KINGSTON — For these painters, it’s not about the size of the canvas — it’s about what they do with it.
The Dallas-based Cider Painters of America organization paints — on canvases no larger than 3 inches by 5 inches — landscapes, still lifes and more, all the size of a note card. Its 2016 International Exhibit of Art is on display at Kingston’s Mainstreet Galleries. Gallery owner and director Sally Casey said the exhibit is like visiting a museum’s worth of paintings in one room.
“It’s different in that there are hundreds of pieces in this event where as perhaps in other events there are 30 or maybe 50 max in the exhibit room,” Casey said. “They’re set up on boards so if an artist has submitted more than one piece, the artist’s collection would be grouped together on one board.”
Casey said attendees are welcome to bring a magnifying glass to the annual exhibition — most aficionados do. The gallery will also have magnifying glasses on-hand so attendees can closely examine each painting’s details.
The art itself may be small, but it comes from one of the largest miniature painting organizations in the world. Cider Painters of America President Jim Rogowski said the organization counts artists from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries among its membership, joined together by a tradition started in early 20th century America.
“The Works Progress Administration set up artists to do government buildings like court houses and post offices,” Rogowski said. “The artists who would do this usually traveled from out-of-state to do these projects, so they would spend their evenings getting together and painting. Since they were not from the area they actually just carried small canvases and worked in small groups.”
Those groups eventually named themselves after the alcoholic drinks they enjoyed while painting, like Whiskey Painters of America and The Bourbon Society. Cider Painters of America founding member Melleray Thompson said the Dallas organization named itself after a non-alcoholic beverage because some members were underage.
Today, Thompson is the only original Cider Painter left. She has five miniature paintings in the 2016 International Exhibit of Art, most featuring birds.
“I just find I can do them better,” Thompson said. “Whatever I see on the Internet I try to adapt to whatever I can do. I just go with whatever I like. Sometimes its just the colors, if I find combinations I like I might go and do a painting about that.”
Miniature paintings by Thompson, Rogowski and other members of Cider Painters of America are on display at Mainstreet Galleries through Dec. 30.