Have you ever seen a painting with so many canvas panels that it looks like a puzzle? This is actually a type of painting with a rich history and a way to experiment with creating and displaying your art.
What is split painting? This unique type of painting involves using multiple canvases to create a single image. It allows you to be flexible and creative with your art while adding depth and interest to your display.
In this post, we’ll take a look at split painting, what it is, and how to do it. Split paintings can be a bit difficult to hang, so read on to find our advice for the best way to display your split paintings!
History Of Split Paintings
A split painting is an art piece consisting of two or three panels or canvases, usually hinged together so they can fold closed like a book. They are often referred to as diptychs (two-panel artworks) and triptychs (three-panel artworks).
Both diptychs and triptychs have a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt, where they were used as tomb paintings. They can be paintings or carvings using all sorts of media — wood, stone, metal, and even ivory.
In the Middle Ages, diptychs were popular among wealthy families as a way to display their wealth and status. Many portraits of important figures from this era were painted as diptychs or triptychs.
Diptychs were particularly popular during the Early Christian and Byzantine periods when they were often used as altarpieces. The panels of a diptych were usually hinged so that they could be opened and closed like a book.
Triptychs, on the other hand, were typically intended to be viewed as a single unit. The central panel of a triptych was often significantly larger than the side panels, creating a sense of movement and depth.
Today, diptychs and triptychs are appreciated for their ability to tell complex stories or depict multiple scenes from a single event. These works of art continue to fascinate viewers with their ability to capture multiple viewpoints in a single image.
Others use multiple panels to tell a story or convey a message. Whether simple or complex, diptychs and triptychs offer a unique way for artists to express themselves.
Types of Split Canvas Painting
There are three main types of split canvas paintings, depending on how many panels you want to use in your artwork. They are called diptychs (two panels), triptychs (three panels), and polyptychs (four or more panels).
The panels in these paintings can be divided by adding a hinge between the panels to create a piece that can be folded and transported but still appear to be a singular unit. This style was very popular when split paintings were used as altarpieces.
Modern split paintings are now often polyptychs – four or more canvases hanging side by side to showcase a single artwork that flows seamlessly from one canvas to another.
Why Try Split Painting?
Many contemporary artists are finding inspiration in experimenting with split painting. There are a ton of reasons why split painting is a must-try if you are a budding artist.
The first and age-old reason to try split painting is that it’s much easier to pack and transport compared to a big-sized painting.
Because split paintings can be separated and collapsed into a smaller package, if you are an artist hoping to sell your art, split paintings are definitely more convenient.
One of the main advantages of split painting is that it allows the artist to create a more complex composition than a traditional painting.
The additional panels also give the viewer a sense of movement and depth that is not possible with a single canvas. The spaces between the panels also make the paintings look bigger and more sophisticated.
In addition, a polyptych can be hung in a variety of ways, depending on the desired effect.
For example, the panels can be arranged in a traditional grid formation, or they can be offset from one another to create a more dynamic composition. You can even try to shift the pieces around to create a puzzle effect, which can make your painting even more unique.
Split paintings also work better with small spaces. You can even display a continuous series on multiple walls in your home to create visual interest without much effort.
Although this painting method looks complicated, it’s actually not very difficult to do. All it takes is planning and a little bit of creativity.
If you are convinced that you want to add some split paintings to your home decor, let’s take a look at two ways to paint split paintings below.
How To Paint Split Paintings
For this example, we will use four canvas panels, but you can apply these methods to as many canvases as you would like to achieve a similar result.
There are two main ways to paint split paintings.
The first method is by physically clamping the canvases together to create one big canvas and then painting them as if they are a single canvas. This method is quite simple, provided that you securely clamp the panels together to create a sturdy canvas to paint on.
The second method will require you to sketch out your dvvvesign with a pencil first, continuing the details from one canvas to another so that they appear to flow from one canvas to another.
Let’s take a look at how to carry out each method.
This method works great if you are working on an abstract painting or using an acrylic pouring technique. All the abstract details will flow seamlessly from one canvas to another without much effort or planning.
You will need the following:
- Four canvases of equal sizes
- Six to eight C-clamps
- A craft knife
- Acrylic paint and gesso
- Your painting method of choice
Arrange the canvases face down on the floor so that all the edges of the canvases meet. You can create a big square or a row of canvases, depending on how you want to display the paintings later.
Since the canvases are facing downwards, you can see the wooden frames of the canvases meeting. Use two C clamps to clamp the edges of the canvases together, and make sure that they are spaced evenly.
Screw the C clamps so that they are secured. Repeat this step with the remaining canvases.
It’s best to use more C clamps than needed so that the canvases are secure while painting. This is especially important if you are pouring acrylics since the lifting motions can cause the C clamps to separate the canvases.
