Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III

07 Oct 2019

Welcome to our third instalment of The Miniaturists. For this collection, we were inspired by the miniatures of Hilliaird & Oliver, which were exhibited in Elizabethan Treasures at the Portrait Gallery earlier this year. As our first two editions were limited to three dimensional objects, we wanted to continue the theme but broaden the challenge to fine artists and include tapestry for the first time.

The artworks are 7.5 cm square, two dimensional in format, with anomalies here and there. We are overwhelmed by our artists’ response; some have spent more time creating a miniature than a full size work or rather have regarded the miniature in exactly the same terms as a large scale work. We are, as ever, indebted to all the artists who responded to the brief with such enthusiasm and detail; for many, making a miniature has given birth to new ideas and directions.

This blog provides you with some studio insights and further text which accompany the miniature works.

Stephen Bowers

Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
The Owl and the Pussycat - and the Tsunami, 2019, miniature ‘diorama’ in porcelain, cobalt, traces of glaze, archival glue and box-board, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

Inspired by Edward Lear’s surreal classic, I have created a miniature diorama that peeps into a tiny fragile world. Invoking ideas around childhood, threat to native species (The Owl) by the feral (The Pussycat), climate change looming in the form of the Tsunami with a touch of East-West tension in there as well. We are all in the same boat.

Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Stephen Bowers' work in progress
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Stephen Bowers' work in progress (detail)

Philip Braham

I was dropping my daughter off at gymnastics one evening when a strange event began to unfold in the sky: the clouds suddenly seemed to swirl in waves, lit from the setting sun below. I leapt out of the car and took a quick snap on my phone just before it dissolved with the disappearing light. I learned that this rare phenomenon is known as an ‘Undulatus Asperatus’ and is caused by turbulence in the atmosphere, often preceding a storm. I considered using the image to make a large-scale painting, but I was concerned that it might appear too theatrical and ostentatious, so when I was asked to contribute a painting to The Miniaturists III exhibition, I thought this would be the ideal scale for such an image.

Philip Braham
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Philip Braham, Against the Sky, 2019, oil on prepared paper, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

John Brown

This piece continues my recent exploration of abstract forms. The challenge of this miniature inspired this response of rich dark colours and collaged surfaces, punctuated by bright yellow, which may suggest road markings.

John Brown
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
John Brown, Yellow Marking, 2019, mixed media collage on board, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

Hugh Buchanan

When I taught at Edinburgh College of Art Summer school I would take my students to Greyfriars, so aptly named, to teach them how to work with a limited palette; to paint tonally. This is one of the demonstration pieces that I did for them to copy. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate that even complex compositions can easily be rendered in one colour, in fact it is often easier to do so, and that by choosing the right colour, in this case an authentic Edinburgh grey, one can truly summon up the spirit of the place.

Hugh Buchanan
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Hugh Buchanan, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, 2019, watercolour, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

David Cass

For as long as I’ve made art, I’ve either knowingly, or accidentally made artworks that wage a battle of opposing components in both design and concept. Often, it’s a minor conflict: perhaps simply using new paint on an old substrate, combining industrial metal structures with organic imagery, or, using watercolour paints without water to describe an image of water.

David Cass
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
David Cass, Horizon 56%, 2018, oil on mirror box, H7 x W7 cm

The notion of a rising horizon is both evocative and timely. Sea levels are rising. This new global phenomenon needs our attention. Cass’s series of paintings creatively pose the topic from dozens of diverse perspectives, upon a variety of supports. Despite appearing to be playful in form, these paintings act as a kind of miniature ice pick to the brain, raising awareness.

John Englander, oceanographer & author

David Cook

When it comes down to painting flowers, it is the visual effect that fascinates me; using them as an experimental laboratory in which I can explore form, colour and the relationship between the surface and the subject. Flowers hold for me a pure beauty, fragrant, silent in a variety of colours and shapes. There is energy, a vibration of colour there. The flower is short lived but burns bright; soon to wither until it blooms the following spring. Looking at this every day is so powerful; I just want to paint it.

David Cook
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
David Cook, Apple Blossom, 2019, acrylic on board, H7 x W7 cm

Stephanie Dees

Producing the miniature paintings has been an interesting and enjoyable challenge: as the 16th century miniaturist painter Nicholas Hilliard stated, ‘A thing apart from all other painting or drawing’. Indeed. I approached the work completely differently. My pace was much slower and controlled. I only worked on them for short bursts at a time. I also stood back a lot more, making sure such small scale works read well from a distance and had some of the gem like quality that is traditionally associated with miniature painting. I feel thinking differently about these works has had a positive effect on my regular practice and I’ve certainly learned from it.

Stephanie Dees
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Stephanie Dees, New Town Study, 2019, mixed media on card, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

Amy Dennis

I enjoy the sculptural form of the Bass Rock which appears on the horizon like a table top object. I have been working on a cast plaster (Jesmonite) ground. The plaster is inscribed, polished and painted with thin layers of pigment and acrylic binder to create a distinctive surface.

Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Amy Dennis, Miniature I, 2019, oil and gouache on board, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

Philip Eglin

The themes for my work have often included irreverent depictions of Christian religious imagery. With this particular series of tiles I have focused on borrowing/re-drawing specific details associated with portrayals of the Crucifixion by Lucas Cranach and Matthias Grünewald. I have deliberately chosen to employ the ceramic technique of sgraffito, which involves using a needle tool to cut/gouge a line through a white slip layer to reveal an underlying red earthenware clay body, redolent of the shocking, though strangely beautiful, flayed flesh of the original painted images. The tiles are individually made in a red earthenware body, covered with a white slip under a transparent lead glaze with the occasional added splashes of copper and iron oxide and fired to 1060c.

Philip Eglin
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Philip Eglin, Miniature V, 2019, red earthenware, white slip and transparent lead glaze, H7.5 x W7.5 cm

David Eustace

This 5 x 4 inch Polaroid was made in my apartment in NYC around 2002 on an old Wistafield camera. There’s a sort of silent voice I find communicates with me when working with mannequins and it’s something I’m drawn to.

David Eustace
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
NYC, Plaster Head I, c.2002, Polaroid film, H12.7 x W10 cm

Gus Fisher

The response to THE MINIATURISTS III exhibition has been incredible, and we’re delighted that so many artists were excited by the brief. As we approach December, we have received several wonderful additions to the exhibition. Letter-designer and stone-carver Gus Fisher has produced six more miniatures and we’re excited to present them here. Each piece is made of hand-carved gold lettering on polished Welsh slate, and measures 7.5 x 7.5 cm.
Click here see further works by Gus Fisher.
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Gus Fisher, Love IV, 2019, hand carved gold lettering on polished Welsh slate, H7.5 X W7.5 cm
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Gus Fisher, If, 2019, hand carved gold lettering on polished Welsh slate, H7.5 X W7.5 cm

Calum McClure

Calum McClure sent us a photo from his studio of a recent miniature which will make a brilliant addition to The Miniaturists III exhibition in December. Calum is fascinated by using light, shadow and reflections to evoke atmospheric landscapes, all of which is evident in this beautiful, lyrical miniature.
Click here to see further works by Calum McClure.
Studio Insights | The Miniaturists III
Calum McClure, Untitled, 2019, oil on board, H7.5 X W7.5 cm
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