Piano key miniatures


Back in December last year I started painting on old ivory piano keys. A piano key is a perfect size for a miniature, and ivory was a traditional surface for early miniaturists to work on. Each key has a character of its own, with variety of colour and texture, some showing the grain of the ivory. It is a slightly strange feeling painting on a surface that still has the qualities of the animal that it came from, but there is a warmth to it that other surfaces cannot copy. Since it has been fashioned into a piano key it has taken on other characteristics as a result of many fingers playing the piano, with all the emotions that go with learning and playing an instrument, so I feel my use is just another step in its history.

These are continuing the Japanese inspired theme that has pervaded my work this year, albeit unintentionally. The one at the top, which I am calling ‘The Chase’ will be submitted to the Australian Society of Miniature Art annual awards exhibition in June, the one on the left below, called Palm Shadow will be submitted to a miniature exhibition with a Japanese theme in August, the one in the middle below, which I have titled ‘Dappled Light’ will be submitted to another show in July, and I have no plans as yet for the last one which is called ‘Treescape’. Palm Shadow was the first one I did, and was in a post in December last year (see here), but I have done more work on it since then (I think its title needs to change too, it doesn’t seem quite right any more).


Each key is 23 x 47 mm, and I have used oil paint on them, with some scratching back with a fine needle.

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

40 thoughts

  1. I love these, Anna! In the first, I can see a bird of prey chasing a rabbit. As to the bottom right pic, I see it as a seaside image, grasses growing, looking out over the water. Naming is very hard, isn’t it! Good luck with the awards. :O) (I’ve gone live!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janina! I only realised there was a chase going on in the first image after I had been working on it for a while, its interesting how things slowly emerge. Yes, working out titles is always tricky, sometimes they are obvious but often take a while. So you are live – you must give me your details!


  2. Anna, they are glorious. How will you present them…in some sort of frame or case? And I need reminding because I have forgotten if you have told me before…where did you come across these ivory piano keys? These are so much like your pendants – and yet – they are very much themselves too.


    1. Thank you Julie – the keys came from an old dead piano, so I still have a few more to work on! Two of these will be framed in small, deep frames, but the one with the palm fronds will be in a larger frame, as for the regular miniature society exhibitions (in this case the Japanese themed one) we use a standard frame for all works. If I have time to do more that work well together, I may put three together in the larger frame.


  3. They are so delicate and beautuiful. I could look at that for hours!! They remind of Mah Jong tiles, are game I am learning to play since recent. I bought a vintage set…only for the beautiful tiles, I must admid ;0) Hope to see more of your gorgeous miniatures, Johanna


    1. Thank you so much Johanna – you know someone just commented on my Facebook feed that these are like mah Jong tiles! Great minds …. It’s a good game, I have a very old set but haven’t played for along time. Maybe I need to get it out again!


  4. Hi Anna! I love your work so much! These keys are beautiful! Being a piano player, I can tell you, playing an electric keyboard (which I have now) is NOT anywhere near the same as playing an old piano like that! Although I doubt the one I learned on in 1968 had ivory keys either, but I have come across one that does from time to time. 🙂 Keep up the beautiful work. I like all of your titles for them. You are so fortunate to have all of these exhibitions where you can show your work, Anna! Blessings to you! 🙂


  5. Anna, these are incredible. I’m glad you are continuing the series. The whole idea of miniature paintings on piano keys baffles me in a really good way. How in the world do you get such detail and blending? These are gems! They will look stunning in the way you described the framing plan. I’m particularly drawn to the center one. I think the play of cool and warm colors and the blending make it perfect, but they all are absolutely perfect!


    1. Oh thank you Cathe – it is a really enjoyable series to be working on. Its quite a nice size, but I do have to get very close to get the detail, however, they are not as crisp as they might appear! The realisation that I can scratch bits out with a needle or scalpel really made it easier though. Thank you so much, I always value your comments!


  6. Hello Anna, I found your blog via your comment on Anne Wheaton’s Life in Mud Spattered Boots. I see you are in NSW like me. I absolutely love these piano keys, just beautiful. My daughter-in-law is Japanese, so I am enjoying learning more about their style. I’m off now for a closer look around your website…so fascinating.


    1. Hello Jane -I’m so glad you found me! Isn’t Anne’s blog wonderful, it takes me back to growing up on a farm in the UK. Your daughter-in-law may not find my work very Japanese, I have never been there myself but love the aesthetic. Thanks for visiting, I hope you will come again!


      1. I will be back for sure! Interestingly I too grew up on a farm in the UK. Lincolnshire to be precise. It’s a small world! I hope to visit Japan one day, but think I would like my daughter-in-law to act as tour and translation guide.


  7. I’m so glad you’re continuing with this series. You’re the only person I’ve ever known to paint on piano keys. Keep it going! Fingers crossed for your acceptance into the exhibit!


  8. Beautiful fluid lines … Anna’s painterly *composition on keys … misterioso .. con brio .. brillante


  9. Hi Anne, thank you so much for sharing all your masterpieces, they are highly inspiring and artistic. There are so much I can learn from you. Warm regards, Patrick


    1. Thank you so much Patrick – the painting at the top of this post will be in the miniatures exhibition that I gave you the invitation for, if you would like to see it! I have visited your blog, you have some very beautiful work there – a lot to see!


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