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Lorraine Loots’s Paintings for Ants

Small victory.

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When evoking the timeworn saying “It’s the little things in life that count”, one is likely to be referencing something akin to a particularly nice cast of light, a good hair day, or surprise croissants in the office kitchen. Yet for 29-year-old South African artist Lorraine Loots—who creates small-scale portraits between eight and thirty millimeters wide, which she refers to as being “for ants”—anything can be recast as a tiny delight, from a Malayan tapir calf, to a National Sea Rescue Institute boat, to a stellar jet streaking across the Grand Nebula.

In 2012, Loots became discouraged after learning about the business side of art in a course. Regardless, she set aside time daily to paint for her own fulfillment. “I constructed this borderline-OCD project where I had to spend an hour a day creating something,” she explains in a release. “The only thing I could finish in that time frame was a miniature, and so 365 Paintings for Ants was born.”

The response upon publishing her incredibly detailed images online was “immense and overwhelming,” Loots admits. Soon, she began selling her pieces in advance of creating them, with customers purchasing a future painting only to discover what Loots felt inclined to draw the date-of (she generally took five suggestions from each client to help inspire her). Although working to fulfill daily pre-orders is stressful, Loots feels doing so allows her to cultivate a sharp sense of focus. “Initially, I thought of the project as a massive challenge, like a marathon or something I would be relieved to have survived. And it really was,” she says. “But it also became this meditative time; a quiet and almost sacred part of each day.” As her first year of tiny portraits drew to a close, Loots found herself dreading its eventual end, “and then I remembered—or realized, rather—that the project was mine, that I was the one who had made it all up in the first place and if I wanted to keep doing it, I could. And so I did,” she says. She has since continued variations of the original project annually, hoping to wrap up her third installment by March 2016 (when her first child is due). She also sells prints, posters, and an anthology book of her Cape Town–inspired work, entitled 365 Postcards for Ants.

Loots has maintained the discipline needed to complete a daily painting no matter where she happens to be—on a bus trip, in the Himalayan foothills, in a Parisian Airbnb at 4 a.m. … Along the way, her hobby has become her full-time job, an accomplishment that is no small victory.


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February 3, 2016