There are many benefits to working smaller and it’s having a resurgence as many artists embrace the impact of tiny art. From smaller abstract pieces to miniature realistic paintings, artists of all skill levels can create small artworks for fun, creative development and to sell.

When working small feels necessary

I discovered my tiny art out of necessity. I was working in a small space, with limited materials and was looking for ways to experiment with new ideas. I’d worked in grids of squares in my sketchbook and had previously used small squares of paper to experiment with Powertex supplies.

It was a natural progression to try a new way of working on paper with smaller pieces.

Then along came the 100 day project and I committed to 100 tiny 2″ squares of mark making and playing with composition in an abstract way. When it was over I found new ways to continue the squares. I didn’t want to stop and I still have new ideas for developing them.

Header image of tiny abstract art pieces on paper scattered on a white background

Accessible and affordable

In many art classes I have taken the goal has been to refine skills and to take them bigger. This aim to create large artwork can be freeing and joyful just because of the physicality of it, it can feel wild and liberating.

However, space, energy and physical health all play a part in this desire to go bigger. I was at a time when going smaller felt like the realistic option if I was to keep creating regularly.

Tiny art was more simply more affordable, suited my space and my low energy.

Time and commitment

Generally the time commitment to tiny art is going to be less but don’t let these little squares fool you. They can be just as challenging as a larger piece to resolve with many layers, drying time and refinements if that’s what you want.

The biggest benefit to me is that I experiment more. The pressure to not waste materials is still there but working small means mistakes (and horrible failures) feel less dramatic.

I can’t afford to go through paper pads with mistakes and messes that are going nowhere but a sheet of small squares can be enough to let me know if I’m heading in the right direction with an idea.

Tiny abstract art in blues and magenta mounted in a white box frame

Developing skills and experimenting

These small pieces are a brilliant way to test process, technique and materials. It’s fun and quick with little waste. Despite their small size, I can usually tell from a just a few squares if something is going to work or not.

Part of this is just getting to know my materials. Which inks flow and dry in a way I like? Do the colours dry darker? How do different materials layer up?

The main difference is that when working small the tools must be small too. I use my tiniest 00 brushes and 0.2 fineliners for mark making. Developing a skill for tiny details is exciting to me (like I’m adding tiny secrets to each one) but it is also teaching me to balance this need for control with more loose and free flowing techniques.

Small art still offers an opportunity to work in a series or in themed collections. They can be framed singly or grouped together for a larger display. Showing a large number of small pieces together can have a huge impact.

Something Special about Tiny Things

Tiny pieces can draw you in with their details and can feel special, a childhood sense of treat and treasure is induced. They can hold a sense of the curious and wonderful in their small form. Simply, there is magic to be found in tiny things.

Just because the pieces are small, most of mine are just 2″ square, does not mean they lack depth or impact. The tools might be smaller but it’s still possible to introduce a narrative and tell a story. These pieces have just as much to offer as a larger canvas.¬†

Tiny abstract art on paper in white box frames on a white background

Thinking of the environment when making art

Last year I decided to reduce how much acrylic paint I use. I live by the coast and sea swim in warmer months. As the awareness of low water quality increased in the area, I felt I could hardly get outraged by pollution in the ocean when I was washing plastic paint down the sink, however little.

I switched to minimal paint, watersoluble Neocolor crayons and archival inks. Working small on paper squares has completely changed the way I create.

Moving away from heavy acrylic use and towards a more environmentally friendly practice opened up new ideas and pushed me to develop in new ways.

Storing small artwork

Storing artworks is something all artists have to contend with, from piles of sketchbooks to older canvases. My home is a small flat with limited storage space and the stack of large unsold canvases leaning against the wall is not great.

Working small simply takes up less space. I still have to store watercolour paper, materials, frames, mounts and packaging but the space required is less and I can protect a stack of finished pieces in a small box.

It’s also so much better for transporting to open house events, when getting across the city with large pieces on public transport can be a risky operation!

The Pros and Cons of Tiny Art

Creating small art is typically seen as less challenging, less impactful and easier. I would suggest that small art can be just as challenging, if not more so at times with such tiny brushes.

Tiny art has lots of potential for artists to test materials, develop skills and produce a collection of art that is accessible, appealing, affordable and stunning when displayed in large grids.

Managing my energy, time and resources is essential and working on small art has changed everything. I can work within the restrictions of my energy and space, produce finished pieces and create a collection of art I can be proud of.

Find your smallest tools, test ideas in a grid in your sketchbook or cut paper pieces to develop an idea. Maybe even start your own tiny art 100 day project. Small art is full of value for the artist and the viewer.