The Art of Miniature Portraiture – April 2013

We asked Nicolien Beerens to tell us more about miniature portraiture and how she started creating small scale drawings.

In the 16th century, the craft of miniature art used to be a special style of art. While we can now easily take passport photos that we could carry with us, portraits were often painted on small scale as pendants and jewellery centuries ago.

Nicholas Hilliard, my biggest inspiration, was an acknowledged English painter and goldsmith who regularly painted small portraits for royals and famous individuals back in the day. Queen Elizabeth the 1st and Shakespeare were among his subjects whom he portrayed. It is simply amazing how much detail he could add to a painted portrait which were usually no bigger than 50mm to 80mm!

I am deeply interested in the arts from the old masters from the Renaissance era. With pencil and paper I try to recreate a similar way of sketching and drawing. It is funny how I discovered that miniature painting used to be a special craft between the 16th and 18th century, after I had drawn my first set of miniature drawings.

My first experiment was a double portrait of 2 characters from the TV-Show Supernatural. Each portrait was as large as a British penny (approximated 20mm tall) and 15mm wide.



Surprisingly enough, it took me far longer to finish them than I had expected in the first place.

It should not be forgotten that each millimeter in a 2cm tall miniature portrait should be compared to 1.5centimeters on an A4 sized portrait. Every detail in a miniature drawing, appears 15x bigger in a regular sized portrait!

This also means that when the proportions of a mini drawing is 1mm off, it should be comparable to a large mistake (as big as a thumbnail) in a regular sized drawing.

To give a more visual example to the accuracy of a mini sized drawing, I take photos of my miniature drawings with either small attributions (i.e. coins, pencils) or my hand.



It takes quite a lot of art supplies to draw on small scale. Basic materials usually are:

– 0.3mm 2H, HB, 2B mechanical pencils (details)

– 0.5mm H mechanical pencil (sketching)

– regular H graphite pencil (colouring)

– tortillion (blending)

– magnifying glass (accuracy)

Lastly I would like to show to progress of my latest mini drawing. This was drawn from a scene from the film Skyfall. Enjoy!









More of my work can be found at: