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There are two sets of questions and answers on this page written at different times.

The following questions and answers originally appeared in the Artist's Blog for the Seaside Art Gallery, Nags Head, NC. These are my personal thoughts on art and my observations through 60 years of art involvement.

1. What is considered to be a miniature?

While various shows have pacific requirements for their competitions, most shows have a limit of 25 square inches or less and 1/6 scale or less unless the subject matter is tiny to begin with. In that case, as long as there is great detail painted in the spirit of a miniature, the art is acceptable. If the subject matter is not 1/6 scale the art is considered to be a small work and not a miniature for the competitions regardless of the size of the painting. Framing is also important and should be narrow and in proportion to the art and easily held in the hand. Using a magnifying glass should reveal the fine detail and technique the artist employed. Miniature art is fine art with good composition, perspective, and color balance. The paint should be applied smoothly so nothing detracts from the fine detail. Sculpture has its own requirements as to size but also requires fine detail.

2. Why do I currently concentrate my time to painting miniatures?

In the early 1970s, Chester Smith, founder of Seaside Art Gallery, gave me a group of tiny frames and asked me to paint something for them. The smallest frame had an opening of 1/2” x 1/2”. For many years I would periodically paint tiny paintings for the Seaside Art Gallery. In 2002 I met Wes Siegrist, artist, at a show in Massachusetts. He encouraged me to enter miniature art competitions which I did beginning with the Miniature Art Society of Florida. I now enter miniature fine art competitions across the country. My miniatures have been as far away as New Zealand and Russia through the World Federation of Miniaturists. I have been a Signature Member of the Miniature Artists of America since 2008.

3. Why do I choose to use oil paint to express myself?

The choice of a medium an artist uses to express his creativity is very personal; whether it is one of the many different kinds of paint, stone, bronze, fabric or a variety of items that can be used to express the artist’s feelings. Through the years I have used many different paints and drawing tools even a bit of sculpting, but I always come back to oil paint. I prefer the soft, buttery feel of the paint; the rich glowing colors, and the slower drying time. I use a mixture of traditional slow drying oil and Alkyd oil paint, which is dry to the touch in about 12 hours. This extends the “open time” before a paint begins to oxidize, when a paint can still be worked, that is added to or subtracted from. After the oxidizing process begins the paint becomes tacky and will lift if painted over. I just wait overnight and begin the next layer of paint the following day. Besides the rich colors, I enjoy being able to blend the edges, melting one color into its neighbor. I call my style of painting “soft realism”.

4. Why do I choose to use Ivorine as my painting substrata?

Miniature art should be painted on a smooth surface. The textures seen in a painting comes from the skill of the artist in depicting fur, stone, the wetness of water, etc., and not from the texture of the substrata, that is canvas or rough paper. The only fabric suitable for miniatures work is fine weave silk. I have chosen Ivorine as my support as it has a smooth, slick surface. Ivorine is a plastic, that is a substitute for Ivory and is the same material as ping pong balls but thicker. It has been used for miniature art for 100 years. The smooth finish of the Ivorine allows for great detail and the slick surface, which takes skill to master, encourages the movement of the paint, allowing another level of detail. Ivorine is also translucent, so when the oil paint is applied thinly, the light will pass through it to the rigid support below and bounce back through the oil paint giving the illusion the paint is glowing. In the hands of a skilled artist, art created on Ivorine usually stands out at a show with its glowing rich colors even from a distance.
Ivorine has the added advantage of being easy to cut into any size. I mount my Ivorine onto Multimedia Artboard, which is a light weight board of epoxy and paper. It is acid free and I use an acid free glue. I complete the painting with a light coat of matt spray removable varnish. I take advantage of the latest knowledge of archival materials to insure the longevity of my art that is within my control. Fine art should be protected from extremes of heat, cold, direct sun, or fluorescent lights.

