Charter members left to right: Al Hopkins, William Zimmerman, Wayne Waldron, Thom Robinson, and David Dale

Small Painting Society
of Brown County

by Rachel Perry
courtesy photo

Wayne Waldron is not a man who idly watches the world drift by. Anyone who regularly enters Waldron Gallery in Nashville’s Heritage Mall is aware that Mr. Waldron keeps his gallery open seven days per week throughout the year.

While there, he unremittingly creates outstanding paintings in various mediums and styles, and also hatches plans to improve and promote fine arts in Brown County.

Last year Wayne Waldron had an idea for a new type of organization. He then proceeded to initiate the inaugural exhibit of the “Small Painting Society of Brown County,” which took place from September 8th through the 30th, 2001. The purpose of the association is “to perpetuate the reputation of Brown County as an artist colony of national importance, by bringing recognition to outstanding contemporary artists creating small works of fine art.” Inspiration to forge the new Society evolved from Mr. Waldron’s experience with associations that promote miniature artwork.

“This is not a miniature society,” Mr. Waldron explains. “We take over where miniature societies leave off. They go to twenty square inches (typically 4” X 5”). The smaller you can paint in the miniature society, the better you will fare for awards.”

In addition to creating art with more traditional dimensions, Mr. Waldron paints miniatures and belongs to three National Miniature Societies and the World Federation of Miniatures. He won a major award at an international miniature show in Florida this past summer. “My paintings that I enter in shows are 2” X 2.25”. Everything is done with magnification. They are generally judged for the brushwork under magnification. At the major shows, they hang panels of around a dozen to fifteen miniature paintings and hanging on each panel is a magnifying glass. Serious collectors view them that way,” Mr. Waldron said.

“Miniaturism started in England hundreds of years ago. The paintings were done on ivory called a ‘wallet.’ A person carried the image of a loved one in his uniform pocket in the field. Now we can no longer use ivory, unless you can find old piano keys. All mediums are acceptable and the shows are generally broken down into categories like watercolor or oil.”

Mr. Waldron considered starting a miniature society in Indiana, but instead decided to begin an organization using larger paintings. The Small Painting Society allows paintings from twenty square inches (4” X 5”) to eighty square inches (8” X 10”). “To me, anything over 8” X 10” is not small,” Mr. Waldron declared. “I don’t know of any other Small Painting Societies, although some galleries use the term ‘miniature’ for shows that go all the way up to 9” X 12” or 16” X 20”.”

Last year, the Small Painting Society began with five charter members and the intent to invite two new members each year. Charter members David Dale, Al Hopkins, Thom Robinson, Wayne Waldron and William Zimmerman are all established professional Indiana artists who show their work regularly in Brown County. The two well-known artists who joined the organization in 2002 are Charles Mundy and Todd Reifers.

Wayne Waldron’s vision for the Small Painting Society of Brown County includes strict adherence to professionalism, diversity and peer review. “Peer review is probably one aspect that’s missing from most other organizations,” he said. “For one reason or another, major organizations seem to let down requirements, whether it’s the bottom line or thinking ‘more is better.’ Everybody’s expected in this organization to have a certain professionalism and quality to their work. If that is not maintained, they know they are subject to review. This is something we stress. If their work is slipping, they need to straighten up and fly right or be dismissed.”

“Part of knowing you’re on the right track,” he continued, “is when you have other professional artists wanting to be part of your organization, or at least expressing an interest in it. We’re developing a list of people we would be interested in having as members, and the charter members select who will be invited. Any member can nominate artists, and all have input. It’s important to keep the quality of the work high so people will know that if it’s from the Small Painting Society, it must be good.”

Like any new organization, it will take some time and promotion to gain national awareness. “I don’t know where it will go once we start advertising,” Mr. Waldron admitted. “What’s going to limit this organization’s size is diversity. We are looking for artists with distinctive styles, their ‘signature style’. We feel like this gives each member an opportunity in his market. Then he’s not competing with other artists for that same market. You have to be distinct in some way that sets you apart—whether it’s palette, brush stroke, technique, etc.—diversity in work and painting style.”

For the collector, Wayne Waldron’s concept has numerous advantages. The small paintings are all created by well-known, highly collectible Hoosier artists. Buying a smaller work is a way to have one or more of these respected names included in one’s private collection for a modest price. Many homes with limited wall space cannot accommodate traditional exhibition-sized paintings. Smaller works are easier to install and rotate with other pieces to provide aesthetic variety. Those who are familiar with the work of the artists comprising the current Society are already aware that the skill, experience and talent of these individuals are beyond question.

Don’t miss this year’s featured exhibit of six paintings by each member of the Small Painting Society of Brown County at the Waldron Gallery in the Heritage Mall at 41 South Van Buren Street in downtown Nashville. The show will take place beginning September 14 and continue until September 30. For further information call 812-988-1844.