Miniatures ask the viewer to peer in as if through a keyhole, and give all their attention to the miniature scene through the tiny aperture of the frame. The subject is concentrated, especially when it’s held in the palm of the hand, and it’s this small but powerful impact that I aim for in each painting.
The landscapes and buildings in the paintings are the aspects of an atmospheric place that catch my attention the most, and seem to hold stories and a dash of mystery. I work from photographs, and the process of rendering the subject in paint is a kind of exploration of it, and often leads me down research rabbit holes about the area and its stories. Landscapes and weathered old structures attract me for all scales of painting, but I’m drawn back again and again to miniatures.
I love pouring a sweeping vista into a frame the size of a playing card, and suggesting portals to tiny worlds by nestling them in deep frames. My love of craftsmanship and a real technical challenge also attracts me to miniatures. Compared to painting ‘large’, I find it more disciplined, as it requires microadjustments of the hand and an almost meditative focus. A smaller margin for error means a vertical line that’s even a fraction off is obvious. It's absorptive, patient (not always) work, and I have to remind myself every few minutes to look at something further away than the end of my nose. I don’t use a magnifier, as it magnifies the brush tips and makes everything feel more clumsy.
I start with a gessoed board, sanded marble-smooth, and work out the painting in a series of layers to build up texture and depth. The size of the brush matters less than how sharp a point it has, and I often use surprisingly large ones, as well as odd tools such as make-up sponges and cotton buds. Contrast and a strong composition is even more important as miniatures rely on their larger elements more so than a ‘large’ painting, but I always challenge myself to pack as much detail into a painting as I can, using hundreds of tiny brushstrokes. A painting usually takes around 40 hours to complete, but very complex architectural subjects take longer.
Future projects include a series of 'Old Town' miniatures, of overlooked closes and untouched corners of cities, as well as a series of coin-sized paintings exploring 18th century coin forging. I have a collection of antique miniature frames, hunted out at car boot sales and online auctions, missing their original pictures. I enjoy filling them again with my own paintings, tapping into the historic tradition of miniature painting, and letting their history shape my work.