Christian Miniature Art
Miniature art is a centuries old tradition, with organizations and clubs around the world specifically geared to its development and marketing. In a world with an insatiable appetite for more, it seems ironic that this art form would still flourish.
Time Alone, Mixed Media, 4.75"sq.
"Blessed [are] they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah." Psalm 84:4
Miniature art invites us to draw closer and to pause to admire the detail of a small surface. It can be art in any media: for e.g. watercolor, pencil, oil, acrylic, needlework or fiber art. The art can also be in any format - sculpture, living landscapes, carvings on a grain of rice, painting on piano keys... Some define it by tight rules of scale, where the art must be small enough to be carried with you, and a portrait head in a painting must be no larger than 2".. Regardless of the debate of the size, the work is usually appreciated for surface detail and the beauty of finish in a small format.
I created the miniature art on this page with various handmade papers, acrylic, watercolor and colored inks. I tried to be true to the spirit of miniature art by keeping the work small, yet rich in surface texture and detail. Some gorgeous organic papers made of banana and grass fibers, (no, I did not make them!) inspired the works on this page. There is a texture and dimensionality to the full-bodied papers that is difficult to capture adequately in the photos. But go ahead and click on the images to get a closer look.
The Fresh Source, mixed media, 4.75"sq.
"I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." Is 41:18
If you have never done so, do visit the Thorne miniature rooms at the Chicago Museum of Art. The 68 rooms displayed there in exquisite detail, form a breathtaking exhibit of miniature art, in multiple media. There are wonderful Persian carpets, detailed furniture, fabrics and art, in rooms minutely duplicated, in a level of finish that is mind boggling.
Still Standing, mixed media, 4.75"sq.
"..for as the days of a tree [are] the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands." Isaiah 65:22
The recent popularity of ATC’s or Artist Trading Cards, is an indicator that miniature art in a contemporary format is still flourishing. Polymer clay and mixed media artists create and trade these at their meetings, or in organized swaps.
However, true miniatures are not merely small format works, but art that despite its size, or maybe even because of it, required consummate skill to create. They are works of art - visual statements, meeting or exceeding all the usual artistic criteria, like excellent composition, color, design, emotion and content…
I am not certain that ATC’s quite fall in that category. I’ve seen too many artists whip them out in record time, with an ease made possible by ‘discoveries’ of small works within their larger, often poorly executed works.
"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:" Is 44:3
Italian manuscript paintings from the 1200-1500’s, on the other hand, were masterful examples of detailed miniature art. Illuminators were much sought after to create Christian themed work, from the illustrations of saints to Biblical stories. These were executed in meticulous detail with fine brushwork in luminous colors and expert gilding, usually around a calligraphic alphabet that began the literary work.
For the contemporary Christian artist, it is helpful to sometimes switch from working large to working small. Creating miniature art may be just the thing to get you out of being stuck. More than thumbnails, they require a greater commitment to finish and complexity in a small format.
Here are my top reasons for creating miniature art on a occasional basis.
I am occasionally surprised at solutions that small format works clarify. Although duplicating the results in a larger format does not always work. The work sometimes loses its spontaneity and freshness.
I find myself switching media often. It keeps creating art fresh and engaging for me. I switch from sculpture to painting, from working in relief to trying something in the round, from ink drawing to painting in thick, juicy oils … My studio is in a constant state of change, as one set of tools is put away for another.
So go ahead and create miniature art (approximately 16"sq or 100 sq.cm) and see how satisfying and rewarding it can be to work small.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Okay, now I think I'll go and tackle something monumental!