Small Fe-Lines drawings on table with pot of black ink and cat's whisker

Thinking in miniature

May 23, 2024
Shelf Miniatures and Studioworks: Beyond Scale in drawing and sculpture

I’ve been creating a series of miniature works recently. Two exhibitions in the space of a few months have led me to thinking in miniature. In February, I exhibited A Line Across England in Between the Lines at The House of Smalls, thirty-nine drawings from a Groundlines journey along ancient chalk and flint tracks.

I currently have four new drawings in an upcoming exhibition, Beyond Scale, at Our Big Picture in Grimsby (15 May – 8 June). Hondartza Fraga will be showing her latest work at the gallery and as part of the exhibition she has invited Hyphae Drawing Collective to exhibit works in her miniature gallery. It was lovely to hang out with the collective on Zoom again and draw together. If you’re in Grimsby do pop in if you can (there are also some events running alongside the exhibition). Images will also be posted on the Beyond Scale website and on instagram. 

Groundlines and Fe-Lines

I selected four drawings for the exhibition: two Groundlines drawings, pencil rubbings of the ground, alongside two Fe-Lines, a new work and still in an experimental stage. 

One of the Groundlines drawings was made during a recent riverside woodland walk and the other traced the site of the garden rainwater puddle used for Puddle Worlds, one of my first works exhibited with Hyphae Drawing Collective and featured in the Drawing Correspondence publication, Grow (2021).

Fe-Lines were made using a whisker shed by one of my cats, I drew horizontal lines reminiscent of the horizon line as sea and sky meet. This was more challenging than it sounds given that whiskers resist the ink – at times the drawn lines are almost invisible. I’m intrigued to see how they look alongside other works and am still working out what I think of them. I enjoyed making them though so will make some more and see where it leads.

Ruth Broadbent - Fe-Lines (2024)
Shelf Miniatures

It’s ended up being really useful to have a maximum size of 10cm to work to. With a lot of different art projects to juggle at the moment and ideas sprouting all over the place, I cut out lots of small pieces of paper of varying sizes, and drew all my ideas onto them. Some worked, some didn’t, some are there for reference as maybe an idea to develop. I also made some miniature sculptures.  As the mound of works grew, I needed to see them in a small space so cleared the shelf of a bookcase and have been using it as a miniature gallery, ‘Shelf Miniatures’. I think I might keep it there for the time being – it’s proving useful as a space to reflect on work and has a quietness about it – a bit like a studio with some areas clear and little mounds of stuff in the corner. Here are a couple of arrangements: 

Several miniature artworks and found objects on white bookshelf
Ruth Broadbent - Shelf Miniatures (wip) 2024
Several miniature artworks and found objects on white bookshelf
Thinking in miniature

I often use small sketchbooks as a way to collect visual info whilst walking. Over the past few months, I’ve been creating work with Walking the Land, using small concertina sketchbooks during walks along the Honeybourne Line, a disused railway track in Cheltenham. Some are snapshots of what catches my eye, more like a sketchbook, whilst others are more like a complete drawing that spans the whole line of paper. One blew away, narrowly missing a stream, and tore in two, the weather and gusts of wind becoming part of its story. I will use them to generate ideas for an upcoming exhibition and symposium, Line(s) of Enquiry, at the University of Gloucestershire in 2025.

I’ve always enjoyed working in miniature – the earliest example I’ve found is from a drawing I made of my family in a primary school exercise book – I had created a tiny drawing of us all. This drawing featured in my cube, part of a collection of portraits, Identity Cubes. Small cubes have also appeared in works such as 11 Tracks, with handfuls of earth collected whilst walking, contained and positioned along the length of a 364cm plinth. My sketchbooks have always tended to be small with my written notes often becoming minuscule.

On numerous occasions my large works are created through small-scale repetitions, as can be seen in Imagined Lines, both the pen on paper drawings and large copper wire installation, or the repeated forms of 100 Magazines creating a large installation. I created a test piece miniature in copper wire as a possibility for Beyond Scale although I decided not to exhibit it as it needs more work on it, and also is liable to falling apart in the post. You can just about see a couple of variations of it in the shelf miniatures images. When Hondartza sent us these lines from a poem by Rebecca Elson as inspiration for creating works that play with the notion of scale and space, adapting my Imagined Lines (copper wire) and Groundlines works, were the first ideas that sprang to mind:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.
Photograph of sea and sky with blurred horizon line
Ruth Broadbent - Sea Sky Horizon Line (2021)

The repetition of mark-making, whether through drawing or sculpture, small or large works, has a meditative quality through the repetitive rhythm of making. They provide a space of quiet stillness, a time to just be in the present, for my imagination to wander, and time to reflect. Even if I had an enormous studio, I wonder if I would fill it with small repetitions and multiples that together create large works.

miniature gallery (poster with exhibition qr code and image of gallery)

hyphæ drawing collective

Aileen Harvey, Anna Rhodes, Edward Martin, Hondartza Fraga, Kim Plowright, Liz Horn, Nichola Scrutton, Petra Regent, Ruth Broadbent, Sarah Praill

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