Miniature art is big business at Dunedin Fine Art Center

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DUNEDIN – This month 800 artists from around the world will testify to the existence of small-scale beauty. On Sunday, the Miniature Art Society of Florida will open its 37th annual exhibition and sale at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. Visitors to the center will discover a miniature world affixed to panels around the room, with magnifying glasses conveniently placed for up-close viewing.

The paintings, most of them no larger than 3 inches by 3 inches, are eye-catching with their vivid colors and attractive frames. They feature a seemingly endless variety of landscapes, wildlife, still lifes, boating scenes, and floral arrangements, among other subjects.

While some miniaturists also paint on large canvases, others remain faithful to the world on a small scale. Elaine Thomas of Palm Harbor, a member of the society for over 25 years, said she never liked painting on larger canvases the way she does on tiny pieces of ivory, a synthetic form of ivory commonly used.

“Painting is still painting,” said Thomas, “but would you rather live in a mansion or a comfortable apartment? Artistically, she says, she much prefers living in smaller places. This year, for the first time, Thomas painted in oils on ivory-covered postage stamps measuring 1 x 1 1/2 inches. These are his smallest paintings to date.

Clearwater artist Kay Petryszak, vice president of the Miniature Art Society of Florida, said challenges abound for miniature painting artists and for those who put on the show.

The artist, who uses oils, pencils or watercolors to paint the delicate work by looking through a magnifying glass, requires concentration and patience.

“The miniaturist has to create a complete composition in a tiny space,” said Petryszak. “The judges examine the composition, lighting, ambiance, colors and use of details.”

A clear example of excellence in this art form is a 3 x 3 inch watercolor by Arkansas artist Lynn Ponto-Peterson called The Nutmeg Lantern, who won the award for best show this year. The painting features an earth-toned pot atop a lace doily draped over a thick book. Several cobalt blue glass bottles and a single lantern stand near the jar. The light shining through the glass seems to bounce off the jar, giving the viewer the impression of looking through a window at the real objects.

Petryszak said it takes exhibition organizers a whole year after one exhibition to prepare for the next. The process of receiving the artwork, unpacking it, categorizing and numbering each piece, and preparing a catalog are just a few of the many tasks carried out largely by volunteers.

“The hardest part of the show is making sure nothing is lost or damaged after you arrive,” she said. “Then everything must be carefully numbered and categorized.”

Some parts are found in more than one category. Pieces by artists submitting works for the first time are placed in a separate category.

Each year, a select panel of five artists, all of whom have won awards on previous miniature shows, present 60 awards in areas such as best performing, overall excellence, best first-time entry, and awards. separate awards in each media category. Petryszak said the prize money, totaling around $ 15,000, is mostly donated by local art collectors and art lovers.

As with art on larger canvases, prices vary. The asking price for the award-winning Nutmeg Lantern is $ 950.

“I would say the typical price range is around $ 250 to $ 1,000,” Thomas said, “but some parts cost over $ 10,000.”

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