General ArtUncategorizedVisual Art

Does Size Matter?

Warboss - Ryan Consell (5cm tall, embarassingly large)

I’m going to expose my geek a little here. I love miniatures. I love to build them. I love to paint them. I like to push my boundaries for detail and quality at a tiny scale.

I am, however, a rank amateur in the art of miniature. I work on a scale which it, by most definitions, the visible one. In the world of miniatures, this is embarrassingly large. There are talented individuals who refuse to work on such enormous sculptures.


Pencil Lead Carvings - Dalton Getty

Take Dalton Getty for example. He produces works that most people would have to put their glasses on for.

Awesome, right? Impressive, no? Not even close. This sort of thing can be done with conventional tools and human eyes. It’s child’s play and thanks to science that’s not the lower bound of artistic expression. No there are people going to greater extremes.

Willard Wigan
is a micro sculptor. What does that mean? It means that you can’t actually see the detail in his sculptures with the naked eye. He works with a microscopes and filed down pins as tools to create dioramas that fit inside the eye of a needle.

So that’s amazing, right? That’s about as small as art can get, right? Not even close. That’s still a human endeavor. It’s a thing a person can do with their eyes and hands.

Science demands innovation! We need to create works of art too small to see. We need art only visible under electron microscopy. Enter Paul Rothemund.

Paul W. K. Rothemund - DNA Smiley Faces

Granted, Paul is not an artist, but he did create a new art form. He is a researcher at Caltech and he developed a way to program strand of DNA to form into specific shapes.  He is able to make two-dimentional sculptures out of strands of DNA.

He has an excellent TED Talk where he talks about how he did it and how there might be applications outside of the art world, but I’m not fooled. He’s created a whole new form of art and he’s just downplaying that fact.

So this is the smallest work of art so far, but it’s on the nanometer scale. I wonder how long until we have a replica of the statue of liberty that has to be measured in Angstroms. How long until we have a mock-up of the new york skyline in quarks? How much would you pay for that sculpture and how would you know if it really existed?


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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