Sunday, 3 April 2011

Learning about miniatures...I waste a day?

Unless you subscribe to the view that time learning  from your mistakes is never wasted.

For some reason the idea of doing a miniature appealed to me, and I naively thought it would just be like a normal portrait but smaller.

But you need special stuff. This was eventually tracked down via Facebook, and samples of 3 products duly arrived.

Miniatures used to be painted on many things including ivory which today, thankfully, is not ethical and is not available for use. Although, intriguingly Mammoth tusk is, and so are old piano keys. Who'd have thought??

Instead of ivory, a product called Ivorine is used, which is a sort of plastic that mimics ivory. It's a cream colour, and very thin with a smooth surface. The beginnings of my painting on the right is on ivorine with oil paint.

There are many other suitable products including the faux porcelain above called Ceramic Alumina which is flat, rigid, chemically inert "stuff" that mimics porcelain and is suitable for all types of media. All these things are available from (no affiliation whatsoever)
The picture at the top is of the ceramic alumina, with a base coat of acrylics.

So when the products arrived I set to work immediately using oils, acrylics, watercolours, and egg tempura on all surfaces to see if there was one I preferred. There isn't. They were all inscrutably hard to use.

My brushes were all wrong, being mangled with wobbly hairs all over the place, and generally too large. My eyes weren't up to the job and I couldn't find the magnifyer I bought to do invisible applique stitching, which would have helped, and I hadn't a clue how to achieve the effects I wanted.

So I stopped after a few hours and am left with the starts of something that I can't use.  The biggest problem was dust and bits of grot in the atmosphere sticking to the paint. (acrylic, but more so, oils)  I also didn't realize that you're supposed to do very very thin layers of paint and not go in with a great dollop on your brush expecting it to be done in one or two layers.

There are no books on Amazon that can help (enter "miniatures" and it's all about painting tiny metal toys) so I've been trawling the interweb for information.

Shall I have another go? Well, probably but not today. If the weather is fine I'm going to paint the garage door instead!


  1. Painting miniatures shares a lot of the same techniques with botanical illustration - building up delicate washes with very fine brushes.
    Not my thing at all - give me a garage door any day!

  2. The garage door is duly painted and a vaste improvement too. Whilst the paint was still wet on the first layer of the oil paint, I dropped it on the floor and it got covered with dust. It's impossible to remedy so is now in the bin. If I have another go, I think I shall have to paint inside a large the Pandorica on Dr Who!!