Painting small works in pastel
Molly Lipsher, "Glazed Rocks," 2015, pastel, 5 x 7 in., private collection, plein air

On Painting Small Works: “I came up with the idea of creating a series of miniature paintings during an economic slowdown, but the business decision has turned into a preference and a passion.”

by Molly Lipsher

My miniature works (6 x 8 inches or smaller) include plein air and studio pieces. I put them all in the same frames, which are simpler and less traditional than my standard works, so they stand out as a collection. I often make compatible sets of two or three pieces, but in their entirety, the collection represents nearly every location I’ve painted — a diverse set of moods and scenes. I came up with the idea of creating a series of miniature paintings during an economic slowdown, but the business decision has turned into a preference and a passion.

Painting small works in pastel
Molly Lipsher, “In the Limelight,” 2013, pastel, 6 x 6 in., private collection, plein air

Miniatures have allowed me to connect with a wider pool of potential collectors, including the very young, those with limited resources or space, and those who would not view themselves as art collectors at all. I think there is often an element of intimidation in buying a work of art if you’re not a seasoned collector. Many people feel they don’t know enough about art to make such an expensive, binding decision, but they are less inclined to doubt themselves when buying a miniature, so it’s a great entree to collecting.

I really enjoy helping people transition from appreciating art to actually owning it. Unlike larger works, miniatures are often purchased on impulse, as gifts or mementos of a trip, so they can serve a different purpose to the buyer. There is also a tendency for purchasers to buy them in pairs or triplets —either in the compatible sets I make, or sets that accentuate their diversity, and they are created and priced to encourage multiple sales.

Pastel paintings of Grand Canyon
Molly Lipsher, “Colorful Canyon,” 2015, pastel, 6 x 8 in., private collection, studio

I’ve enjoyed a great artistic benefit to making the miniatures as well. The size is considerably smaller than what I had been painting previously in plein air or the studio. With less commitment of time and resources, the small scale allows me the spontaneity and freedom to try out new ideas and concepts with a minimum of angst. Some of these ideas have generated entire series of larger works, and sometimes the larger works have inspired new series of miniatures.

I’m also finding the format to be perfect for plein air painting when I’m warming up to a new location, or if I’m pursuing an especially quick impression of a scene. By defaulting to my miniature format, I can always find opportunities to add to the collection.

Painting small works in pastel
Molly Lipsher, “Passing,” 2014, pastel, 5 x 5 in., private collection, studio

This article is an excerpt from PleinAir Magazine, “Adventures in Pure Color,” featuring the work of Molly Lipsher (April/May 2019)

Join PleinAir Magazine and Eric Rhoads for the 11th Annual Publisher’s Invitational – a week of painting and visiting beautiful places in the Adirondack Mountains in June, 2022. [learn more about this summer painting retreat]

Visit to find out all the amazing opportunities for artists through Streamline Publishing, including:
– Online art conferences such as Plein Air Live
– New video workshops for artists
– Incredible art retreats
– Educational and fun art conventions, and much more.

Learn More

> Subscribe to Plein Air Today, a free newsletter for artists
> Subscribe to PleinAir Magazine so you never miss an issue


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here