Carefully lift the canvases to your table or your easel, where you can now paint the four canvases as one big canvas.
Prime the canvas with gesso to get it ready for painting. After the gesso dries (about 24 hours), you can go ahead and paint the canvases with your painting method of choice.
If you are pouring acrylics, make sure to lift the canvases gently in the process so that they don’t separate when you are creating your design with liquid acrylic paint.
After painting, allow the paint layers to dry, which will take about 24 hours.
After 24 hours, check if your paint is completely dry. Then, use a sharp craft knife to cut in between the canvases to separate them. The sharper the knife, the easier it is to cut through your layers of paint.
Make sure to go slow so that the paint doesn’t accidentally peel off.
After cutting the canvases, you can flip them over and carefully remove the C-clamps to release each canvas.
Seal the paint with your sealer of choice. After the sealer is completely cured, frame and hang your new split paintings!
Pencil Sketching Method
If you are planning a sophisticated design with a lot of details, then the best way to paint a split painting is to sketch out the design using a pencil first and match the paint colors around the edges so that they seem to flow from one canvas to another.
You will need the following:
- Four canvases
- Masking tape
- A pencil
- Acrylic paint and brushes
Prime your canvases using gesso and allow them to dry before painting (about 24 hours).
Place your canvases on a flat surface so that the edges line up to form a square or a row, depending on your design.
Use masking tape to temporarily line up the edges to prevent the canvases from sliding around when you sketch.
Use your pencil to sketch out your design on all four canvases, but when you meet the edges, make sure that the lines flow from one canvas to the other.
You don’t have to sketch out a lot of details in your painting, but when working around the edges, make sure to think about all the details you want to include and all the paint colors you want to use around the edges so that you can follow the guides when it’s time to paint.
Remove the masking tape to separate the canvases, and start painting one canvas at a time.
When you reach the edge of the canvas that meets the other canvas, you should carry the paint over to the next canvas so that the colors match perfectly. This is important if you are mixing your own shades since the color is unique and will be difficult to match later on.
Repeat this step with the remaining canvases you have; make sure to check that the details are still aligned as you work.
After the paint dries completely, you can seal the paint. Then, frame and hang your new split painting!
How To Hang Split Paintings
Hanging split paintings require a little bit of math and measurements, so of course, it can be a little bit intimidating.
Here are our best tips for hanging split paintings to enhance a space.
Align The Paintings With Your Furniture
If you are hanging several split paintings over your bed or your sofa, make sure to align the center of the paintings with the center of the furniture. This step will make the space look much bigger and classier by allowing the eyes to flow seamlessly from the paintings downwards.
To find the midpoint, just measure the width of your furniture and divide it by two. Then, find the midpoint and draw a straight line upwards; that’s where you will need to hang the center canvas of your split paintings.
When you measure the height, make sure that the paintings hang at least 6 inches from your furniture. This will give the eyes a resting space in between the furniture and the decor; plus, there’s a smaller risk of you bumping your head into the space!
Don’t Overwhelm Your Wall
The eyes need some white space to rest, so the last thing you want to do is to cover the entire wall (edge-to-edge) with your canvases!
Instead, allow about 8 inches of space between the edge of the wall and the painting so that the visual doesn’t look too overwhelming.
Hang At Eye Level
As any art lover knows, the way a painting is hung can have a big impact on the viewer’s experience. If a painting is too high or too low, it can be difficult to appreciate the details and colors. For this reason, the best way to hang your split paintings is to keep them at eye level.
This practice is known as museum hanging, and it helps to ensure that viewers can fully appreciate the artwork, allowing the eye to flow naturally across all the details of the paintings.
Space The Paintings
When you are hanging several canvases to display them as one continuous unit, the spacing between the paintings is especially important.
Depending on how big your canvas is, the space between the canvases will need to be adjusted so that the details will look like they are connecting while still keeping some white space between the canvases.
The ideal distance is about 2-3 inches, but you can adjust the distance so that the paintings will look like they are flowing smoothly from one canvas to another.
Plan Out The Arrangement
The easiest way to hang split paintings is to align them so that the details flow from one canvas to another.
However, if you want to make it a little bit more interesting, you can display the canvases with cascading heights or flip one or two canvases to the side so that the details are not connected, but the canvases still look like a part of the series.
When you plan out the arrangement, make sure to lay down all the canvases on a flat surface and try to arrange them in different ways that can showcase your creativity. When you are happy with the arrangement, then you can start to drill holes and display them on your wall.
Lighting is the simplest way to make your artwork look museum-quality.
If you already have light fixtures on the wall, you can add a light on each side of the artwork to highlight its details.
If you want to add mood lighting, you can even add LED strips in the back of each frame to create a backlight effect for the frames. This is a simple way to add mood lighting to your decor, and it will also highlight the details of your split painting beautifully!
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