Miniature art involves a special form of creating that takes a steady hand, and the ability to distill subject matter down to its tiny format without losing meaning. Fine miniature art looks purposeful, as if it was always meant to be tiny rather than a shrunken down form or close-up of a larger statement. Outer Banks visitors can indulge in miniature art thanks to the annual International Miniature Art Show held at Seaside Art Gallery every May.

Currently on display is the 27th exhibit that features more than 500 works from five continents, eight countries and 36 states in America. Every work, whether two-dimensional painting, hand-pulled fine art prints, drawing and mixed-media art or three-dimensional metal, paper, and mixed-media sculptures are original works of art measuring 42 square inches or smaller.

Melanie Smith, owner of the Nags Head gallery, posts history involving miniatures on the gallery website along with images of every work of art in the show. She points out that miniature art is known as “the little jewels of the art world,” and upon viewing this year’s submissions it’s clear that the works have that intimacy one feels upon viewing fine adornments in museum cases across the globe. While she notes that miniature art flourished in the mid-1500s as portraiture, “mementos of loved ones,” the current exhibit goes beyond those boundaries to illustrate whatever makes the artist’s heart flutter. This includes landscapes, nonobjective art, people, animals, and still-life created in a wide variety of genres from realism to abstraction. The mediums also vary including watercolor, oils, acrylics, mixed-media, metal work, shadow boxes, encaustic, paper cutting, and pencil.

“It’s amazing how creative people are,” says Smith while viewing a mixed-media work by Joy Hannan. Called “The Butterfly Effect,” the art features an altar-like wooden structure with a translucent backdrop featuring a butterfly wing. In the background is a landscape. The foreground features a metal woman seated in a chair with a dog nearby. If you hold the work up to the light, it illuminates the background that has a magical landscape with trees and architecture and the butterfly wing in rich orange hues. Hannan used sterling silver, garnet, wood and bronze to construct the intimate piece.

Images appear in the exhibit that speak to traditional rural and coastal landscapes featuring boats floating under a morning sky, a heron perched in a muddy marsh, tiny birds in the surf and sailboats soaking in a hot summer sunset of rich blues and oranges.

The tiniest works appear to be one-inch circles featuring landscape and architecture. There’s also a farm scene with a man standing over a bucket that takes a 10-power loupe to see. Smith said the artist, Wes Siegrist, who specializes in miniatures, says that is the smallest thing he has painted to date.

Visitors will view waves crashing from their frames, a miniscule line of sunning turtles, a focused cat keeping eye over cages of birds, decorative dancing figures, and a bronze, surfacing emperor penguin.

The exhibit is atmospheric with light and color denoting shadows and sun, seasons and times of day.

A wide variety of animals are featured including flamingos constructed with cut paper and paintings of bobcats, bear, horses, otter, ducks, birds, wolf, red fox, and cows.

A notable plus with the miniature exhibit is that prices vary widely from $65 to $2,800. Bear in mind that just because a work is small does not mean it should automatically cost less than a large painting. The skill miniatures demand matches, and can surpass, stroke by stroke all that it takes to paint large. All the elements must be present regardless of size: an expertise with color, composition, perspective, drawing, light, contrast, emotional content, originality, form, space and, of course, vision. There are multiple experts in the field of miniature art showing in this exhibit.

The awards reception is Saturday, May 26, from 7 to 9 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. The judge, Beverly Abbott, and many of the artists will be in attendance. Refreshments will be served.

While the show is on display through June 2, the gallery features year round the work of award-winning artists who work in the miniature format. Go to seasideart.com to read Smith’s blog on miniature art and to see the show in its entirety. But an in-person visit is a must to truly understand what it takes to create a worthy miniature work of art. A word to the wise, it’s a popular exhibit for collectors. You can see what’s already sold online. If you miss capturing your favorite piece, mark your calendar for next May, and keep a diligent watch on the website for 2019 show postings. A number of excellent artists return each year. It’s a great way to start a collection from favorite artists.

Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.

Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.

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