Monthly Archives: May 2016

Miniature Painting

Miniature Painting

Summarized briefly, miniature painting is a form of painting that is deeply rooted in many cultures and spans centuries. The Lathams are a family of American artists practicing it in today’s modern art market of galleries and exhibitions. As an artist, Rebecca Latham as well as her mother, Karen, and sister, Bonnie, strive for detail in their painting. Studying with a Flemish master, they have developed their styles for painting extreme realism. Their works, both large and small, are painted “in miniature”.

Early Beginnings

Miniature painting is a traditional style of art that is very detailed, often referred to as painting or working “in miniature”. Because of their origins as illuminations, they are also painted to have as smooth of a surface as possible. (It is also suggested that miniature art may have been influenced by the medals of ancient Rome as well) Miniature art can be traced back to ancient Egyptian manuscripts on papyrus scrolls. Monks are also often highlighted for their contributions to early miniature painting with their beautifully illuminated manuscripts such as the Celtic Book of Kells and England’s Lindisfarne Gospels (both of which measure around 9″ x 12″). Some early manuscripts contain miniatures on their pages that depict beautiful arrangements of life sized flower arrangements on their borders. The history of the art is also seen throughout the world in various other cultures.

Miniature painting began out of necessity for illustrating documents and manuscripts to aid those reading them during a time when many were not able to, before printing was invented. The miniature helped to convey the story and meaning of the written word. Therefore, the art of the miniature is directly connected to the book arts. The various sized illuminations (pictures) were cut out of these books or documents so that they could be carried more easily. Later, developing from the carried miniature, portrait miniature artists were commissioned to paint small portraits – paintings that were used as we use wallet sized photographs today. These sizes of miniature paintings became popular with collectors and are often referred to as “hand held miniatures”. Portrait miniatures were painted in larger sizes as well, for example master miniaturist, Nicholas Hilliard, Peter Oliver, and Sir Charles William Ross all painted works that were of a larger size.


Miniature painting is sometimes confused and assumed that the pieces must be small or depict subjects on a smaller scale to be considered miniature art, though this is not the case. It is helpful to keep in mind that the origins of the term “miniature” have nothing to do with a size. The word miniature comes from the terms ‘minium’ (used for the red lead paint used in illuminated manuscripts) and ‘miniare’ (Latin for ‘to color with red lead’).

Miniature painting is a style and technique of painting, and as such, a wall sized work could be painted “in miniature”. Authors of the Yale University Press publication, “The English Miniature” have stated that miniatures have been painted large and some works are even considered to be gigantic. Numerous faculty members of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London confirm that miniature paintings are not restricted to smallness. Larger sized miniature paintings are documented throughout history and are recognized today, though painting larger works in miniature is more difficult and time consuming than a smaller piece if the same attention to detail is observed. Miniature art is also unique in that it was and is often used on objects, such as the Russian lacquer boxes that are beautiful examples of Russian miniatures.


Today, there are miniature art societies in western society to help promote and preserve traditional miniature art and the “spirit of miniature”. Their exhibitions feature the hand held miniature paintings (or sculptures) and each exhibition has its own unique guidelines and rules for artists showing in their exhibit. Some of these rules limit the size of work to be no larger than a set square inch. Others limit the size of a subject, such at the 1/6th scale rule that a subject may not be painted larger than 1/6th of it’s natural size, or the 2″ rule, that an object in the painting may not exceed 2″. Scale rules were initially put in place as a guide for artists starting out in miniature art. There are also many framing restrictions for society miniature works as well. All of these rules are put into place by each show for their own individual and unique exhibitions, and do not define what miniature art is.

Artists painting miniatures throughout history were not restricted in their artwork by scale as their subjects were painted to any measurement or scale that the artist deemed pleasing to the eye and their patrons, for both manuscripts and other miniatures. Subjects that are naturally small in size, such as butterflies and insects, were painted life sized. Thus the 1/6th scale rule that is used by some shows and societies today unfortunately causes a bit of confusion to those new to the art form who commonly assume that is it a part of a mechanical criteria of the miniature’s definition. The world’s experts in miniatures do not recognize the rule as legitimate, and view those embracing it as unknowledgeable, and dismiss them.

The term “miniature”, as it addresses miniature painting, is often confused with “miniaturize” and some miniature art exhibitions do not refer to miniature as it’s initial meaning of techniques, but rather the size of the painting (miniaturized painting). They are two very separate descriptions.

