I’ve been debating for a while as to whether my work actually fits the criteria for miniature paintings and decided to do a bit of research.
According to the RMS (The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers) “…the definition of miniature art is not absolute, but can be explained as artwork within the framed size of 6 x 4.5 inches [about 15 x 11.5cm]…..and must be of exquisite, fine miniature detail.”
In terms of whether my work has that level of exquisite detail, I’ll leave it to you to decide, but size-wise, a lot of my current work seems to meet the criteria. This particular one, done recently, has to be my smallest landscape memory painting to date. It’s 4.7cm x 4cm, mixed media on watercolour paper, and as yet untitled.
Pretty much all my work is done on a small scale these days, and it’s been interesting to reflect on this approach, in how it all started and what it means to me.
One of the many challenges and projects I took part in over the past 10 years was the House of Illustration One Inch Square Drawing a Day challenge for 30 days throughout September 2018. Though it didn’t do my eyesight any good, I really enjoyed the daily challenge of working on such a small scale, and precisely because it was so small, it was very quick to do, ideal when you have a young family at the time.
This miniaturist approach left an impression on me, as I would revisit the concept at times in my daily visual diaries and sketchbooks, and on random scraps of paper. When I gave up my studio room at home in 2019 to be turned back into a much needed bedroom for one of our children, I managed to just about squeeze my studio things into our bedroom. Such restriction of space meant that the concept of working small remained attractive and practical, and meant I could continue to show up at my table on a daily basis despite family/work commitments.
When it came to choosing a sketchbook for my 2020 lockdown sketchbook concept, I chose an A6 sketchbook that I had available. This project was a turning point for me in so many ways, and which I’ve discussed elsewhere (see Galleries), but what it also showed me was that working in such a small sketchbook was incredibly meditative, enabling me to filter out the horror that was the pandemic. It was like cocooning myself, a comfort blanket if you will, so focused I was on my minuscule mark-making. No wonder that when I moved out of the safety of my lockdown sketchbook to embark on a new collection of work, I chose to maintain that smallness. It’s like working on a series of mini aide-mémoires for myself, marking the memories before they disappear forever.
There is the issue though of how best to store such small pieces safely. This was highlighted when I recently lost one of my small pieces not once but twice. It was ironically titled “Hidden”. I eventually found it out in the hall, and I can only assume it had attached itself to a part of me (the perils of working with tape) and had accompanied me on my travels around our home.
Hopefully, I have now found the solution with this rather lovely little vintage suitcase from my favourite charity shop. It’s just about the right size to store my pieces safely. At some point I will experiment again with larger pieces, but in the meantime owing to increasing family commitments, I’m remaining an intentional miniaturist.