What is Miniature Art?

Miniature paintings are often confused with small paintings. It’s a common misconception – in fact, during much of the time I was first painting miniatures, I didn’t realize that true “miniature art” was even an actual thing! I thought any small painting was a miniature, until I was fortunate enough to connect with some other miniaturists online who kindly explained the differences to me.

While small paintings are without question uniquely beautiful in and of themselves, there aren’t any specific rules as to exactly what makes a painting “small” other than the reference point of any individual artist or viewer. Thus, depending on the viewer, a “small” painting could be anywhere from true miniature size up to several feet!

Miniature art, on the other hand, does have very specific rules and identifiers, and it’s important to note that miniature art is its own specialty, not a novelty, and a true miniature painting is not exactly the same thing as a small painting. Per the official miniature societies, a miniature painting is a very small work, often described as "fine original art done in small scale". It is most often highly detailed, exquisite in color with a strength of composition that can easily compete with larger paintings. When viewed under magnification, these works demonstrate extremely fine marks with every detail scaled down and miniaturized; and composition, perspective and color are emphasized.

In miniature shows, a juror may view entries with a magnifying glass to examine these details, including framing and presentation all the way around and front and back, up close. The painting should be easily held in the juror’s hand, and the frame styling and size should also adhere to the delicate nature of the miniature work itself.

According to most miniature society rules, a miniature painting must be no larger than 25 square inches (height x width) with the subject painted no more than 1/6th actual size, but exceptions are sometimes made for abstracts or tiny subjects that don’t lend themselves to the "1/6" rule, like tiny flowers or insects, as long as they embrace the fine essence and true spirit of miniaturism.

Miniature artists throughout the world work in a variety of media and many genres, but most of my own works are landscapes done with soft pastels or oil pastels, although I do sometimes also use acrylics, various water media and inks, oil and cold wax, depending on what I feel a particular painting wants.

A miniature usually takes as long or longer to produce as a much larger painting, with a result that can be viewed under magnification and still hold together as a fine work of art.