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What Is Your Latest Obsession? > Gina's miniatures

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message 1: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Hey Gina, I'm curious about those miniatures...let us know if you ever do get some pictures up! What size are you working in? What are you typically painting, landscape? still life? Why miniatures? Is it a question of space? Have you checked out the Painting a Day folks? They are doing smaller work, though not miniatures. Very inspiring. I bought some small canvases to play with, 10cmx15cm. I think I'll used them to do some composition studies.

message 2: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) Hi Kim,

Why miniatures? I have a dolls house. I've been obsessed with the little people since I was a child and saw the large dolls house at Aston Hall during a visit with my grandfather. I started out intending to paint miniatures for my own dolls house, and then started selling them. Dolls houses all over the world have my paintings, but the walls of my own are almost bare. Isn't that just typical!

My miniatures are never bigger than 1.5 inches tall, and I generally paint figures. The last one I did was of Mrs Siddons... and the one before that was Queen Victoria. I work in oils mostly, but also acrylics.

I really do want to get some pictures on the net, but there never seems to be the time, and I was silly enough to sell a lot of paintings without ever photographing them.

I want to go smaller. I saw some miniature paintings at the Museum of East Asian Art during a visit on Tuesday, and the detail was so fine that my eyes couldn't even focus on them... simply astounding!

message 3: by S. Kay (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 90 comments Miniatures just amaze me... the example you shared was beautiful.

I'm curious, about how long does it take you to complete one? At first I would think it'd take less time than a slightly larger piece, but taking into account the attention to detail and concentration necessary, it might very well take longer.

message 4: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) If I work straight through without a break (which really depends on the light because I can only work on these in natural light), I can finish one in about two hours now. When I started out they took very much longer, but I have all the right brushes now... which means brushes I've plucked really. I use the only room where there is strong light but no direct sunlight, and nobody gets a word of sense out of me until I've finished. I'm not sure that is much of a change for them. ;o)

I wouldn't have been able to paint these if I hadn't had eye surgery when I was nine years old. Before it I couldn't read a children's book without getting headaches, and here I am now working on these tiny things, all thanks to medical science.

message 5: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Hey Gina: I'm gonna repost what you said on "My Handle" here so I can respond to both your posts. Here it is, "Light and dark being of equal importance... yes. Yin and Yang. In the west we tend to focus on the dark aspects of a painting/image, and those aspects appear to be more dominant, but dark cannot exist without light. I have an old friend who produces some very interesting Notan images. He also makes stencils, and designs for Japanese yukata (light kimono) which are very striking.

On an off topic note, according to a Chinese fortune teller my husband met a few years back, I am all Yang, which is apparently very unusual. When I was created, no attention was paid to the darkness at all."

First, here's a couple of sites that talk about Notan:

I am also fascinated by this balance of light and dark or what my painting teacher would perhaps call contrast. I do believe that the best paintings have this sort of satisfying equilibrium. I'll have to remind myself to think of this in my next composition. I struggled with it in my last painting. It was all dark till I realized I had not made the contrast of light that I had originally planned. That's the other thing, sticking to the original idea. Kay, I think you said something about that on the Art and Fear thread so I'll get to that there.

Interesting that you are so yang. I wonder how this plays out in your work?

I was fascinated with all that was small when I was younger. I think given a doll house I would have started making things for it too. I wonder if in contrast you have made anything large? Oh, yes, there's you're house. I think it's a good practice to challenge yourself in size this way. It would be amazing to go smaller. Would you then be using a magnifying glass? What would be interesting to see perhaps would be a small painting like that in a painting of something larger. That would make the point of focus something small while the rest would be blurred in some way since things with detail become the primary focus. Your work would be very popular here in The Netherlands since there is a large interest in doll houses, some you can see in the The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and some in the Rijksmuseum ( Quite fascinating. You have these step ladders in front so you can look into all the rooms. I think it would be cool to use the whole dollhouse thing as a sort of installation piece...

Your brushes must be really tiny, the hairs I mean. Are you using any special hair, like sable? How in the world do you clean them? I go through my fine brushes so fast even though I'm careful to wash them gently by hand.