Miniature painting is an art form that is very rich in history that continues today by artists from around the globe. The beautiful ornamental qualities of the miniature should be preserved whether it be the intricate large pieces, or intimate hand held works.

Many thanks to Joan Willies RMS, the Victoria & Albert Museum, & Patrick Noon.

Acrylic Paint Art

Acrylic Paint Art

Acrylic paint is made from pigment mixed together with an acrylic polymer to form a relatively thick paint emulsion. Acrylic art is a plastic paint. It is a new entrant to the art scene when compared to other art paints – it was first used in the 1950s. But despite its late introduction, acrylic has certain distinct qualities that make it the preferred choice for a number of artists.

Some artists prefer acrylic art work because of the ‘oil painting’ finish that acrylic paint provides. To achieve this glossy feel, the acrylic paint used must be thick and not overly diluted with water.

But thin acrylic artwork also has its benefits – if you are looking to develop a painting that mimics water colours you can thin the paint by adding a third part water to every whole part of paint. Other than water, there are additional additives that can be added to the paint to make it thinner or thicker.

Additives can also be used to increase the paints transparency and reduce the speed of drying. The need to reduce speed is because acrylic paint dries relatively fast once applied. Depending on the thickness and additives used, the paint may take from just a few minutes to a maximum of a day to dry – this is a short time when compared to oil based paints which can take up to a week to completely dry.

The acrylic art used on canvas surface dries in the shortest time making it suitable for artists who prefer to do their work quickly. This quality however can also be a downside because it is difficult to blend different colours on the canvas since the first colour will already have started drying by the time the next colour is applied.

In addition, the paint binds well to a wide range of surfaces. This versatility makes it possible to have acrylic art work not just on canvas but also on glass surfaces as well as ceramic items such as pots. There is a special type of acrylic supplies that can be used on clothes.

Certain types of acrylic paint can be used to paint the outside of the home. The type of acrylic for exteriors depends on the nature of the wall surface – for instance, the acrylic paint you use on a wooden surface will be different from the one you use on a concrete one.

Acrylic work art can be preserved for a long time due to its ability to resist the elements (especially water) once it dries. This compares well with other paints such as oil paints which can start to wrinkle or turn yellow as the painting ages and is oxidized.

Oil Painting Art Course

Oil Painting Art Course

Edgar Degas painted from photos: Degas became a painter just at the beginning of photography. He first had others shoot photos for him for his use in his paintings. Later, he became an expert photographer. Degas’ paintings show the influence of photography in the cutting off of figures. Before Degas, the whole person was inside the painting. In many of Degas’ work, the figures are cut off mid leg or their figures are cut off on the left, right and top by the edge of the painting. This cropping came from his reference photos.

Photos were a tool in his paintings, drawings and sculpture. Degas’ photographs had the look of his paintings. His paintings were based on his photographs.

Students ask me if it is proper to use photos: I have a classmate from the art school from which I graduated. He has had a very distinguished career painting all his life. He said that anything you do to help you develop a painting is a correct method.

Seven Ways to Project or Transfer Photos or Drawings onto Your Canvas: 

1. Tack them up on your easel as reference: There is a famous Norman Rockwell self-portrait (Google it). The painting shows Rockwell painting himself at an easel covered with photos of portraits by Rembrandt and Van Gogh and a drawing of himself. Rockwell is also looking in a mirror as he paints.

2. Opaque Projectors: The opaque projector is a machine that projects photos, book pages or drawings by shining a bright light onto the photo from above. A series of mirrors, prisms and lenses project the image onto a canvas. The artist then draws the outlines of the photo on the canvas using the projected image as a guide. Opaque projectors are available from Dick Blick, Jerry’s Artorama or Mister Art online or at some art stores.

3. Camera Lucida: A camera lucida is a lens on a metal arm that clamps onto the artist’s drawing board. The camera lucida superimposes an image on the artist’s drawing surface. One sees a scene or the reference photo on the drawing surface. You can then trace the outlines of objects.

