Making miniatures – Explained

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”. For more details Click on

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.

All about making miniatures

Miniature art can be referred to as the little jewels of the art world. These are usually smaller than 5 x 7 inches and incorporates all of the attributes as a larger work of art. Miniature art has a long history and the small paintings were carried by the owner similar to the way we now keep photographs or images with us. One of the nicest advantages of miniature art is that you do not need a specific place or a large wall or area to enjoy them. They are perfect to hang on the small walls between windows and doors. Paintings work well on small easels for mantles, end tables and bookcase shelves. They can add a touch of color or excitement to small corners. You can have an extensive art collection without needing a lot of space. One collector was very creative. She removed the wire and screw eyes from the back of the painting and replaced them with magnets. Now she enjoys seeing them on her refrigerator.

The art works very well when grouped together. You can have a group based on the same artist, subject matter or style. They do not all need to be the same size or have the same frame but they do need to be in balance with one another. If they are not in balance, then one or more pieces will visually dominate the grouping. Another advantage of miniature art is that they are easy to transport from one home to another. You can be very creative in displaying miniature works of art since they do not need a large wall of area dedicated to them. This is a wonderful area of art to collect. Melanie Smith is one of the owners of Seaside Art Gallery which has been established since 1961. She is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers with a specialty in fine art and animation art. She has hosted and organized numerous art shows and has been a judge for art shows in eastern North Carolina. She also developed and presented the webinar, “Prints, Original, Fakes or Reproductions” for the International Society of Appraisers.

Making miniatures – Fundamentals

When miniaturizing the bonsai tree, it is important that know how to prune your tree. The major parts of the bonsai that you need to prune well are the foliage or the leaf part of the bonsai and the root part of the plant. Pruning the bonsai is really not just a skill but more of a special kind of art. It is very important that you as the plant owner should be very careful in the miniaturizing process of your bonsai plant. The leaves of the bonsai are very delicate so the pruning should be done with intricate care. Pruning this top part of the plant is actually the aesthetic part of the miniaturizing process of the bonsai so you really have to be creative when pruning the foliage. Creativity in pruning means you must have a specific shape or form in mind for your bonsai plant and be able to realize it by transforming your plant into the desired shape and presentation. It is also a must that the dead part of the foliage is also removed in order to keep the plant really green and healthy-looking.

The root part of the plant is also pruned. This process is a must because new root parts must be allowed to grow and the bonsai has limited space for its roots as it is grown on small pots or containers. Otherwise, because of the limited space, the new roots might not be able to grow. Growing new roots are vital as it promotes the better absorption by the bonsai of the nutrients and water present in the soil. When miniaturizing the roots and leaves of the bonsai, remember that this affects the plant as a whole as the two parts are definitely connected to each other. If you prune the roots more than what is needed, the amount of nutrients that can be taken in by the plant might be lessened. Hence, this can greatly affect the bonsai’s health. Likewise, pruning of the foliage should be just right enough to eliminate whatever excess pressure from the roots that can be caused by the leaves of the plant.

The outcome of your pruning of the bonsai is dependent mainly on how you want your plant to look in the end. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a firm picture of the plant in its final form and shape. Be careful when already doing the miniaturizing process as whatever part of the roots or branch that you pruned is gone for good. Pruning is a very delicate and time-consuming work. It should not be done in a haphazard way. Perseverance is one quality that you must possess in order to achieve the desired outcome for your bonsai.