Let's hear it for medical science. I also had eye surgery when I was younger, though now that old age is settling in my vision for the small is weakening. Might have to go the route of magnified glasses to get the fine details I love to do at the end of a painting. Not there yet though...

message 6: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) I would love to really go small. I'd have to take my time though, as I think I'd have to enlist the help of a magnifying glass and they can make your eyes hurt.

I went through various brushes and ended up using Pro Arte Acrylix, pulling out the hairs to suit the size I needed. I never load the brush much, so when it comes to cleaning I just have to remove the paint from the tip. I have a little flat brush that I use to ease the paint away... although, a few times it has also eased away the remaining hairs and left my brushes completely bald!

I would love to see the dolls house displays in the Gemeentemuseum and Rijksmuseum... I love that you can climb ladders to get a good look inside. I would like to go to the Rijksmuseum anyway to see the Japanese print collection.

I like painting large pictures too... from one extreme to another. The main problem for me at the moment is time, as there's so little of it. I paint people so much, but I would like to do a set of large paintings of winter landscapes. That would be a real departure for me.

message 7: by S. Kay (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 90 comments I thought this might interest you, Gina. It's not painting, but tiny sculpture. They're quite amazing though and his reasons for doing it are compelling.

message 8: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) Oh my, I am speechless. Wow, no wonder he enjoys the finished result but not the process! If you think about what can wrong when you're creating a moderate sized sculpture, imagine how many things can go wrong when you're working on something that fits in the eye of a needle. He must have the patience of a saint. Thanks for posting that Kay... it was absolutely fascinating.

message 9: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
That is amazing! Too bad he's doing these sort of commercial images, though I liked the miniature horse. He must have amazing vision.

Gina, the winter landscape idea sounds wonderful. Would you be working from outdoor studies or from photos? The reason I ask is I wait for the warm weather to do landscapes, the few I have done, and have such admiration for those that go out and freeze to get the image. I suppose I might do it some day, but it will take long underwear, fingerless mittens, hat, coat, scarf and perhaps a bit of whiskey along with my herbal tea. ;0) (Just joking about the whiskey...sort of.) Winter light can be quite beautiful. I"m going to go out and get some now. (Without the whiskey.)

message 10: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) Kim, I'd be getting out there in the cold and freezing my fingers off. I'm a winter person, and I really don't like the summer, so I'd like nothing better than to sit in a field with snow up to my knees, painting away until something went blue and dropped off. I need to find somewhere where it actually snows though, we haven't had any that settles for about four years.

message 11: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Well, you are brave, Gina. I think when my doggie is no longer here I will attempt such braveness. I want to do lots more landscape painting when he is gone, though I'm not rushing him! He is old and can't really hang out outside for hours with me. He wouldn't have the patience anyhow. The only landscape experience I've had is on vacation. I love it though, being there, capturing nature which is always changing. I have a project in mind of doing some landscapes from my roof terrace. Then Leon can hang and I can get the painting done without worrying about him.

Still, the cold, it is good to be prepared. No good if your painting hand turns to ice. I was fantasizing about how it would be to paint in the full moon in the snow. I've done a few wonderful hikes at full moon in such conditions and the light is amazing. I don't know what it would do to my value perception of my paints.

I can relate to the no snow problem. I'm in the Netherlands. We had snow for a few hours the other night and then it rained. Was nice while it lasted though. Even in the Alps in France though, where I lived for some time, the snow is less and less.

I see you're a Brit. Ever get a chance to paint in the lake region? (Beatrix Potter country.) I'd love to have a chance to do that.

message 12: by S. Kay (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 90 comments I'm also quite happy in cold weather, but partly through necessity... In particular, I really like to sketch the animals at the zoo, but it's absolutely impossible to do if the weather's nice. As is true for other public places, I guess. Best to bring an umbrella for rain, or some fingerless gloves and bundle up for winter, because otherwise you'll be swallowed by crowds. ;)

I'm a big fan of Beatrix Potter, Kim. What a beautiful place to live too.

message 13: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Cold is better than the humid August weather in DC! I did some sketching at the zoo too. Makes sense to go when there's no tourists. I sketched the gorilla, silverback, in his cage and people were really annoying, saying he was posing for me etc. He got annoyed too and moved on. I did a lot of reading about gorillas and and behaved with proper "gorilla etiquette" so he was willing to have me around. To bad they didn't know about it. Which animals are you sketching? I suppose it is hard to sketch or paint in privacy outside. Onlookers are just part of the game. It's a good time to get your name out there though if you keep some business cards on you. (Advice I was given.)

