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Tiny art treasures

November 28, 2006|by FEDORA COPLEY

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - "They're so ... small," I said in wonder as we pulled up to the Chambersburg Council for the Arts gallery at 159 S. Main St.

Through the gallery's windows, the pieces of art in the gallery's 22nd annual exhibition of miniature art caught my attention. The largest images did not exceed 4 inches by 6 inches - slightly larger than the size of a postcard.

Hearing the size of these pieces is one thing, but seeing them in person in another. I found myself captivated with the small scenes they depicted. Some were loosely portrayed or abstract, some extremely realistic and detailed.

James Mullen's "Duck at San Diego Zoo" showed a roughly sketched duck done in pencil. Another piece that caught my eye was "Zephyr," by Judy Tamagno. This pen-and-ink drawing of a fairy and moon, robed in swirling patterns, showed a more fantastical approach to miniature art. The piece received honorable mention.

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Gallery director Anne Finucane finds that "miniature art lends itself to realism." Often, the limited space invites the artists to paint "tightly" - with very sharp, detailed strokes. Many images were strikingly sharp and lifelike, even when viewed with magnifying lenses (provided by the gallery).

In the exhibit, however, some artists did paint abstractly, or at least with less photo-like precision. Finucane said working loosely involves more decision making, like how to show little shadows with a comparatively large brush, while painting a realistic scene is more like copying.

The artwork that was submitted to this show came from all over the country, but ironically enough, best of show award-winner Laverne Hill lives in Chambersburg. "Cows" was one of four works she entered, depicting a tiny scene of bovines in the sun.

Finucane, an artist herself, said she has tried only a few miniatures. She said her kind of art is "a little more abstract."

For teens who want to try creating miniature art, Finucane's advice is to check out existing works. "The first thing is to go and look," she said. Then, once you've seen what other artists have done, focus on a subject that lends itself to miniature art - landscapes, still lifes, and animals (though artists portrayed many subjects at the show).

If painting, small brushes are crucial for maximum detail. Different types of paint can be used. Artists at the Council for the Arts show used watercolors, acrylics or oils, but often, instead of canvas, they painted on a smooth surface - art board or a material called ivorine. Ivorine's surface is very smooth, and doesn't have a rough texture like canvas.

Paint was only one of several media used. Visitors to the show will also see pieces in colored pencil, pastels, cast metal, cut paper, and pen and ink.

Gwen Demosky, a teenager from Hagerstown, submitted two pieces of art into the show. Her cut paper "Taiga Shepherd" portrays a precisely formed dog with individual hairs cut from paper. The details made me look closer in wonder.

Two other unusual pieces were executed with dryer lint - yes, dryer lint; I did a double-take upon hearing Finucane say what material was used. These landscapes by J. Brandii Kligge, of Newburg, Pa., feature smoky colors and soft shapes forming trees and people.

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