As creators continue to harness their abilities, the inclination to go bigger is part of what’s become a natural progression — and that makes sense in a world that equates larger-than-life works of art to larger-than-life talent. One artist by the name of Dina Brodksy, however, proves that creating small, painstakingly detailed pieces is certainly no small feat.
Her collection of miniatures called Cycling Guide to Lilliput has garnered critical acclaim, and Brodsky’s unique touch is at once sentimental and deliberate. She recently took the time to walk ViralNova through her inspiration and process.
What’s the relationship between your medium, subject matter, and the small, circular surface? Do they inform each other in your process?
The summer before I started the series, I was looking through a friend’s binoculars, and was struck by how they turned the world into circular, miniature universes. I had just come back from a long-distance cycling trip from Frankfurt to Copenhagen, and I had a sketchbook full of drawings that I meant to paint from. The circular viewpoint of the binoculars was the inspiration behind the format, and the cycling trip was the inspiration behind the content.
Can you elaborate on your process? What materials do you use to achieve that level of detail?
The materials I use are the same ones that have been around for the last 700 years — oil paint and linseed oil on top of plexiglas or Mylar, which are modern materials, but can mimic the texture of ivory, which would have been used for traditional miniature painting during the Northern Renaissance. Using the same techniques my favorite painters from that era used makes me feel like I am in a dialogue with them.
What kind of planning did you have to do before you began painting these miniatures?
I started the first few miniatures for a show at the Micro Museum in Boston, and got so involved in them that I realized 10 miniatures was not nearly enough; I wanted to make an entire series of them. I’ve recorded what I’ve seen all across Europe and North America in dozens of sketchbooks, and I also draw inspiration from the many photographs I’ve taken. Each individual miniature served as an inspiration for the next one. I feel like the series grew organically rather than being planned.
People often consider the reaction of viewers, but what’s your response to watching your own collection grow?
This series was a passion project. Throughout my art education, I was always told paint bigger, but I was always drawn to tiny, compulsively detailed work. For this series, I painted exactly what I wanted to paint, without considering the reaction of the viewers, but I was incredibly fortunate that the project has found an audience. I started posting the works on Instagram because it was an online museum of sorts. Seeing the work catalogued alongside objects that give it a sense of context gives one a curious sense of scale. You realize that this isn’t a gigantic painting — that the work is often the actual size of an image on the phone — and I think that has given a lot of people a chance to connect to the paintings.
Where do you see your work going from here?
My next project is a series of 126 ballpoint pen portraits of trees from around the world, sent to me by people to whom those trees have special meaning. After recreating important moments from my own travels, I was curious to see what others were inspired by. The shapes, textures, and tones of each tree reveal its individual personality, even if that’s experienced differently by the person who sent me the photo, by my rendition of it, and by the viewers. After that, I don’t know, but I do know that I will always keep painting and drawing, no matter what else is happening in my life.