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Minnie or 'Mini'?

August 08, 2018 3 min read

Introducing a set of twelve Minnie Pwerle paintings measuring 30cm x 15cm each. Possibly Minnie's smallest works ever painted.

Small pink and blue Minnie Pwerle paintings

Minnie Pwerle was one of Australia's highest respected and sought after female artists, passing away in 2006 after just a short but powerful career. (Read Bio)

This set was painted in early 2004 - at a studio workshop in Alice Springs where I was based - and has been held in a private gallery collection for over a decade.

The works are painted with the product of Matisse's Cobalt Blue and two shades of Napthol Crimson; each mixed with Titanium White to bring them close to their pastel equivalent.


As I snapped away at the camera and bustled about the workshop on this day fourteen years ago, I stole time out to watch Minnie paint these pieces and they seemed miniature in every way; the brush, the canvas, and the breasts she was painting - that is compared to their translation on a large canvas.

The typical sized paint brush Minnie used was a size 10. These works were crafted with a size 6.

Even the colours remind you of welcoming a wee baby into this world, making the pink and blue a fitting choice for such miniature works. They were 'mini' Minnie's and we shared a joke about it.   Minnie Pwerle in workshop paintings miniature paintings

Above: Minnie Pwerle painting two of the artworks.

Minnie spoke no English and so her daughter Barbara Weir was there to translate the words between us, while she herself sat nearby painting her own works.

Minnie thought these were the most unusual paintings - and the smallest canvases - she was ever asked to paint. Normally buyers wanted big; and so galleries were commissioning her works in large sizes upwards of 120cm.

Of course Minnie was able to complete the whole set in less than 40 mins. While they dried she wanted to get started on another piece straight away before finishing the day just as abruptly as she started.

Minnie Pwerle paintings pink and blue set

It was unusual for me to see Minnie without a paint brush in her hand, eager to get to work on a painting immediately.

I definitely found it hard to keep up with her when she was at the workshop, and there were times when I had to call it quits for her (not just for my sake).

If you had spent enough time watching Minnie paint, you would get to know when she was tired even if she didn't want to stop. She was well into her 80's when she began her painting career.

The last painting of a body of work would often become a little less 'full', less energetic, less quality. Too often it was a product of her own expectation of quantitative output.

Usually the breasts and melons would get bigger. That was one sign. Also the paint dragged a little more on the canvas because her hand pressure became weaker and there would be body paint lines on the artwork missing half the paint. This isn't always an indication though, because sometimes the paint gets to the bottom of the container and the consistency of the paint is thicker - meaning it's going to drag a little too. 

Still, that's all part of a Minnie painting. It's how a lot of the older generation at Utopia paint; with instinct and a no-nonsense approach. It's not about a precision. The important thing is the content, the meaning, and almost above all else the sharing.

Minnie Pwerle paintings pink and blue set

Minnie Pwerle paintings pink and blue set

Minnie Pwerle paintings pink and blue set

Minnie Pwerle paintings pink and blue set


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