I love Potter too and loved the movie about her life. I suppose that's where I became aware of the lake country and now wish to see it for myself.

message 14: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) I've never been to the Lake District, but I'm told it's stunning.

One place I would love to go and paint some landscapes is the Scottish Highlands. I went as a tourist and didn't have time to do any painting, but the scenery was so beautiful that I've been saying for ages that I've just got to go back. And there's a part of the world that certainly gets enough snow.

message 15: by S. Kay (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 90 comments Ugh, yeah, there's a huge chunk of time where I loath going outside during summer here at all.

I spend a lot of time with the gorillas specifically, but it's getting harder to accept the way they're treated... I don't think there's enough effort to teach that etiquette to the visitors, so they seem very agitated. They also have a huge redesign going on for the zoo which includes a trail for the elephants, some kind of transportation system around the zoo, and much more, so it makes me mad that the gorillas are on the bottom of that list when their enclosures are the most out of date. But I suppose that's off topic.

Back to drawing... yes, the gorillas. The silverback is always very cooperative... I actually like drawing the zebras a lot. No matter how they're standing, they seem to be statuesque. I try the small mammals once in a while, but they usually move too quickly. I'm not good at things in motion yet.

Haven't been to the zoo recently but I think I'd like to go back soon. Business cards are a really good idea! I usually find that it's children who are the most interested in what I'm doing (and I actually don't mind them at all), but you never know.

I recently saw the Potter movie and was amazed by the things I didn't know about her. I've always been a fan of her books and illustrations, but I really admire her effort to preserve the land.

message 16: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) On the subject of animals, I like drawing rats. They're small but full of life and so expressive. I'm hoping (when I get the time) to put together a whole album of rat studies and add text... a sort of rat behaviour guide.

message 17: by S. Kay (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 90 comments I would love to see something like that, Gina. We had two wonderful pet rats for a while and I like them a lot, but they fall into my too quick to catch category right now.

message 18: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) I live with eight female ones and they are very fond of sitting for photographs and sketches. They check the viewfinder at the back of my digital camera, or peep over to see what I'm doodling, an then go back to posing. It was a different story when they were babies... faster than speeding bullets before their bottoms grew and started holding them back.

message 19: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Then you guys must know "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert O'Brien. One of my all time favorite books. I did a book report on it as a kid and drew all the illustrations from the book. So, I can see where they would be wonderful creatures to draw! I had a house mate that had one and it was really quite sweet. But eight, Gina! Wow! The interactions must be fascinating to watch and what a great nature study.

The zebras sound like a good idea. If I remember not too many crowds in that area of the zoo and they have plenty of space. Pity about the gorillas. I always thought all the primates deserved much more space there. Primates in a zoo make me sad anyway but then there's the whole making people aware of them bit. Drawing them makes me feel we are not so very far apart in nature. Drawing in general connects me to the nature of what I am drawing, animate or inanimate. Is that why we do art, to make that connection?

message 20: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) Oh my Kim, that brought back memories. I haven't thought about that book for years... now I want to go and read it again. Yes, the interactions with eight are fascinating. And once you learn their sign language you find yourself having conversations without having to say a word. That's when they begin training you!

I do think that through art there is a special (spiritual?) connection, communication, between artist and subject. And perhaps it is an awareness of that connection, even in the apparent absence of an understanding of what a camera or paint brush is, that makes a rat or any other animal want to stay and be painted or photographed.

message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Yes, read it again, Gina, then come back and tell me what you think, especially about the illustrations. Then there's "Stuart Little" and "Wind and the Willows" too. Both great for illustrations. I'm sure there's one I'm forgetting...