5. Why do I choose to paint animals?

Through the years I have painted all the traditional subjects of portraits, landscapes, still life, and flowers. In the 1970s Chester Smith, founder of the Seaside Art Gallery, approached me with a commission he had of a small painting of a squirrel the patron had rescued. I was also involved with breeding, training, and showing my Miniature Shorthaired Dachshunds. I enjoyed painting the squirrel so much I began to paint dog portraits for the dog show world. The dog owners were very exacting in their requirements and it honed my seeing ability greatly. I set up a booths at dog shows and would paint all day while talking to the customer and explain what I was doing. The children in particular enjoyed watching me paint. After I stopped attending the dog shows, I transferred my interest to wild animals. While each animal is unique and special it does not have to appear as a beloved individual, which makes it a bit easier to appeal to a greater audience.

I have always loved animals and had special relationships with a variety of dogs and cats for many years. I choose the wildlife I paint carefully as I will be living with that animal or bird for many hours. I need to feel an emotional connection to my subject. I love to paint the eyes, even though they are very tiny in a miniature, giving the painting the spark and sparkle of life.

I have been a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists since 2009.

6. What is the inspiration for the “Backyard in the City Series”?

The spring of 2012 I watched a baby Robin, warming itself in the early morning sun, resting on a bunny sculpture I had bought at the Seaside Art Gallery and placed in my backyard flower bed. I managed to take a few photographs of the event and a short while later Mourning Doves perched on the sculpture. I thought these would make cute small miniatures for the Christmas season. They did not last that long and I painted more. This spring I placed a few more sculptures in my backyard and set up about a dozen feeding stations and perches for the birds. My Bee Balm is now several years old, so it produced many flowers that drew the Hummingbirds. It has been fun watching the baby birds, a bunny and squirrels grow up as they visited my yard. The baby bunny as even approached to within 3 feet of me waiting for me to put down bird seed. A Raccoon has even raided my bird feeders which are just little yogurt cups with holes in the bottom, to allow the rain to drain, and wired to branches I have bungeed to the fence. All very simple and easy for anyone to do. The wildlife does appreciate the extra help to survive.

I keep two cameras handy to capture that elusive moment when the wildlife is interacting, the light illustrates a special instant, or the wildlife climbs on the sculptures. I do put bird seed on or around the sculptures. Because Hummingbirds are only 3” long I have not painted them in the 1/6 scale in this series. I wished to paint details in the feathering. Since I wanted the birds to stand out, I purposely left the backgrounds simple. This gives the feeling of an oriental style so I sign my name and the Signature Membership letters in a vertical line. The copyright symbol lives in the House of Harmony. Other sources for the vertical letters are from a Chinese restaurant menu or fortune cookies. I found two symbols that loosely translate to mean many winds to represent the rapidly beating wings of the Hummingbirds. It is gratifying to know I do not have to travel far and wide to create art that appeals to a variety of people.

7. How do I choose my subject matter?

I enjoy traveling throughout the United States from Florida to Alaska, Maine to California and a good many areas of Canada. My camera is always in hand when there is a chance to photograph a beautiful flower, landscape, or an animal interacting with its environment. Knowing I will be spending many hours on a painting, there must be a passionate attraction to the subject to keep my interest strong through the middle of the painting process. The concept must be inspiring and putting in the final details is fun, but the middle can be plain slogging work. Sometimes a composition will come to me as my mind relaxes into sleep. Often times it is a particular animal I have enjoyed watching and want to spend more time with by painting its image.

In some competitions, the criteria for the show dictate the subject matter. Occasionally I will sit at the computer and spend time clicking through my 100,000 plus photographs until something appeals to me, then I look to see what supporting components the subject needs to make a compelling composition. I have used information from as many as 27 references to compose the scene. The part of the country where the painting will initially be exhibited can play a part in the selection of the subject. I have found gallery visitors tend to gravitate to familiar animals, scenes, or subject they particularly enjoy collecting. The emotional bond must connect from me to the art and from the art to the patron.

8. Do I listen to music while I paint?

No, I enjoy listening to audiobooks. It keeps me from over thinking a painting. My mind is totally occupied. If my husband speaks to me, my mind goes blank and I have to stop painting and turn off the audio to understand his words. The only time I have to concentrate on a painting is during the initial planing of the composition which is critical to the creation of a successful work. Everything else just subconsciously flows from years of experience.

