elements relate to one another and the space they occupy on the canvas.

Abstract painting, "Bright as Quiet" by artist Claire Desjardins, repeats shapes and patterns.


One way I play with scale is by juxtaposing large, bold shapes with smaller, intricate details. For instance, imagine a canvas dominated by a sweeping, expansive swath of color, interrupted by delicate, miniature swirls dancing across its surface.

"Andreanne's Cake" abstract painting by artist Claire Desjardins uses scale to show how one object relates to the other.


This contrast not only adds visual interest but also invites the viewer to explore the painting on multiple levels, from the macro to the micro.

Exploring proportion

Proportion, meanwhile, allows me to establish a sense of harmony and balance within the composition. It deals with the relationship of sizes between different parts of the painting or between elements and the whole.

Abstract painting, "Mind of Your Own" by painter Claire Desjardins, has large and small swirls.


A cluster of small, tightly packed shapes in one corner might be balanced by a single, larger form occupying the opposite side, creating a sense of equilibrium and cohesion.

"Temprano" colourful abstract painting by artist Claire Desjardins, uses scale and negative space.


By carefully distributing elements of varying sizes across the canvas, I create a dynamic interplay that draws the viewer's eye across the painting.

Eliciting mood and emotion

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of scale and proportion is their ability to evoke mood and emotion. 

Abstract painting, "Later Today" by artist Claire Desjardins.


Consider a painting dominated by a towering, monolithic figure against a backdrop of diminutive shapes.


The scale disparity here imbues the scene with a sense of awe and reverence, inviting contemplation and reflection.  

"Across the Dateline" - painting by artist Claire Desjardins.

In the end, mastering scale and proportion is about more than just technical proficiency; it's about harnessing the power of these principles to create paintings that resonate deeply with viewers. By experimenting with different scales, juxtapositions, and proportions, I invite the viewer to embark on a journey of discovery, where each brushstroke tells a story and every element contributes to the rich tapestry of the painting. So, the next time you pick up your brushes, don't just think about color and form—consider the role of scale and proportion in shaping your artistic vision. You may just find that by embracing these fundamental principles, your abstract paintings take on a whole new dimension of depth and meaning.

Abstract painting, "Airplane" by artist Claire Desjardins.
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1 comment

I loved this article!

Teru Reznicek

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