Animal communication is a wonderful thing and something to be cherished when they let you in on it. Perhaps in doing art you are somehow reaching out to them in a way they understand better than human language. Though not every animal wishes this kind of contact. Leon, my dog was game for a while but now has gotten tired of being stared at. The only way I can take a good picture of him or draw him is if I totally pretend to be doing something else. Otherwise, I get his back. But that was the way with the Silverback too. They don't like to be stared at as it is confrontational, so you get them in bits. Do the rats actually stay still? Or are they just repeating the same positions over and over? I look for that in Leon, the poses he takes naturally seem to repeat so I can start a drawing of one pose, jump to another and then back when he changes. Of course when he turns his back then it's all more or less over because the jig is up and he's just annoyed. My cat, however seems to love being "admired" so she can stay for quite a while in one position, unless she's overwhelmed with the sheer flattery of it all and has to flop into her Marilyn Monroe pose.

message 22: by G.R. (new)

G.R. (grcollia) The rats do stay still, but for varying amounts of time. One of the eldest, Maris, is a dumbo and a beautiful little thing, and she'll sit still for as long as it takes. When I'm taking photos, if I go to take a photo of her and then move on to take one of the others, she runs in front of the cameras and poses again. And she likes me to get her best side. Her sister, Piper, draws the curtains in front of her den if she's not in the mood. The one most fascinated with art is Cookie... not just when I'm drawing, but when she sees pictures. She's very aware of shapes and colours and she gets very carried away. One of my old girls (sadly no longer with us) loved art, and I have a number of photos of her examining various pictures. Cookie definitely knows that the paper and brushes lead to the finished picture and she's fascinated by the process.

My family used to have a Cairn terrier called Jamie, and he was very fond of posing. He used to show his teeth, and I always wondered if he'd seen one of the family posing for a photo and decided to copy them. He used to sit by me while I was sitting on the floor working on a picture and watch the pencil or brush moving about. He'd tip toe around the water pot and the tubes of paint and go around to the other side to get a better look at what I was doing. Cute little guy he was.

message 23: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 30 comments Gina,

About the spiritual connection between artist and subject. The last Traveling Pants book (I think it was the last one, maybe the third first, then the last) has some marvelous descriptions of one of the characters looking for her strength as a painter and the way she connects with her subjects. Nicely written.

message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Gina, you had me laughing at the rats posing and checking things out and the Cairn terrier...I'll have to remember that if I ever get another dog. Leon just can't be bothered right now. I wonder if there's a book about artists and their pets? There are some out there on writer's pets. Well, looking forward to your book, illustrations and all.

I was thinking, humans don't like to be stared at either. I go through the same game when drawing people in public, making sure I don't get in their space bubble. Maybe that's why artists develop a sort of connection with their models, because we so rarely are able to take in a person as a whole unless they are sitting for us. Even then, it is interesting to see the physical barriers that people put up. I guess it's part of the artist's job to break down those barriers, to show more than the physical traits but the person behind them. Some manage this more than others. That's what I love about Wyeth's portraits because they are so very personal.

message 25: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 30 comments That's how I judge a successful portrait in photography as well. When the personality of the subject seems to be the overriding element. If the spark isn't behind the eyes, and you don't wonder what they are thinking, it isn't successful. That is why I enjoy portraiture so much more than candid, which I am terrible at. A good candid photographer, though, can capture a true emotional moment (and by emotional I mean any emotion, even a quiet one), but that is quite difficult and requires a lot of waiting, whereas a protrait situation, you just begin by building that relationship with the subject and make the interaction happen.

Okay, I'm working on 5 hours sleep for 2 nights running so I don't know if I'm making any sense.

message 26: by Kim (new)

Kim | 362 comments Mod
Yes, that spark is very important. I'm currently working with a model that is a friend and now debating that issue though of having the relationship with the subject. At times it can be a detriment because it can keep you from being more objective in your seeing. Still, it does add a depth that can not be reached with a complete stranger. Catch 22. We'll see what the finished painting turns out like... Feeling like a novice again these days.

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