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All illustration images © John Shelley, not to be used without permission scribblatosis(at)gmail(dot)com

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Miniaturisms


One-Inch basic art tools - paper, a cut out 1-inch template, pencil, eraser, and finepoint multiliner pens.


I don’t generally make new year resolutions, but this year I thought I’d set myself a daily art challenge. I really enjoy the month-long challenge of Inktober (see previous posts), but it can tend to take over a bit, so if you’re going to commit yourself to daily drawing for a whole 365 days, it’s best to keep things simple, within clear definitions, and not to let it take up too much of your day. Who knows what the year ahead holds? Some days you’ll have time to doodle, others, no time at all. The biggest danger for me is getting stuck in and becoming distracted from the more important task of earning a living, raising my daughter etc! It has to be something that isn’t too intrusive.


Back in September 2018 I was one of three finalists in a daily challenge from the House of Illustration, inspired by John Vernon Lord, who had made a 1-inch square drawing every day over a whole a year. The challenge was for other artists to try this for a month, and I loved it! So this year I decided to revive the challenge, this time not just a month, but to go for the whole 1 year daily drawing caboodle!


Working very small has always fascinated me, not only with artwork. I was absorbed with building plastic models as a child, then model soldiers, I’ve been in love with the miniature ever since. I’m pretty sure painting Napoleonic soldiers for tabletop gaming complimented my skills for very small illustrations. Though I stopped playing tabletop wargames many years ago, a small remnant collection of soldiers survives from the old days, on display in my studio…


20mm French Napoleonic.

5mm British, French Revolutionary Wars era


Oh, youthful obsessions! These were the things that kept me indoors when I could have been out and… well, actually, no, stop there. No recriminations! They were wonderful times, I wish I could get back into it now, I wonder why I never seem to have the time?


At art school we were always encouraged to work big - broad brushstrokes, vigour, dynamism! There is a lot to be said for that - it really helps to get you out of tunnel vision, shake you up, force you out of narrow focuses. Bold is beautiful! But you can also find vigour and dynamism in the very small as well as the big. Many paintings that impressed me were landscapes of one kind or another with tiny details to focus on, even if the painting as a whole was large. My favourite illustrators tended to be pen and ink artists with a fascination for details, with a meticulous control of light and dark within the limitations of a small vignette or book page. Even in the wider world of illustration outside publishing, most of my successful advertising posters in Japan were enlarged from often very small artwork. Big may be beautiful, but small is exquisite!


And so to the challenge drawings. I’ve been making a one-inch square (25.4mm) drawing every day since 1st January, and so far it’s been a lot of fun, here’s a summary of January’s drawings:

1st - 16th January


I really must get a grip on time commitment though - the drawings themselves don’t take long, but pondering ideas, sometimes a redraw here or there, then fumbling with my phone camera to get a picture in focus at that scale, and posting online with my limited social media skills, it can take a chunk of time out of the day. Time that could be potentially spent on developing picture book ideas! But I tell myself - it’s all complimentary, all part of the same creative journey.

17th-31st January


You can follow each of my daily posts on Twitter , Instagram and Linked-in. There’s no guarantee I’ll complete the year, but if I do, maybe they’ll form the basis of a future exhibition. Or something!



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