I am pleased to introduce Jennifer Tallman as a contributor to my Examining The Creative Mind Series. She has a blog, Still Life Miniatures, where she mostly writes about painting miniatures, but sometimes writes about life. Enjoy!
Can you tell us a little about who you are and the kind of work that you do?
I’m the owner and artist of Still Life Miniatures, a custom miniature painting service. I paint minis, models, toys, and a few other odds and ends to the customer’s specification. Sometimes I’m hired to paint an entire army of tiny warriors, and other times I may be asked to paint a larger model for a collector. These miniatures and models range from 6mm to 120mm and over in height.
What medium do you prefer to work in and why?
I work in many mediums including oils, acrylics, pigments, and inks. Each of those mediums has their own job to do. Most of my work is done in acrylic paint. I’ll sometimes wash over the acrylic with oils to make a vehicle grimy, or even to make a colorful uniform brighter. Pigments are also used for dirt and rust effects, but can be carefully blended to create a bright armor on a knight. Inks tend to draw into the recesses of models, defining areas of darkness. I don’t have a favorite out of those, but one of those can be a favorite for a specific job.
Where do you do your work? Can you describe your workspace?
I currently have a small studio where I live. I have two desks, which remain somewhat cluttered until each project is finished. One desk is my main one for painting just about everything. It also holds my computer and television. The other desk is the one I use for basing materials and laying pigments. I also use it to hold my airbrush booth. It’s the side of the room that allow to get more dirty with painting materials.
Do you have a favorite artist? What attracts you to their work?
I’m attracted to many artists of many mediums. Because I’m writing about my miniature painting service, I’ll stick to those that have inspired me to continue this art.
My first artist’s crush was on Jen Haley. She was the first painter I found that did such an amazing job bringing these little sculptures to life. She worked in colors that I would never think of using. Being a commission painter, I am usually guided on how the figure is to look and Jen’s work was the first that sparked my interest in getting better than I was…and better than my current customers needed me to be.
My other source of inspiration lies within the Massive Voodoo site. Those guys are masters at creating tiny worlds built from pure imagination. Many miniature painters will be satisfied at throwing a bit of sand or grass material on a base after painting a mini. The boys at Massive Voodoo however, build up bases of all sorts of natural materials. Sometimes the habitat they make for the mini far exceeds the size of what you would think is appropriate….. but in doing so they create stories and life behind that tiny lump of painted metal. They create a feeling that makes you want to know more about that character.
How would you describe your work in 3-4 words?
Fun, relaxing, challenging.
As an artist, is there anything specific that you hope to accomplish?
I would like to really master this art. I would like to create tiny worlds of my own that will provoke thought and imagination. I’m very good at painting what people ask me to but I haven’t had much practice of non-commission work to flex my own imagination and to really push my own painting skills.
I also would like to learn how to sculpt full figures of my own.
As an artist, how do you define success?
My successes come every time I get an email from a customer saying that they love my work once they get it in the mail. Repeat customers are also my successes. I find a certain joy in creating a character that a customer has in their head and making it more real for them. That joy is my success.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you practice?
Every time I finish a project I clean off my desk completely. I replace the cardboard paper stuff that I use, wash my palettes , brushes, and glasses and dust the lamps. I have to be able to deal with some clutter because I usually have all sorts of tiny parts surrounding me but I can only stand so much before my brain totally shuts down.
What are you hoping to communicate through your art?
I don’t think this art really communicates anything specific. While it is an art, it is part production as I’m hired to do each piece. This art has taught me much though. It has forced me to be patient when I’m usually not. I’ve learned to slow down a bit and be more careful. It allows me to free my mind and get lost in details and silence.
What does being creative mean to you?
Whenever I’m creating, I have to be in that moment. Being in that moment allows the chatter in my head to stop for a few moments. That silence is priceless.
How do you come up with ideas?
When you paint for others, ideas are brought to you. I just make the ideas of the customer real for them.
What do you think is your biggest strength?
I can do damn near anything I put my mind to.
What is your biggest weakness?
I’m stubborn. Even when I know something is a bad idea, I have to try it anyway. Indecision is a big one too. The few times I’m left to come up for a color scheme for a customer, or I paint something for fun, I’ll take forever to decide how I’m going to paint it. Then the design will change a few times before I figure it all out.
Are you influenced by any other creative mediums such as music, dance, art, writing or film?
I can be. If someone wants a historical figure for a collection, sometimes I’ll find music or a film of that period to put me in the right mind frame for that figure.
Do you approach your work within a framework of rules or moral code?
I have to stay professional because I’m providing a service. Otherwise, I’ve never had my work push any moral boundaries… but I’m not easily thrown by painting naked figures or lewd gestures either…. I suppose it’s how you look at it.
What is the most important idea, belief, or dilemma you hope to address through your work? Is there a theme at the core of the work you do?
Miniature painting is a small community, largely made up of hobbyists and gamers but a closer look reveals a decent amount of absolutely amazing artists that can do wonders armed with a tiny brush and tons of patience.
If you would like to see more of Jennifer Tallman’s work or commission her to paint you a miniature please visit her website: Still Life Miniatures. Don’t forget to visit her on Facebook too. She does quality work. I know because I commissioned her to paint some dragons for my cousin. He loves them!