One very early pandemic gesture that had a big impact on the artworld was the Artists Support Pledge, initiated by British painter Matthew Burrows. He launched the idea on 16 March 2020 and began posting on Instagram the next day with the hashtag #artistsupportpledge

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The idea was simple. He wrote, "you post images of your work you are willing to sell for no more than £200 each (not including shipping). Every time you reach £1000 of sales you pledge to buy another artist's work for £200." The movement had a neat generosity and a circular economy style drive to it. It was embraced worldwide, with artists posting art for under £200, €200, $200 or the approximate equivalent in their own currency. The support pledge market, open to anyone who wants to buy or sell art, got some social media users thinking about starting a small art collection during lockdown. In some cases, potential buyers now had direct access to small works by artists whose work they might otherwise never afford. First time art buyers are usually told to begin with fine art prints, because they are cheaper, but the pandemic has seen a broader shift by painters towards smaller works ranging in price from around €100 up, many of which you can hold in your hand.

This trend has been visible at the RHA Annual show in Dublin for several years now, pre-pandemic and throughout lockdown even as the exhibition went virtual. The now regular small paintings wall is usually littered heavily and quickly with red "sold" dots.

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This is good news for artists and collectors. Tiny paintings sold through social media might function as gateway art to bigger purchases through galleries, if a buyer's potential budget increases. Tiny paintings are also a way to commit to supporting an artist’s practice without breaking the bank, and a pocket-friendly answer to the question, how do I start a small Irish art collection? Here are eight artists with some ideas to get you going:

Janet Murran

Based in West Cork and often capturing the changing light and colours on the banks of the Illen River near her home in Skibbereen, Murran is selling unframed 12cm x 11cm charcoal and acrylic paintings on board for €125 through her website. She posts regularly about them on Instagram.

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David Smith

Sligo-based Smith returned to Ireland from Hong Kong in 2016. He has just opened a solo show of new paintings, called An Island Disappears, at The Custom House Studios and Gallery in Westport. He has posted some of his mantlepiece-sized monochrome, sepia, and greyscale forest landscapes on Instagram. The smaller paintings are 20cm x 25cm.

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Frances Ryan

Ryan's small paintings are inspired by her garden in Bangor, County Down, and the birds that visit for feeding. She sometimes sells small, mixed media paintings via Instagram for under £200, and often has a range of smaller works available through her website, too.

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Mollie Douthit

Cork-based oil painter Douthit sells naïve-looking interiors and food paintings through the Molesworth Gallery, like this sandwich painting, That's It, which is 13cm x 18cm. Her tiny painting, Life in lockdown part IV: laying on my kitchen floor to stave off a migraine, was shortlisted for this year's Zurich Portrait Prize now on show at the National Gallery of Ireland and travelling to the Crawford Art Gallery in April.

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Gabhann Dunne

Dublin-based Dunne, also shortlisted for this year's Zurich Portrait Prize, sometimes sells tiny and postcard-sized paintings alongside other well-established artists at the Russborough House Art Car Boot Fair, a charitable fundraiser held annually. You have to turn up and buy in person, but you can catch tiny insect paintings like this bee, posted on Dunne’s Instagram in 2019:

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And these, which were for sale at the Art Car Boot Fair last September:

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Una Sealy

RHA member Sealy is known, alongside Dunne, as a judge on RTÉ Television's Painting the Nation. A figurative painter based in North County Dublin, she usually sells larger works through galleries, but she also sells smaller paintings at the Russborough House annual Art Car Boot Fair. She does live portrait session too at this annual charity event, but be warned, the slots fill up fast.

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Hanneke Van Ryswyk

Van Ryswyk paints the effects of extreme weather on imagined land and seascapes, inspired by the vulnerability and beauty of the Wexford coast, where she lives. She has small paintings in acrylic on canvas for sale through her website, like Pont which is 15cm x 15cm and costs €250. She flags newly available small works sold though gallery exhibitions on Instagram, too.

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Paul Doran

This 2005 AIB Art Prize winner sells small, sumptuously thick-painted, bright-coloured abstractions through Instagram, but you have to be quick to catch them. Prices range from €100 to €200. The smallest ones are 15cm x 15cm.