4. Mirrors: David Hockney, a well-known contemporary artist, was interviewed on “60 Minutes” on CBS-TV. Hockney had Lesley Stahl stand outside his studio window, in full sunlight, facing a mirror set up inside the window. Her image was reflected in the mirror and it was projected inside Hockney’s dark studio onto Hockney’s canvas. That projected image can then be copied. Hockney had written a book called “Secret Knowledge” about which Stahl did the interview. In the book Hockney theorizes that artists in the 1400’s learned how to use lenses and mirrors to project images onto their canvases.

5. Print the photo or drawing on your canvas: You can print your photograph directly onto your canvas and then paint over them in oil paints. Ink jet printer paper suppliers offer ink jet printable canvas. You need to ask your ink jet/canvas supplier how long their inks last according to scientific testing.

There are printing services that offer Giclee fine art reproductions for painters, photographers, galleries and museums on fine art canvas. Some artists use these services to make reproductions of their paintings for sale in addition to selling the original oil painting. Giclee (French for “a spurt”) is an inkjet process for making super high quality and long lasting prints. A good supplier uses fade-resistant inks or dyes that some claim last as long as 100 years.

Other artists print photos on canvas at Giclee printers and then paint over them in oil paints. Giclee prints are not only long lasting but also have no visible dots as do most ink jet printers. Google “giclee printers” to find giclee printing suppliers on the web.

6. Camera Obscura: In his book “Vermeer’s Camera” Philip Steadman poses the theory that VerMeer used the early version of the photographic camera: the camera obscura. Camera obscura are the Latin words for dark room.

How the camera obscura works:

  • A box (or room) with a pinhole in the front end is placed in a well-lit room.
  • The room in front of the hole will then be projected onto the inside back end of the box.
  • Later, the camera obscura evolved into what we now call a camera. In a photographic camera, film is placed on the inside back end of the box where the image is projected from the lens in the front end of the box.
  • Using the camera obscura principle with additional lenses and mirror, one can project an accurate image onto a painting surface and trace over the projected lines. Some suggest one can paint onto the canvas directly guided by the projected image. People still make camera obscuras … Google “camera obscura” on the web.

7. Tracing: Some artists trace and transfer the outlines of photos onto their canvas or other drawing surface. They staple together a “sandwich” of the traced photo, a transfer sheet and the canvas. Drawing over the traced photo drawing on the top of the sandwich with a ballpoint pen causes the transfer sheet color to be transferred to the canvas. They then paint using the transferred line drawing as a guide on their canvas with the original photo(s) tacked alongside their canvas as reference.

Is Using Photographs OK? Like Edgar Degas and Norman Rockwell and countless other great painters and illustrators, I think so.

The author has painted and taught for 50 years and has had over 30 art exhibits of his paintings. My USA based online art school has students in 19 countries. I have taught art classes at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and Manhattan, USA, Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, Famous Artists Schools in Westport, Connecticut, USA. I have also lectured on various art subjects all over the USA and in Holland, Belgium, France, South Africa and Australia.

Paintings Art Guide

Paintings Art Guide


Contemporary art paintings cover broadly the years of post World War II up to the present day. The styles of painting in contemporary movements vary widely from one to another. This article covers the major movements of contemporary art, and tries to explain how they link with each other. Some of the key contemporary art eras from the 1950s and 1960s included Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Neo-Dada, Minimalism and the New York School.

Famous artists from this era include Andy Warhol, Wassily Kandinsky, Robert Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock. The earlier art movements of Cubism & Fauvism are believed to have been part inspiration for many of these new directions. The 1960s represented the start of modern culture, and Gallery art was a key part of it. Traditional art was now joined in the mainstream with these new contemporary styles that had gained popularity and respect across the board. Since the 1970s many additions to contemporary art have been technology based with digital, software & installation art. In parallel with technology, they continue to develop even today and go off in new directions, or sub-movements.

One relatively new, and already very popular art movement is Street art from artists like Banksy which is a progression of the earlier Graffiti art.Many new movements are seeking to break away from the thinking and methods of traditional art, as Abstract Expressionism had tried to some 60 years ago. The independence of mind and creativity remains strong in contemporary artists today, and they have broken away from simply using different canvas or painting techniques, to use entirely different forms of expression, as shown in the Installation art of artists such as Dan Flavin.

Contemporary art represents the completion of the transition from Baroque and Renaissance painting, through Romaticism & Impressionism up to what we have today, with the likes of digital art movements breaking out frequently. The future for contemporary movements seems likely to blend with the path of technology and other new directions which are impossible to foresee.