CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – A Christiansburg man is hoping his unique talent for tiny art inspires others to take big productive risks in life.
Blake Gore, 42, is an artist who draws miniature art.
“I create miniatures using a .15-millimeter pen and I am usually drawing in a square inch or smaller,” Gore said. “I actually find the tiny constraint to be a lot more liberating than a big canvas. If I had a wall and all the materials in the world it would take me forever and I would probably give up before it was finished.”
Shockingly, Gore doesn’t use magnifiers or a microscope despite his tiny pieces being filled with very specific detail.
“I am nearsighted, so I have to take my glasses off to do this,” he said. “I tell people that the only thing my art has in common is that they are all small. From tiny bookstores to tiny trees, you name it. If it is around me long enough, it is going to get drawn.”
Gore does about 20 to 30 shows a year and he travels all over with his trailer to set up a tent and display his art.
“I get to meet and greet tens of thousands of people every weekend,” Gore said. “I get to share prints, originals, and I get to share my story with different people who are both art lovers and different artists, so I get a lot of inspiration from them.”
Another surprising fact about Gore is that art was never a part of his life, but he had an interest in people’s stories.
“What I found interesting is bringing an idea to life,” Gore said. “It has always captivated my imagination. That is why I was an English major in college. It was understanding the power of stories and bringing it to the page.”
That love carried over into his career decision which was clinical counseling.
“So again, it was understanding people’s stories and helping people understand their story,” he said. “I did that for 15-16 years where I started out in a clinical path and then transitioned into career coaching.”
He said it was helping people understand who they were and what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Gore said he stumbled into art.
“I saw a drawing prompt on Twitter,” he said. “It was to draw a one inch drawing every day for a month and to share it. People really liked it, and I enjoyed doing it. It was bringing these tiny ideas to life and sharing with people which I ended up meeting people from all around the world. I always joked that it was one of a few good things that came from Twitter,” he laughed. “It was very interesting and a way to bring these ideas to life to connect with people.”
Gore said he believes he’s done between 800 and 900 different art pieces since starting at the age of 37 in 2018.
It all started after Gore said he decided to take his own advice.
“Working in university my career, one of the things I told my students is that this is the best time to learn something in human history,” he said. “I think the biggest challenge for me is that I was a professional listener for a long time but usually I was on the receiving end. I think a big part of my journey that connects with people is that it gives a lot of people hope who feel stuck or feel like ‘I can’t do something because I don’t have the credentials or permission to do something.’ Many times, people feel like that in their careers.”
He said being a career coach, he had many of those kinds of conversations with people.
“When it came time where I felt I was able to relate on a personal level, I stated thinking about the advice I would give someone,” he said. “I wouldn’t say this art thing was a strategic decision. It was just something that presented itself and once it was there, it was my decision to lean into it and learn and spend time and invest and develop the skill, and then I decided to take a risk.”
It was a risk that paid off for Gore.
“There are not a lot of people in their middle age that say, ‘Hey, I am going to be an artist!’ with four kids and a wife and all these responsibilities,” he laughed. “I tell people I got into this through mid-life curiosity. It sounds a lot better than a mid-life crisis. It has set a fun example for my kids that there are a lot of paths in life you can take. There are some unconventional paths you can choose; you just have to make an informed decision.”
Gore said he has always been a perfectionist which was a blessing and curse for him because the fear of not being the best loomed over him.
“I grew up with a dad who is a fourth-generation family physician,” he said. “You can imagine what I was expected to do. I grew up with two things and that was baseball and becoming a doctor. I sat in on surgery for a knee replacement and I thought, ‘This is not for me.’ And with sports, everything has to come to an end. I think that was what attracted me to counseling and career coaching because if you are going to be something for several hours a week, it needs to be a good fit. I wanted to do everything so well so that kind of defined my life for a long time. Whether it be sports or school, that was a huge burden to carry around and to be honest, it was hard finding the joy in those things.”
He said doing miniature art has helped him a lot.
“I am a perfectionist so giving me some tiny constraints and saying, ‘Look, you got a pen, do lines and dots and you just got to make something.’ I can put as many details as I want in there, but I must stop at some point, or it will just be a black squarer,” Gore said. “So, it turns my perfectionism into a strength instead of a weakness.”
Now, Gore has hist art all over the world and in a unique way.
“I love challenging the way that people see the world, so a lot of my art is done on trash,” he said. “Tea bag tags, straw wrappers, leaves. Things that people would sweep or throw away. I love taking those things and creating something with them that changes the way they look at them. Taking something that is mundane and trying to maximize the artistic potential of it.”
Gore said he is also proud to know that his tiny art is connecting people in a big way.
“It is cool wondering what these little pieces are doing,” he said. “The different languages being spoken around them. They all have their own little tales.”
He said he hopes his non-traditional path to happy success gives confidence to others in whatever decision they choose to make for their futures.
“I always tell people I have never been accused of being too normal,” he laughed. “But a lot of the most wonderful things in life, you are never going to get to taste without taking a risk.”