This Artist Makes Tiny Paintings of Boulder In Altoids Tins


Beauty exists everywhere, says Remington Robinson. You can find it in the average things, in the simple things and in the little things.

Beautiful little things is where Robinson has made his mark.

Robinson, of Boulder, is a fine artist who creates unique Plein air paintings inside tiny, repurposed Altoids tins. His miniature art — captured in neatly arranged photos at the scene where he made it — has drawn a big following on social media.

A post from Rem Robinson’s Instagram. Courtesy photo

Most of his work captures snippets of Boulder’s nature, from the Flatirons dusted by snow to the icy Boulder Creek. In fact, Boulder’s outdoors is what inspires Robinson’s work.

Sometimes he says he sets out to paint a specific scene that caught his eye. Other times, he says he walks through town or the trails looking for a natural composition that jumps out and begs to be immortalized.

A barn in Boulder painted by Rem Robinson. Courtesy photo

On average, it takes about 90 minutes to paint a tin, depending on the complexity of the scene. He says he’s created a few in just 20 minutes and several others that took up to four hours.

Robinson has made about 100 Altoids murals since he began doing it about two years ago, inspired by another artist friend who had been doing it.

The size of the canvas isn’t a challenge, he says. You can brace both hands around the container without touching the paint to get a steady brush stroke, so in that way, the small size actually helps. The real trick — as with aPleinein air painting (that is, painting outdoors) — is Boulder’s ever-changing weather, he says.

“The weather’s always a variable that can be challenging. The light can change completely. Sometimes I have to pack up and stop painting,” Robinson says.

Luckily it’s quick and easy to pack up, with a canvas, mini bottle of mineral spirits and set of brushes that all fit in his pockets or fanny pack (he deposits the paint directly into the base of the tin). Due to the portability of his supplies, it’s easy to venture into nature and set up just about anywhere.

Boulder’s Flatirons painted by Rem Robinson. Courtesy photo

Once, Robinson says, he was painting the Flatirons, stopped to take a quick bathroom break and when he returned, the clouds had completely shrouded the peaks. He waited around for them to blow over but they didn’t, so he couldn’t finish the painting.

Eldora painted by Rem Robinson. Courtesy photo

Another time, he says he was painting at the Eldora ski area and the wind pushed in a blanket of clouds that ended his project preemptively.

But the unpredictability of nature is equally part of the adventure.
While Boulder landscapes dominate his work, he also has several paintings inside coffee shops and around the country and world (such as Peru, Greece, Montreal and Ohio, where he grew up).

A scene inside a coffee shop painted by Rem Robinson. Courtesy photo

He sells his Altoids box paintings on his website for $100-$200 each. They come with a wood block mounted to the back to keep it open just right.

The side view of a Rem Robinson Altoids box. Courtesy photo

“They sell pretty well,” he says. “It seems to appeal to people because a lot of people don’t have a lot of space in their house, with rising housing costs, so they don’t have a lot of wall space, but they still want original art in their house.”

Plus, he says, the lower price point makes it more accessible for not just the super wealthy to own original art.

“I’m trying to hit a market that a lot of people are in: all of those factors combined,” he says.

Boulder Creek painted by Rem Robinson. Courtesy photo

Tiny scenes are not all Robinson does, however. He also goes big, painting murals with his friend Jason T. Graves.

A street mural co-painted by Remington Robinson. Courtesy photo

You can see one of Robinson’s large street murals, a brown trout, on the side of Rocky Mountain Anglers on 19th and Arapahoe streets.

Coming this spring, you can see and buy his Altoids paintings in person on display at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s Open Wall event. In the fall, his mini paintings were on display at the Art Museum in Denver.

Rem Robinson painting outside. Courtesy photo

One Response

  1. I love that you can capture the beauty in this way and repurpose at the same way. I make small, personalized gift boxes. Small containers can carry much depth and sentiment when created with an open mind and loving spirit.

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