9. What does the designation Signature Member mean?

While many organizations accept members with a simple paying of dues both the Society of Animal Artists (SAA) and the Miniature Artists of America (MAA) require a high level of expertise to qualify to be considered for membership. With the Society of Animal Artists, the artist submits 5 pieces of art to be evaluated by a panel of member artists. If accepted an Associate Membership is extended to the artist. At a later jurying period the associate may apply for Signature Membership by submitting 5 more pieces of art to the jurying process. If the art is successfully juried the invitation to be a Signature Member is extended and the artist may then sign the initials SAA after their signature on the art. In my case I submitted miniature paintings to both juries. It is a great honor to have my miniature animal paintings accepted along side some of the greatest animal art being created today.

The Miniature Artists of America extend the status of Signature Membership to qualifying artists only once a year. A list is maintained of artists entering the Miniature Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers of Washington D.C. and the niature Art Society of Florida. An artist must be accepted for entry into both shows for 4 years and win prizes. Then a jury of Signature Members meet at the Florida show. If accepted by the majority of the jury, an invitation is extended to the artist to be a Signature Member and they may sign the initials MAA after their signature. In my case, when I had been juried into the two shows for 4 years the judges accepted my art at the first opportunity.

10. How to evaluate a good work of art from poor?

Over time a good work of art will keep its appeal while a poor piece will begin to grate. Eventually it will end up in the attic, basement or the trash. Styles and trends in art change just like everything else. Sometimes all that is needed for an older piece is a cleaning and a more flattering frame. There are common elements to all good works of art. Does the creator work with a deft hand creating art that will be archival? Is the central subject off center and with the supporting elements give flow and movement around the art keeping the eye within the borders of the art? Are the colors and tones harmonious to each other and to the subject matter?

The various objects in a painting should overlap, giving a feeling of depth to the painting. Objects that kiss at their edges or one line meets with another line flatten an image. The art should evoke a mood or feeling. Composition in a work of art is probably the most important, as it can encompass just about everything. The work should be organized according to a plan to make it into a cohesive whole through which the artist conveys his message to the viewer.

There are many details and nuances an artist must know about his chosen medium, which takes years to learn and master. The quality in a work of art is not how long it takes to create, but in the strength of the emotion the viewer feels. The art of the old masters has been valued through all the various trends and movements in art because of their timeless appeal. Only time will reveal whether recently created art will hold its value in the future. In the meantime the art patron should buy art that appeals to them in their price range. As their circumstances change their art collection may be reevaluated to reflect their changing tastes.

11. What do I look for in judging an art competition?

The first impression a work of art makes either draws me in for another look or repels me and I move on. I ask myself the following questions. Does the artist have an understanding and masterly use of his medium? Is the composition sound and balanced? In the case of miniatures is there enough detail to qualify as a miniature or is the piece just a small work? Framing is also important and must meet the parameters of the competition rules. Are the colors used balanced and blended harmoniously with the subject? Does the art have a successful emotional feeling? This can be achieved through subject matter, color, composition and/or light. These guide lines will work for all media including sculpture. When it comes to awarding the top honors, I question; does the work have that wow factor that makes it stand out from all other works in the competition, where all the elements of fine art come together to make a harmonious completed creation.

If I could advise artists entering miniature art competitions it would be to tell them to slow down, use tiny, fine pointed brushes and use only the tip of the brush to paint with. Miniatures began around 800 AD with illustrations in predominately religious books. They were tiny and highly detailed. Miniature portraits became popular as a way to have a loved one near. In modern times any subject is acceptable for miniatures as long as the art can be held in the hand, is highly detailed and the subject is about 1/6 scale.

12. My random thoughts on art.
It always amazes me to see a group of artists painting the same scene or object and each painting will be very different. Each artist, irrespective of their skill level, brings a unique set of life experiences to the painting process.

Once I have selected a subject and decided on the composition the painting begins with a light pencil drawing. I usually work from the background forward and left to right to keep from smearing the paint. As the painting progresses it takes on a life of its own. It is not unusual for the finished art to be very different from the initial concept as one element has an influence on the next. There is also the influence the layers of paint have to each other.

