Personal Project is a week about hobbies and digging into our hidden talents.
Very small paintings have always enchanted me. There’s a long history of them in India, exquisite little things painted on palm leaves and marble tiles I saw in my grandmother’s house growing up, where I was told that some were made with brushes of a single hair. There was something romantic about them, too. I probably got this idea from portrait miniatures, the Victorian practice of keeping a tiny rendering of your lover sealed in a little ivory locket. A big, honking, peed-on Jackson Pollock could never charm me in the same way.
I started painting my own when I was very young, alongside other bizarre artistic pursuits (clay beads from beach mud, earrings out of dried hot glue, etc). My mini works ranged from about the length of a hand to that of a small book. At first, I tried the Indian tradition, painting jeweled elephants and the like, but I preferred magical-looking landscapes: mountains, beaches, fields and such. Flowers sometimes. Nudes when I got older.
Also when I got older: I mostly stopped painting, unless I was suffering some extreme emotion. Lately, though, I’ve found myself revisiting the old routine: I sit down, put on a histrionic mix of Leonard Cohen and Frank Ocean, and start to paint. Currently, I’m very into clouds:
And I’m pleased to be back on the little painting grind. The other wonderful thing about them is that they make excellent gifts: The person you give the painting to can never give or throw it away, because they will feel bad tossing something so thoughtful, and its practical size gives them no excuse to leave it behind, even if they move to a different country.
They will own the painting for the rest of their lives. I am told this one lives somewhere in my ex’s house to this day.