Artist Lorraine Loots on surviving a 365-day project, and beyond

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South African artist Lorraine Loots is my Instagram crush. She paints highly-detailed, hyperrealistic watercolour works on a daily basis, most of which would fit inside a five-cent coin. Very appropriately, she calls her work "paintings for ants."

"The images vary from eight to 30 millimetres in diameter," Lorraine explains. "When I started doing miniatures, people would say, 'Oh that's nice. But what would you do with something that small?' I just started saying they were made for ants."

Lorraine's work is beautiful, but her output is phenomenal. She started painting her miniatures in 2013, as part of a 365-day project. "The plan was simply that I would set aside an hour a day outside of my 'real job' to complete an artwork," she says.

"Initially, I thought of the project as a massive challenge, like a marathon or something I would be relieved to have survived. And it really was. But it also became this meditative time; a quiet and almost sacred part of each day. And as the days went by and the end came closer, I got sadder and sadder thinking that I'd have to stop. And then I realised that the project was mine, that I was the one who had made it up in the first place, and if I wanted to keep doing it, I could. And so I did."

Since those early days, the response to Lorraine's "paintings for ants" has been so positive that they have now become her full-time job. Each miniature takes between six and eight hours to paint - sometimes more - and Lorraine continues to create a new one every day.

"Some days are really hard. I think the pressure of having to create something for someone every single day, to put it out there into the world, the idea of never having a day off, it all starts to affect you on a subconscious level. There have been difficult days. I've been so sick that I was only able to drag myself out of the bed for that hour it takes to do the painting, and it's taken all my willpower. We lost a close family member on the last day of 2013's project, the day before I was going to take on 2014. That was incredibly hard. Life just goes on and sometimes you have to make big sacrifices if you want to stay committed.

"But the incredible feedback and the feeling of being one step closer to achieving a much bigger goal is what keeps me going. The reward is huge.

"I have a little travelling paint kit so as long as I have enough light, I can work anywhere. I've painted in some crazy places: a 26-hour bus trip, on the floor of our room in Paris, and in the foothills of the Himalayas."

To see more of Lorraine's work, or to snaffle an original miniature of your own, visit her website here, or follow her on Instagram at @lorraineloots.

All images provided by Lorraine, and used with permission

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