Subject matter and style is greatly influenced by the period in history the artist lives. Currently there is more personal freedom for artists to express themselves and in a greater variety of mediums. There is a niche for almost any creation. The challenge is finding where your art is best appreciated.

I enjoy many styles of art and sculpture but personally prefer to paint the textures of life and living beings interacting with their environment. While keeping the paint layers flat through sanding each layer; I find it an enjoyable challenge to paint the illusion of depth, roundness, roughness, softness, hardness, wetness, and movement in a miniature space.

I leave commentary on social ills to others, there is enough ugliness in the world. I try not to create more.

The following article appeared in “Boomer” On Line Magazine in 2016

Question 1 When did you begin art?
I have always been involved with creating. Like all children I started with Crayons and coloring books. I progressed to making paper doll clothes while still quite young and later sewed clothes for the dolls that were the precursor to Barbie Dolls. I enhanced my school book reports, on occasion, with art work. During my childhood, I learned to embroider, crochet, and sew from my Grandmothers and Mother. Since the womanly arts were always practiced by the women in my family, I received encouragement, unlike many children who do not receive praise for their creative efforts and soon become discouraged. My Mother purchased Paint-by-Number Kits and we painted them together. With the leftover paint I created by first original oil painting at age twelve. In my early teen years I made roses and potholders and sold them in the neighborhood.

Question 2 When was your art first shown in a gallery, and where was that?
Chester Smith Founder of the Seaside Art Gallery in Nags Head, NC began carrying my paintings in 1974. He often told me he had never had an artist who could successfully paint in so many different styles, subjects, and media. In my early years, I did quite a bit of experimenting. I continue to exhibit at the Seaside Art Gallery with Melanie Smith, daughter of Chester Smith, and now the gallery’s Owner/Manager.

Question 3 How did you start painting miniatures? When did you start entering competitions?
In the 1970’s Chester gave me a group of tiny frames and asked me to paint something for them. The smallest opening was 1/2”x1/2” and I painted a white cat sitting on a blue pillow on a chair. For many years I would periodically paint tiny painting for the Seaside Art Gallery. Most in the 5” x 7” range which I consider large now. In 2002 I met Wes Siegrist, artist, at a show and he encouraged me to enter the miniature art competitions which I did beginning with the Miniature Art Society of Florida. Since then my miniatures have been as far away as New Zealand and Russia through the World Federation of Miniaturists. I regularly send my miniatures around the country entering them in both miniature competitions and competitions of full sized paintings and sculpture. My miniatures have won numerous honors and awards including several Best in Show Awards. I have been a Signature Member of the Miniature Artists of America since 2008. I am also a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists since 2009.

Question 4 Tell us about the painting you did at dog shows while showing your miniature dachshunds. How was that for you as an artist?
During the 1970’s and 1980’s while I was showing my Miniature Shorthaired Dachshunds at American Kennel Club Dog Shows, my husband and I would set up a booth at the shows. I sold limited edition prints and tee shirts with my dog art printed on them. Exhibitors who wished original portraits of their dogs brought them to me and I took instant photos of the dogs and would paint the portrait of the dog on the tee shirt design of the owners choice. This taught me to paint and talk at the same time in front of an audience. Children in particular were fascinated by the process. Adults often came by several times during the course of a day to watch my progress. After a number of years, I began painting 5” x 7” portraits in oil at the shows. All of the experience during the early years led up to the success and joy my art has brought to me and my patrons.

Question 5 I’ve heard you say that it’s never too late to start to learn to paint. You are passionate about art and feel you can teach just about anyone to paint. Tell our readers what you mean by that. How could they begin art?
It is never too late to begin to draw and/or paint. They are two different but related skills. In my opinion, accurate drawing is the more difficult and takes time and practice to master. Being an artist is a mind set and reflects how an individual views his world. With a skilled, caring instructor anyone can learn to paint to please themselves, to bring a sense of wholeness, satisfaction, and peace to their lives.
I immerse myself in painting for hours on end most days. I find painting miniatures to be addictive and am always looking forward to the next painting. I find all phases of art enjoyable from gathering resource material on my trips to sharing, and demonstrating, and educating viewers about miniature art. Creating art is my profession, my pleasure, and
my life long passion.

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