Mississippi native creates postage stamp-sized artwork

April 17 – TUPELO – When Blake Gore was a little kid growing up in Houston, Mississippi, he loved to draw. And, he thought he wasn’t half bad.

“But as I got older, my inner critic turned on, told me I wasn’t good enough,” said Gore, 41. “So I stifled my creativity.”

When Gore was a teenager, his family moved to Tupelo. He took an art course in high school, and that was the extent of his formal training.

“At Ole Miss, I was studying English and political science,” he said. “I never thought art was going to be a thing. So I stayed and got my Masters in Counseling.”

Gore worked for a few years in career counseling at the University of Mississippi and Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, before accepting a position as a career coach at Vanderbilt University.

In 2018, while he and his family were living in Nashville, a museum in the UK posted a 30-day drawing challenge on Twitter.

“You had to draw something 1 by 1 inch every day for a month,” he said. “People who know me probably weren’t surprised that I did it. I’m always interested in trying something new. It was a lot of fun. I got to meet people from all over the world who were doing it.”

On the first day of the challenge, Gore was trying to come up with an idea for something to draw. He had recently gone to play Monopoly at a friend’s house, so he drew a tiny Monopoly man. The museum liked the drawing and put it on its website to promote the challenge. Then people started asking Gore if the designs he was posting and sharing were for sale.

“It kind of took on a life of its own,” he said. “If you do something for 30 days and you like it, it’s probably going to become a habit. And it happened.”

Gore likes to draw things he is familiar with, so many of his 1×1 inch drawings are memories of Mississippi: an antebellum house in Aberdeen, a Methodist church in Oxford, Taylor Grocery, the water tower in Houston .

“It’s fun to be able to draw things that mean something to me and reconnect with home,” said Gore, who lives in Christiansburg, Va., with his wife, Lori, and their four children – Ella, Hattie, Caleb and Vera.

Gore will bring his talent to the Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford on April 23. His tent will be set up just outside Square Books.

“It’s my favorite place on earth,” he said. “Oxford is actually one of my favorite sources of inspiration. I’ve done The Courthouse, Square Books, City Grocery, Ajax, Proud Larry’s, Bottletree Bakery, The Lyceum, The Grove, The Walk of Champions , Rowan Oak.”

Gore will have 50-60 original works of art for sale, ranging from $200 to $500 each, as well as prints for $25 each.

“The Ink Is Final”

When Gore began the drawing challenge four years ago, he chose pen and ink as his medium.

“I was able to find a pen that could give me a very small tip – a 0.15mm tip – so I could get a lot of detail. I also like the ink because it’s definitive. If I could paint on something or erase something, I would never finish anything.”

Gore honed his craft by watching YouTube videos and reading books.

“Never in human history has there been a better time to learn,” he said. “Google has a catalog of artists, and I was studying them, studying their strokes, and practicing. The pen and ink is really just a bunch of dots or lines. You just have to know where Put them.”

The first piece sold by Gore was a tiny maple with red and orange leaves.

“I sold it to a lady in Brooklyn, New York,” he said. “I loved that a lady from New York didn’t know me from Adam. She just knew me as someone who created art.”

In fact, much of Gore’s early sales were to people in New York and other metropolitan areas.

“They don’t have a lot of space, so my art fits well,” said Gore, who still works part-time as a career coach in Virginia.

Some of Gore’s drawings are the size of an ear nail, and the largest he has done is a 2 by 2 inch piece, but most are one inch square.

“I like to experiment,” he said. “Most of what I do is in pen and ink, but I’ve used watercolour, colored pencils, graphite and charcoal. I’d say half of my work is in black and white and the other half in color.”

The first art exhibition Gore attended was Double Decker in 2019. His parents, Edward and Claudia, live in Oxford, as do his in-laws, Randall and Amy Atchley.

“It was a risk,” he said. “You have to buy a tent and all that, and I was a rookie. I had no idea how that would sound. It was such a circus, but it was awesome. I had told the kids that If it went well, we would go to Disney World. It went great, so we went to Disney World.

Gore was unable to perform his work at shows in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, but this year he will perform at at least 25 shows nationwide, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Washington, DC, and everywhere in between.

“I also do a lot of commissioned work,” Gore said. “I don’t do a lot of portraits of people, because it’s hard to get the detail you want in something so small. But people want me to do their house or their grandparents’ house, their dogs, their favorite birds or their favorite trees.”

The beauty of Gore’s work is that he can work just about anywhere, whether it’s in a corner of his room in Virginia, or in a hotel room or coffee shop.

“The great thing about being a miniaturist is that everything is so small,” he said. “All I need is a little leather zippered notebook to store my paper and pens. I probably already have enough art supplies to use for the rest of my life. You would be surprised how far a pen can go when drawing in a square inch.”

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