How to make your own miniature framed portrait
Last year my grandmother Nanny Ann introduced me to her new, carefully curated dolls house and she said that one of her biggest challenges was finding wall art for her house that looked good.
As a possible solution she had hung a mix of real antique cameos (expensive) and printed pictures (no frames), but I had a better idea. Since I loved miniatures so much, and I am a portrait artist, I decided to make her some.
This is what I came up with. Two, pretty portraits inspired by two of my favourite miniature art cameos. And most importantly they're FRAMED and ready to be hung in my Nan's doll house.
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What you'll need to draw or paint your miniature portrait.
Now you could go all authentic and start painting your miniature with home made egg tempera on goat kid vellum (because you can find that stuff super easily, right?!) but instead... because I'm running low on the goat kid vellum... I opted for what I knew best and what I could control the easiest, so I just drew mine in good old colour pencil and added flecks of white ink for highlights and to give the drawing a raised painterly effect. It did the job. I'll leave the traditional techniques to the art historians.
Do note, it's particularly tricky drawing at this size so make sure your pencil is sharp (sand paper is great for retaining a sharp point without shaving off more wood) and you pay close attention to contrast and implied marks rather then attempting to capture everything in high definition detail.
I didn't use a magnifying glass myself, but that could help.
Good lighting makes all the difference too, as does slow, small movements rather then hard, sudden marks. I only really pressed hard towards the very end as I didn't want to leave any heavy marks until I was absolutely sure where I wanted everything. I found myself using a dotting motion for some of the finer areas as they offered softer control. Cameo artists used a cross hatching technique to build up areas of colour gently which may also be worth a try. I used my white pencil to correct any mistakes rather then erasing as that was almost impossible without erasing the whole image.
Despite these limitations the pictures only took an hour or less each to create!
How to frame your miniature portrait
This is the cool part and the bit that elevates your drawing from a miniature, to a little piece of art that you can hang in a dolls house (or wherever really). Guess what I used?
How appropriate right? Just like a real miniature cameo!
If you search online for brooch mounts, cabochon settings etc. you can find similar products available world wide, but I got mine from Amazon and eBay. You could even re-purpose old jewellery for it if you have something that would work. Regarding the settings though, you can get these really ornate, pretty ones that look just like frames in both silver and gold effect, so I bought a pack of two designs and cut my paper to fit their apertures. I then glued my artwork into place and voila. Ready to be hung.
They look so authentic, and they're super cheap too.
If you won't dare to draw or paint your own miniature you could always try printing a portraits and hand finishing the artwork for your dolls house, for the artists amongst us however I urge you to give this challenge a go. Miniature art is so rewarding once you get the hang of it.
If you want to know more on miniature art and portrait miniatures I recommend two books:
How to Paint Miniatures by Robert Hughes and Elizabeth Johnson and The Portrait Miniature in England by Katherine Coombs. If you're ever in London I highly recommend the Portrait Miniature gallery at the Victoria and Albert museum... I've spent many hours lurking in that room admiring all the fine handiwork. Levina Teerlinc, a female court artist who did miniatures for Queen Elizabeth 1st is one of my favourites. What a world that woman must have seen!
You might also be interested the some of my other miniature art: