Tiny Art

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| May 7, 2012

Think small! In our culture of super-sized everything, from cars to meals to homes to the waistlines of the denizens that live here, it’s easy to forget the power of the little.

Making tiny art can be a relief; a smaller blank canvas is far less intimidating than a large one. Small art can feel more manageable, easier to complete and you can make many more small pieces than you can large ones. Small art can be sold for less than large art (and is easier to transport, too!). Check it out; The Enormous Tiny Art Show shows exclusively tiny art (10″ x 10″ only). Check out some of this work (and the sizes! Remember that standard business card size is 3.5″ x 2″; some of these paintings fit on a business card!)


Jennifer Judd McGee is a featured artist on Enormous Tiny Art, a gallery devoted to small art, showing only pieces smaller than 10″ x 10″.

If your art can fit on a business card, where else can it fit? On the head of a pin or in the eye of a needle? This isn’t a rhetorical question; Willard Wiggins creates pieces that are nearly undetectable by the human eye that fit on the head of a pin. By entering a meditative state in which his heart rate actually slows down, he makes his moves between beats. The heartbeat causes enough of a tremor in his body to change the trajectory of the tiny tools he uses to create the sculpture. (I had to check Snopes for confirmation on this one; I felt sure I was being snookered. Snopes is with me here! Wiggins creates beautiful pieces that embody the painstaking process behind each one. He puts the mall vendors who write on a grain of rice to shame!


This sculpture would be amazing even at a larger size; check out those whiskers and the mouse’s newspaper!

Language can go small, too! We’ve already determined that we can communicate in small sentences via Twitter or Facebook; how can we creatively use these small language tools?

If you’re technically savvy and adept with a soldering iron, you can outfit your plants to tweet when they need watering or complain that they are over-watered. (Personally I don’t need the stress a tweeting houseplant would add! My plants would be tweeting for an emergency rescue.)


With a bit of wiring knowledge, your plants will be tweeting in no time!

Are you an urban commuter? You can tweet with CommuterFeed to connect to and alert fellow commuters of traffic jams and accidents on your way in!

So, small art can be physically small of course, but what about the process itself? Burning Man is an art festival in the desert of Nevada in late August. Spanning a week’s time in a vast desert, the festival focuses on going large. Huge installation art, giant art cars, wild costuming, the sky is the limit (just ask the on-site airport!). What happens if a large scale art festival turns tiny? Balsa Man is born. The entire process is tiny, including tiny art grants (in small denominations, with applications sent on post cards), tiny people (children are free), and tiny art.


Honey, I shrunk the festival!

Speaking of tiny people, some art directors are quite small (and quite demanding!). Artist Bill Zeman uses input from his toddler daughter (who provides his “client’s brief”) to create fascinating, sometimes adorable, sometimes incongruous illustrations. He then submits his art to the client for review and posts the results. The illustrations and critique are hilarious, adorable, and may hit far too close to home for some designers!

Small doesn’t have to be simple. Check out Melvin the Traveling Mini Machine; a Rube Goldberg postcard “writing” machine. This project was born of a desire to allow a larger Rube Goldberg machine to travel, so the HeyHeyHey design studio designed a similarly complex machine “to go.”


A contraption stamps a postcard in the least efficient, mostcreative and most entertaining fashion possible.

Tiny can be practical, too! Artist trading cards are one-of-a-kind calling cards. They are tiny (2.5″ x 3.5″) and hand-made (not printed, like Moo Cards), and traded like baseball cards.


Artist Ann Ranlett’s art cards are created with colored pencil in vibrant colors.

Art doesn’t have to be anything; art just is what it is. As artists, though, it’s easy to lose that sense of Zen and slip into a sense of what your art is “supposed” to be. One of those “supposed to be” elements can be size; we’re “supposed to” work big, we’re “supposed to” have big canvases, big clients, big projects. The artists we checked out today would agree with my Nana: good things do, in fact, come in small packages.


Clara LaFrance Clara LaFrance is a freelance graphic designer with an M.F.A. in graphic design from Boston University. She is currently a Course Producer at Sessions College, maintaining and updating online courses, as well as a freelance designer and circus teacher and performer.


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