Tomo Tanaka Nunu's House

Artful Level of Detail in Your Miniature Garden

To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail.

–Giorgio Armani

How much detail shows up your garden? It’s true that a miniature garden is detailed by definition – with the tiny leaves, the diminutive paths, the miniscule pastries on a teeny table surrounded by itty-bitty chairs. (How’s that for a thesaurus full of small words?) It’s an artist’s task to keep the details when the world is scaled down.

Japanese artist Satoshi Tanaka (Tanaka Tomo) inspires us with a level of detail that makes a miniature world into art. Though these garden-inspired vignettes are not filled with living plants, they are infused with details that are a thriving inspiration for miniature gardeners.

Tomo Tanaka Nunu's House Tomo Tanaka Nunu's House
Note the subtle texturing and coloring on the walls, the legs of the table, the watering can. The scratches and nicks and dirt on the pots. The size of the paving stones in the walkway. The roughness of the edges of the steps. The amount of stuff piled and laid about in each photo (but intentionally piled, and visually congruent) create compositions that lead the eye.

These are miniatures created with love. Our miniature gardens can be filled with items we’ve bought and they can look great. Or they can become works of art, with some attention to detail. I contend that we were meant to be artists: to express a vision that makes others gasp, or laugh, or think, or cry, or be filled with wonder. We all have something within us that wants to be expressed. What is your “something”?

There are infinite ways to add detail and it all begins with “seeing well.” When I was in art school, we learned the key to drawing/painting anything with accuracy was to spend much more time observing than applying pencil or brush. It is crucial to “notice” first. When it comes to miniatures, we need to notice all of the details on normal-sized objects and then translate as much of that as possible to the smaller world. And that’s where our creativity kicks in – how are we going to duplicate that texture/color/effect in miniature?

Are we trimming our thyme, our Irish and Scotch Moss so they look “just so”? Staining an aged texture on our chairs with a tiny brush? Scraping tiny scratches into chairs with a pin? Using a chemical agent to create a patina on copper and other metal objects? Creatively choosing plants with the most detail for crop rows in a farm or vegetable garden?

Tomo Tanaka Nunu's House

There’s the kind of miniature garden that is an afternoon project. And there’s the kind of garden that is an ongoing project. Never finished. Always tended. The work it takes to tend a large garden – when done on a smaller scale – becomes concentrated love. And we revel in those concentrated details and care.

In the coming months I’ll help you infuse your gardens with lushness and love. We’ll discuss the details that make it work:

  • Creating a composition
  • Telling a story
  • Observing detail and finding inspiration (what “real” looks like)
  • Adding more detail to store-bought miniatures
  • Making miniature structures and accessories of your own
  • Resource lists (where to buy, supply lists, inspirational destinations)
  • Maintaining living plants – with attention to detail

We will also discuss lighting and photography so we can share our beautiful creations looking as realistic as the images that capture Tomo Tanaka’s work.

How have you created artful detail in your miniature garden? What do you want to do next?

Tomo Tanaka Nunu's House

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