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Tiny art captures minute details

Doris Middleton Liverman of Spring Hill has many talents, but the most fascinating of all is her painting of miniatures, an art form that dates back to the ancient Greeks.

I never knew there were so many local, national and international societies for people who pursue and excel in this very fine art. To list all of them would take pages, but once I saw her work, I had no difficulty in understanding why she has won so many awards and honors in the United States and in international circles as one of the finest of American miniature artists.

Mrs. Liverman works in inks, watercolor, oil, acrylic, wax pencil, charcoal, graphite pencil and pastel. When I saw the lovely paintings of Indians in costume, pencil drawings of children and family, her pastels, the country scene and paintings from an old family snapshot, I could not help but marvel at the scope of her talent and variety of interests.

Mrs. Liverman is not afraid to tackle something entirely new when she finds it intriguing. There is a large, abstract painting on one of the walls in her beautiful home that is filled with the warm colors and wide brush strokes that seem to reflect her personality. The creative side of Mrs. Liverman appears, however, when you look closely and see a few tiny miniature paintings cleverly absorbed into the larger abstract.

It is no wonder that she says, "A work of art is work, but it can be a pleasure, a joy for the eyes, hands and soul."

Miniature painting requires magnification. Liverman often works from photographs, and her subject can be anything she finds interesting _ perhaps the composition and color she sees in a postcard, a child's face as she concentrates on a game or dancers at an Indian powwow in St. Petersburg. The miniatures of American Indians are exquisite in detail.

"I'm not a photographer," said Mrs. Liverman, "but I took one picture after another, as fast as I could, as I watched the Indian dancers. I knew I would end up with at least one or two that would capture the movement I was looking for."

The photographs were then enlarged and placed under a lighted, large magnifying glass in order for her to begin painting.

Mrs. Liverman was absolutely right about capturing the movement of the dancers. There was one painting that caught my eye immediately. One of the dancers wore a costume that flared out around him as he moved, and the miniature shows such motion, color and joy that you have the feeling Liverman caught every feather and bead in mid air during the dance. Mrs. Liverman did an entire series of paintings of American Indians in costume.

"My husband (Vernon) was in the Air Force, so we traveled a great deal while raising our three children," said Mrs. Liverman. Now that they have retired, she says, she is busier than ever.

"It's wonderful. I've never done so much in my life."

While living in Texas and New Mexico, Mrs. Liverman studied under the artist Ben Konis and became extremely interested in miniature art. As she progressed, she was honored to become a signature member of the Miniature Artists of America and a lifetime member of the Miniature Art Society of Florida, of which she served as president for two years. She is a charter member of the World Federation of Miniature Artists of America, which currently is exhibiting in Tasmania, an island state of Australia.

"I entered a graphite drawing titled Heady Motif in this exhibit," Mrs. Liverman said.

Her work has been shown in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Sweden, Japan and throughout the United States. Her work was included in an exhibit at the Florida Pavilion during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, and one of her paintings was selected for the miniature collection given as a gift to the city of Nagano, Japan.

For a few years, Mrs. Liverman did large, commissioned portraits. She has also taught pencil and charcoal drawing, illustrated a book on demonstrations at exhibits and shows, and done workshops on drawing and pastels.

She has narrated art videos and recently prepared a catalog for the Miniature Art Society of Florida for the group's silver anniversary this past January. That project alone took nine months of writing, proofing and rewriting. The anniversary exhibit was at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art.

When exhibits are being judged, on the side of the groups of paintings hangs a magnifying glass for the judges, who must see every detail of the miniatures. Each painting must conform to requirements regarding size and detail. The artists compete for more than $20,000 in awards.

Membership in the Miniature Artists of America is by invitation only, and Mrs. Liverman passed all of the organization's stringent requirements, giving her the right to use the initials M.A.A. after her name.

She has certainly earned that honor.