Video

Making tiny paintings is especially difficult for this artist — that's why she does it

For Arlene Webber, dystonia (a condition that limits her hand movement) has pushed her to innovate and create new ways of painting.

For Arlene Webber, dystonia (a condition that limits her hand movement) has pushed her to innovate

Arlene Webber at work in her studio. (CBC Arts)

Arlene Webber has a big personality, which is quite out of scale with her tiny dainty paintings of landscapes chock-full of painstaking detail. The canvases have an emotional density that's bigger than their physical size — inside each canvas is a story, memory or trip.

At the best of times, making miniature paintings is a difficult task for any artist. But for Webber, it's a deliberately challenging exercise. About 20 years ago, Webber suffered a minor stroke that left her with a permanent movement disorder, called dystonia, in her right wrist. It means that gripping a paintbrush is very difficult.

At the best of times, making miniature paintings is a difficult task for any artist. But for Webber, it's a deliberately challenging exercise. 4:57

So Webber brought her over-the-top positivity and energy to bear on practicing her fine motor skills without the brace. She pushes herself to do what she's not sure she'll be good at — and she's chosen painting on small canvases particularly because it's taxing for her.

In this video, Webber invites you into studio and into her method, which involves plenty of trial and error but results in the charming paintings that are flying off the shelves at local store The Makers Keep.

One of Arlene Webber's paintings. (CBC Arts)

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Tamarra Canu

Tamarra Canu is an amateur filmmaker taking big steps in her career. She has recently worked on one of CBC’s The Nature of Things newest films named Vital Bonds and is now a member of another high profile documentary to air on CBC in 2019. Fun fact: she started her career at CBC News Edmonton as an Associate Producer, and is extremely proud to be staying close to home in her own craft.