Cape Town miniaturist Lorraine Loots started painting tiny artworks as a way to avoid falling into a career as a full-time artist. It was a decision that backfired in the best way possible, and after several months of hard work, her 365 Paintings for Ants became a global sensation.
Although Loots decided not to become a full-time artist, she wasn’t ready to leave all creativity behind. So, to satiate her artistic cravings, she started what she describes as “a borderline-OCD project” where she had to spend an hour a day creating something new. According to Loots, “The only thing I could finish in that time frame was a miniature painting, and so 365 Paintings for Ants was born.”
At first, Loots would paint whatever she felt like – typically, everyday objects, or whatever she came across that day. She would also allow her Instagram fans to book dates; this quickly snowballed and made her account wildly popular.
“As people started booking dates, they got excited about the prospect of being able to make suggestions for what would be painted on their day,” she says. “I liked the idea of drawing inspiration from that.”
She then went on to repeat the project for another year, only this time, she limited it to a single theme – her home city of Cape Town. This would ensure that she could still choose something that resonated with her, but at the same time prevent the project being purely commission-based.
In 2015, after two years of non-stop painting, she took back some of the control. She picked her four favourite themes, and painted whatever she felt like on the day.
Since then, Loots has travelled the world with her exhibitions, and has focussed on painting the cities that have inspired her along the way.
Although she’s not launched another 365-day project, she’s certainly not letting up. She recently partnered with World Vision on a project that required her to paint tiny portraits on beans. “At first I was really hesitant about taking on the project, as beans weren’t exactly a canvas I was comfortable with, or had ever painted on before,” she says. “But I like a challenge, so I agreed to give it a go. It was so refreshing to be challenged in that way.”
The beans made their way all the way to Australia to be auctioned, with all proceeds going towards World Vision’s food programmes.
Although Loots failed miserably at her attempt to leave the formal art world behind, it’s a failure for which her 300,000 adoring Instagram fans are clearly grateful. Although she’s tempted to return to painting human-sized artworks again, the miniatures are here for good.
“I want to keep painting these for as long as time and my eyesight permits!” says Loots. “I’ve always loved detail, and painting smaller pictures just allows me to put in the amount of detail I want to – anything bigger would take me a lifetime. I also love the intimacy of it, and the fact that you have to get so close to the image to really appreciate it.”
Loots is currently working on her third book, 100 Paintings for Ants. She will head to London next year for a new international show called #ANTSinLONDON, and is also working on a new Lover’s Eye jewellery project. For more information follow her on Instagram, or visit her website.