Can you think of an activity you’ve completed every single day for two years? While I’d struggle to even claim taking a brush to my molars that consistently, South African miniaturist Lorraine Loots extended hers (brush, not molars) to 730 photorealistic watercolor paintings, the prints of which will be on display this Wednesday at Three Kings Studio in Williamsburg.
“My reasons for doing it were practical,” said Loots, recalling the idea behind the mammoth miniature undertaking she began on January 1, 2013. “I wanted to finish a painting every day and this seemed like the best way to do that.”
Three years and over 190,000 followers on Instagram later, the humans have caught on. In between a teeny pizza slice and subway rat, we caught up with Loots painting on the High Line, to admire her steady hand and ask whether she could better explain Charlie Kaufman’s postmodern puzzler Synecdoche New York to us.
With your “Paintings for Ants” receiving their first international exhibit in New York, your success kind of echoes Catherine Keener’s character in Synecdoche New York. Mostly, what I’m trying to ask is: what’s the deal with miniature art and why do you think people seem to like it so much?
I watched that movie years ago. I still vaguely remember the feeling I had when I watched that scene of [Keener’s] exhibit, it affected me deeply and certainly filtered through… I think it has something to do with the idea of being able to hold something in the palm of your hand. It makes it kind of like a treasure, or a gemstone. People also like to get right up to the painting and there’s something interesting about that. Using a magnifying glass lets them see more than what I saw when I created that painting because I don’t use one.
Yeah, I think I’m a bit permanently tweaked from that [laughs]. It’s really rough. Whenever I see someone doing a similar thing, I’m like, “Godspeed.” Seriously, when there’s so much emotional involvement and detail it’s easy to burn out. Some days I’d have to dig very deep and find that last little crumb. The reward’s been worth it, though.
Well, I post the exact size of the actual painting on Instagram. It’s the perfect medium. Apart from that it was all a bit random with a number of elements coming together… The first bit of growth was slow, mostly through word of mouth. Because people could book dates [before auctioning, individual dates were sold], they wanted to see what was painted on their date and show their family and friends, which meant by default there were 365 people involved in the project. In 2013, Instagram also made me a “suggested user” for two weeks. The next big step came when I was featured on Colossal, which fed into Designtaxi, Huffington Post and Bored Panda – everything I could have ever dreamed of. Recently, a famous tattoo artist named Dr Woo also tattooed my sloth on someone.
Definitely, a lot of 2013 was like that. In 2014, the project changed a bit. We called it “Postcards for Ants” and it was focused more around images that relate to Cape Town. I let people be pretty free about what images they wanted to select as a social experiment. I had a few weird things. I’ve had to stop requests for babies and dogs and cats. Otherwise I’d have a huge collection of creepy babies and dogs.
I’m a photorealist but I don’t have time to go to take a photo everyday. I search everywhere, mostly encyclopedias and Google. I have to always make sure the image is not copyrighted. I then usually combine a bunch of images into a composite.
People have this thing against clichés but I feel they exist for a reason and I dunno, there seems to be something cool about painting an apple in the big apple – it’s just what I do. I’m literal. I like being literal.