Painting Miniatures || Pauline Denyer-Baker

Just to be technical for a minute, in this context, “miniature” derives from the Latin “minimum”, which is the red lead used to decorate manuscript capitals, rather than “minimus”, meaning small. As it happens, miniatures are not done on a large scale, but this relates to the usual size of the said capitals, rather than any specific limitations of dimension.

But let’s not get too bogged down in semantics, as it’s generally agreed now that a miniature painting is about one-sixth life size and about 6.5 x 4.5 inches. Historical miniatures tended to be portraits, again largely an accident brought about by a need for portable likenesses in the days before photography. As with many necessities, a practical form developed into a great art.

The current world of miniatures accepts pretty much any subject, as a glance at the cover of this magnificently comprehensive book will show. If you want to get deeply involved, there are various societies, all with their own more tightly-described rules but, for the more general painter, Pauline takes a fairly relaxed approach that allows you to tread your own path before deciding whether you want to get into the more closely-policed areas. She doesn’t, however, let just anything past and this is important because a proper miniature is always going to be more than just a small painting.

This is, as I said, a comprehensive book and one which both requires and repays considerable study. Miniature painting is not really something for the beginner and basic painting skills are assumed. What you will find, though, are demonstrations and projects in a variety of media and covering a range of subjects. Work through it (unless your tastes are very catholic, you may not find yourself needing every page) and you should find yourself either fully satisfied or ready to take the next stage and one of those specialist societies.

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