A miniature painting by South African artist Lorraine Loots.

A miniature painting by South African artist Lorraine Loots.

Lorraine Loots says she has steady hands and jokes that she could have been a brain surgeon, if she’d focused her years of study on medicine, not art.

Despite studying art in university, Loots does not consider herself an artist. Her decision in 2013 to paint a single work every day was a personal challenge to keep creativity in her life after she made the decision to work a ‘regular’ job and pay the bills.

At first, the tiny scale of the paints was a self-imposed time limit. At her usual level of detail, a painting about an inch square was what she could finish in an hour. One hour, one day, one square inch, one complete painting. The subjects of her tiny, precise watercolors are myriad. Cookies, dogs, cars, birds, landscapes. Anything that captures her imagination.

Her art went viral on Instagram and Facebook nearly as soon as she began posting it. Her following boomed, and requests and commissions poured in like a flood. Soon, she was painting full time and selling her art. Demand let her prices climb from $40 per painting to over $1000, and she has nearly two hundred thousand followers online.

On July 1st, in a Brooklyn Gallery, scores of art lovers gathered to see her tiny works in person. The exhibit titled “Ants in New York” featured 740 paintings, a retrospective of nearly two solid years of work, each best viewed with a magnifying glass. Every one was a print – the originals had all sold. The only originals in the gallery were 10 New York City streetscapes she’d painted to commemorate her first show outside her native South Africa.