Miniature art awards exhibition


Last Friday was the opening night of the Australian Society of Miniature Art annual awards exhibition. The society is based in New South Wales, but we have members from all over Australia. There are generally two exhibitions a year, one for members only which is held in a different gallery each time, and the awards exhibition which is open to non-members.

This year there were 151 works in seven different categories – drawing, watercolour/gouache, printmaking, oil, acrylic, mixed media and 3D and handmade books. The judge, who changes every year, was Cherry Hood, an Australian artist who is well-known for her large scale portraits in watercolour. Judging is a big job – each section plus ‘Most Innovative Work’, ‘Best Traditional Work’, a special award that has a different focus each year, this time was for a work depicting the human form, ‘Most Imaginative Drawing’, and of course ‘Best in Show’.

I submitted four works, all of which were accepted. Two in drawing, one 3D and one – the piano key I have shown before – in oil. To my delight I was awarded a Highly Commended for the piano key. The judge’s comment was ‘An extraordinary concept – oil paint on a piano key. Very enticing and exquisite.’

At the top is one of my drawing entries, which I called Convict No 4. It is done on scratchbord, which is a board covered with black paint over a white chalky surface, so I create the image by scratching into the surface, revealing the white. Thinking in reverse is tricky at first, but becomes second nature after a while. I started this one a long time ago, and kept coming back to it, getting a bit braver all the time, taking off more of the surface. He is part of a series of Victorian convicts in miniature – you can see more here that were done in pencil.  He is 6 x 8.5 cm.

The second drawing is called ‘The Invisible Man’. It is a commentary on how tattoos sometimes seem to take over the entire person, and become more anonymous over time. It is 9 x 8 cm, drawn with liquid pencil, graphite and coloured pencil. I drew the silhouette of the body builder, then placed it randomly over the previously prepared background to create the man’s body.


My 3D work is intended to also go into the Japanese-themed miniature exhibition in August, so I am hoping it doesn’t sell in this exhibition! It is a miniature version of a larger work I did earlier this year, but using different original prints, cut up and assembled into a structure of interlocking panels that suggested Japanese architecture to me, so I have called it Architecture in Japan. It is 14 cm tall.



The collections book


Cathe’s book came to me a little while ago, and I couldn’t wait to get started on it. The theme is collections, and I have many, although mostly objects found on my travels – gum nuts, seed pods, shells, skulls and so on. The big decision was what to include. Due to other pressing commitments, I wasn’t able to start straightaway, but that did give me more thinking time. Cathe and Gale had already done their part and their work was beautiful. It’s a little intimidating, that blank page, knowing that the work needs to measure up, and no-one wants to spoil someone else’s book!

In the end, instead of drawing some of the objects on my desk I decided to use my ephemeral collections – that is, objects I have collected but no longer have, as they have returned to the earth. So, a sprig of leaves found in Orange, NSW, a bunch of senna pods with their flowers that were found in Bladensburg National Park in Western Queensland, a grasshopper that ended up on the grille of our car after driving through a dense cloud of them in western New South Wales, near the Weddin Ranges (where the bushranger Ben Hall had a cave, but that’s another story), parrot feathers from Bourke. Then there was a cicada shell found in the Bald Rock National Park on the New South Wales-Queensland border, and a beautiful iridescent beetle from the Victorian High Country.

The reason I could use these images is that they are all from my travel sketchbooks, with notes of where each was found. Wherever I go I draw what I find around me, especially things that won’t last – flowers, leaves, insects. I take things with me too – the yabbie claws on the first shared page I still have, but they quickly lose the beautiful rich colours that they start with. Most of these are completely white now.

So you could say these are not conventional collections!


This is the cover of Cathe’s book – made with hand-made paper from Thailand and tied with a gros grain ribbon. Cathe has added some of her collectibles which gently swing around the book – feathers, seeds and shells. For more details about Cathe’s process with book, go here.


The first page was one we all add to – Cathe painted the jar and brushes, Gale added marbles and I have added a couple of galah feathers.


The first spread is also a joint effort – Cathe painted rocks and a feather, Gale contributed the skulls and I did the yabbie claws – the space left is for Karen, who will get the book next.


