Imagine trying to tell a beautiful story in a very short amount of time. You’d have to make sure to use just the right words, to be concise without losing the important details and the excitement of the punchline. In many ways, creating a miniature work of art is a similar experience. “I’m trying to put the whole story in a much smaller format,” explains wildlife painter Linda Besse, SCI Foundation 2014 Conservation Artist of the Year. “You have to make sure that you’re succinct.”
Although she works in a variety of sizes, Besse appreciates and welcomes the challenge of a miniature format, and she, along with other SCI artist exhibitors, always submits at least one work into the miniature fine art auction as an opportunity to break out the fine brushes and really hone in on the details. Finding the story lines that work well in a small format and that still have the impact of a larger painting is part of Besse’s process.
Besse has created two pieces for the upcoming SCI 2018 Convention Miniature Art Auction —one of a leopard resting in the shade, and the other of three ground hornbill birds walking together. In both works, the vibrancy, details and lifelike qualities are well intact. “I’m trying to create the emotion I felt when I saw these animals in their natural habitat,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be exactly the way I saw them because the paintings convey the essence of the narrative. A miniature gives me a chance to pare my story to the most important details.”
Bronze sculptor Carole Danyluk, also a regular in the miniature show, explains that small works rely just as heavily on good design, solid concept and skillful execution as a large piece. “A small piece has to stand up to close scrutiny,” she says. “People are looking at it very close up, so all the details have to be clean and worthy.”
Danyluk also strongly believes that bigger is not better; it’s just different. “Viewers form a more intimate connection with small work as it appeals to our sense of scale,” she says. “A small work can be equally as captivating as its larger counterpart. Compare the emotive value of a towering redwood tree to the quiet understated elegance of the tiniest bonsai tree.”
Both Besse and Danyluk agree that creating miniature work can take more time per square inch, and more patience. “Miniaturists need a lot of patience, a good strong back and a solid understanding that small can be very powerful,” Danyluk says.
Joan Griffith, Director of Trailside Galleries, hosts annual miniature shows around the holidays at both locations, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Jackson Hole, Wyoming and she explains that the appeal for collectors is certainly there. “We have a number of repeat collectors, and some are running out of room but never get over the collecting part,” she says. “Small works open up that door for them.”
She frequently has collectors hang miniatures on a wall together, and in most cases it really packs a punch. “They can be so powerful when hung together,” she say. “It can make for a very imposing bank of paintings that all complement each other. There’s a lot of life in a small work, it can be very simple but comes across like a big painting.”
As the saying goes, “Good things come in small packages,” and SCI’s miniature show and sale is a great reflection of that. “Equating size with value is a trap,” Danyluk adds. “A large piece relies more on scale and silhouette to make its presence known. A small piece whispers discreetly from the shadows, ‘Look at me.’”–Corinne Garcia