It’s the Small Things That Count.
In 2013, Lorraine Loots gave herself a heck of challenge: making one painting a day for a full year! Since then, this 29-year-old miniaturist painter from South Africa has turned this passion of hers into her full-time job. She has given herself one constraint to express herself artistically, working on 10×10 cm pages on images varying from 8 to 30mm. The advantage of such small works is that she can continue painting on the go – coffee shops, bus trips, foothills of the Himalayas… you name it!
Born in Bloemfontein, she lived a couple of years in the Kruger National Park before moving to the Western Cape and settling down for good in Cape Town. Her work has received immensely positive response across the globe and her 2013-2014 collections were all sold out.
How did you get started? How did you come up with the idea?
L.L.: Late 2012, I was doing a Business Course for Artists at the UCT school of Business… and after 3 months of learning about tax, negotiating, marketing and business plans, I had decided – ironically enough – that I didn’t want to pursue a career as an artist after all.
I didn’t want to stop painting though, so I constructed this borderline-OCD project where I had to spend an hour a day creating something. The only thing I could finish in that time frame was a miniature, and so 365 Paintings for Ants was born. 365 Postcards for Ants is the second phase of that project.
Why miniatures? Have you always painted on such a small scale?
L.L.: No, but I’ve always loved detail. Painting smaller pictures just allows me to put in the amount of detail I want to (otherwise it would take me a lifetime). I also love the intimacy of it – the fact that you have to get so close to the image to really appreciate it. I could spend an hour erasing and rewriting a letter that’s a fraction of a millimeter too low/high/big/small.
I’m curious… do you use a magnifying glass?
Do you ever do more than one painting in a day?
L.L.: Very, very rarely. It’s extremely strenuous and time-consuming to complete just one. My eyes need to rest properly in between paintings.
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How long does each piece take to create?
L.L.: At first, I would have to paint them in an hour or two, but now that it’s become a full-time job, I allow myself to indulge and will sometimes spend up to 9 hours on one miniature. So, the original paintings take in general between 6 and 8 hours.
After I’m done, the originals are scanned in, cleared of dust specks etc. on Photoshop; PDF’s are sent to the printers, they have them printed in Cape Town. Then I edit, sign, date, stamp, write messages, package, and send them via registered mail. Well, the part that nobody sees – the admin – is definitely what takes up most time.
Your project is a little like “Don’t break the chain” meets art – how do you keep yourself motivated?
L.L.: Some days are really hard. I think the pressure of having to create something for someone every single day, to put it out there into the world, the idea of never having a day off, it all starts to affect you on a subconscious level. But the incredible feedback and the feeling of being one step closer to achieving a much bigger goal are what keep me going. The reward is huge.
What inspires your daily creations?
L.L.: At first, I would paint whatever I felt like: everyday objects, or whatever I came across that day. But as people started booking dates, they got excited about the prospect of being able to make suggestions for what would be painted on their day, and I liked the idea of drawing inspiration from that. In 2014, I decided to structure it more carefully, limiting the suggestions to Cape Town related themes and accepting no less than 5 suggestions per date. This would ensure that I could still choose something that resonates with me, and at the same time, prevent the project becoming purely commission based. For 2015’s project, I decided to pick four of my favorite themes and paint whatever I feel like on the day. I needed a bit more flexibility after 2 years of non-stop painting.
L.L.: I’ll be completing the Potluck 100 project, after which we’ll be working on the release of the Potluck 100 book as well as planning 2017’s big project and the Potluck 100 exhibition.
Another year full of paintings… I’ll need to balance it out with my personal life – I just became a mom!