This is Cathe’s page – it is beautiful, she has a very light but sure touch with watercolour and a wonderful design sense, this page is very satisfying to look at. The winding hand written labels add to the charm of it.


Gale’s page has intriguing objects, every one requires a closer look, she has chosen objects with wonderful shape and form which show off her great drawing skills. The composition of this page is a delight. For more of her work go here.


This is the last page – Cathe has drawn a lovely old pair of shears, and we each add some little notes about the media we have used. Now Karen (for more of her work see here) will receive this book and I will receive Gale’s book from her to do my page.

We are getting near the end of this wonderful experiment, and I will miss it a great deal. But maybe there is something new we can do together … there will be discussions!

The piano key miniature series continues


Three more piano key miniatures are now finished – each one is a bit of a surprise to me, they take on their own characteristics as I add layers of paint, scratch back parts and intensify the colour. The oil paint adheres nicely to the ivory, but does need to be treated with some care – I inadvertently smudged the top right image, but in the end liked what it did. I am a great believer in serendipity and making the most of unexpected events. The imagery speaks of the natural world, but the middle one is more like a pile of brightly coloured fabrics … maybe.

I had originally intended framing three of these together, but now feel they need to be alone. Two of the ones I painted before have now been framed, in small, deep box frames. I am happy with them.


The seaweed collaboration book


The collaboration books are coming together quickly now – this was another sea inspired one, shared with Karen Bailey and Kylie Fogarty. Although both are in Australia we are still scattered, with me in Sydney, Kylie in Canberra and Karen in Melbourne.

As with the previous one (see here) once the book came back to me I couldn’t resist adding a little bit to my main drawing (above), just a touch of extra colour to give it more depth and form. My drawing is exploring the shapes suggested by the seaweed that is found washed up on so many Australian beaches.

The paper in these little books is thin, so marks show through from one page to another, and there is a bit of cockling where water media has been used, but hopefully this adds to the authenticity.


This is the first page that we all worked on, keeping very much to the seaweed theme, Karen and Kylie doing the drawings at the bottom, and I did the bubbly seaweed at the top.


The next spread was Karen’s wonderful Leafy Sea Dragon – these are magnificent, tiny creatures and Karen has captured it so beautifully, taking us down under the surface to explore its world in the depths amongst the weed.


In the final spread, Kylie has taken us back onto the land, to the rocky sea shores that she visited as a child. She has brought it to life, taking us with her as we clamber on the rocks and search in rock pools with her wonderful loose pen and ink and watercolour washes.


The final page brings us full circle to the objects we find washed up on the beach, odd little shells and scraps of seaweed, just waiting to be collected.

I am so pleased with this book, I think it really tells a story, but needs no words. Thanks Karen and Kylie!

To see more of Karen’s work go here, and for Kylie’s go here.

We have used ink, watercolour and coloured pencil in these small Moleskine folded books.

A collaboration book finished


The series of collaboration books began with four of these small Moleskine booklets. This is the first one to be completed, with the aid of Cathe (Amaryllis Log) and Chris (Christopher Beeson Encaustic) both in the US. My drawing above of exaggerated bluebottle jellyfish is where it began, so there was a theme of the ocean and related objects. Originally I had left my drawing black and white, but with a hint of colour. When I got the book back I felt it needed more intensity, so added stronger colour, to give more form and strength, using coloured pencils.

Cathe chose the beautiful rocks and pebbles that wash up on beaches as her subject matter, and with a note of inspired whimsy, added drawings of rocks, feathers and shells as separate dangling additions. These enhance every page and work as a connector between the disparate styles of the three of us.


Chris works predominantly in encaustic. This technique is generally done with oil paints on board, so he needed to adapt his technique to work on paper. He used many layers of watercolour pencils, without adding water, to build up a rich and intense colour. The elegant simplicity of his seascape contrasts beautifully with the more detailed work done by Cathe and myself.


The first and last pages were a collaboration, Cathe started off with a feather on each, and so I added a few more.

collab2_final1web Collab2_final5web

There are three more of these Moleskine books in the works, and the four handmade books, so plenty more to come! Interacting with these other artists, who have all been so generous with their ideas, time and expertise has been an enormous pleasure – I think there will be more to come, I don’t want to stop!