Themes/ Scale: When size matters

When you make work, does it matter how big or small it is? It sure does for these artists.

Sam introduces you to the power of scale and how crucial it can be for different types of artforms and industries.
‘Technical Artist’ is term that covers a range of people working within the visual arts, theatre, film and television industries. Scale can play an important role for these professionals, whether for exhibition or for screen.

Many visual artists approach work from a conceptual starting point. When using scale this is for the purpose of engaging the viewer, to make a statement. However, in films or tv, scale is generally used for a practical purpose- usually to do with the budget available. Camera angles and special effects can be used to create a world that doesn’t exist in real life.

Take a look at the projects I’ve picked out below. From fine art sculpture, public art to ‘bigatures’ for film. you’ll see they all produce very different works at scale.


Ron Mueck: Artist

Credit: Ron Mueck (b.1958), ‘A Girl’ 2006. Collection: National Galleries of Scotland, Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund 2007. Sculpture, mixed media (edition of 1 plus A/P), 110.5 x 501 x 134.5 cm© Ron Mueck.
Ron Mueck, labelled a ‘hyper-realistic sculptor’, is a fine art practitioner. He uses technical skill to create figures that emotionally connect to the viewer. What is most interesting about these sculptures is Mueck’s manipulation of scale. The question is raised; is this gigantic sculpture hyper-real? On a large scale a newborn baby would have skin similar elephant’s but to the human eye this would be unrecognisable; a baby’s skin is smooth. A true hyper-realistic sculpture would be difficult to obtain and so Mueck has to create what we know as human when working with different scales.

Ron Mueck wasn’t the first hyper-real sculptor. Duane Hanson started making work in 1960’s. Opinion is divided on his choice to make life-like sculptures portraying working-class Americans.

Read about his 2016 exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries on It’s Nice That


Matthew Gratzner: Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor, Shutter Island

Credit: 1:12 model of lighthouse, created for ‘Shutter Island’. Photograph, sourced from
In many films, a ‘bigature’ is created for parts of a set, usually for many reasons including financial and practical. This is literally a ‘big miniature’. VFX (Visual Effects) Supervisor Matthew Gratzner and his team at New Deal Studios worked on the famous lighthouse in the film ‘Shutter Island’. This large model is actually smaller than you would first think and was used to film the exterior shots. Due to CGI, the viewer is made to believe this lighthouse exists in reality at a typical scale. The lighthouse was built at only 14ft but the interior which could be used for filming was a different scale altogether at 35ft.

Find out more about the project on Digital Media world

Explore more of New Deal Studio’s work on their website

Check out the studios’ behind the scenes action and inspiration points on Pinterest

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen: Artists

Credit: ‘Dropped Cone’, 2001, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Neumarkt, Cologne, Germany, via Jammycaketin.
Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s sculptures use scale in an incredibly playful way. Many of the sculptures created are ordinary objects on a monumental scale; their place is not in a gallery space but in open spaces as pieces of public art. The ice cream cone interacts with its surroundings becoming a part of the architecture; its scale being of utmost importance for the public’s viewing. Referred to as a ‘cornucopia of consumerism’ by the artists, its position atop a shopping mall becomes quite humorous.

Find out more about this piece and other large scale projects on Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s website


Stuart Craig: Production Designer, Harry Potter

Credit: Jose, one of Stuart Craig’s production team- stands with the model of Hogwarts Castle.
Photograph, courtesy of Warner Bros Studio Tour. One of the most impressive ‘bigatures’ created for film has to be Hogwarts Castle for the Harry Potter films. Unfortunately, the castle does not exist in reality but the model, which is an impressive 50ft diameter, can be seen at Leavesden studios. Models created for the screen are an interesting balance between set and sculpture as there is a cross over between technical skill and free hand modelling. This is especially prevalent in the Harry Potter films with many sculptures being part of the sets.

Check out more bigatures from across the decades on Pinterest


Rachel Whiteread: Artist

Credit: ‘Untitled (Stairs)’ 2001© Rachel Whiteread, photo courtesy of Tate, 2017.
Rachel Whiteread is a well-established British artist and part of the YBAs (Young British Artists) of the 1990’s. She uses a combination of technical skill and conceptual thought to create sculptural installations. ‘Untitled (stairs)’ is a free standing sculpture made up of sections cast in jesmonite (a material known as a polymer plaster) reinforced with fibreglass. Like many sculptors, Whiteread began with a scale model, which can be fundamental to creating sculptures (especially at a large scale). Her 1:10 scale model aided her in developing ideas, gaining an understanding of potential problems, scaling up measurements and costing the project.

See ‘Untitled (stairs)’ as part of the Rachel Whiteread Exhibition at Tate Britain

Watch the video introducing Rachel Whiteread and her work.
Explore Sam Dawood’s work on Instagram and her website

Interested in the world of technical or production arts?

BA (Hons) Production Arts for Screen