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Micro Shaq: Shaquille Oneal Through the Eyes of Willard Wigan

Updated on February 27, 2019
Jen's Solitude profile image

Micro sculpture is a unique art form mastered by Willard Wigan. Micro Shaq presents basketball great, Shaquelle Oneal, in microscopic form.

What do Shaquelle Oneal and micro-artist Willard Wigan have in common? Basketball, believe it or not! Micro Shaq, a piece created by Wigan, achieves something no one else in the world can lay claim. The sculpture reduces Shaq's 7-foot frame down to a microscopic piece of art which literally fits into the head of a needle, or the period at the end of this sentence.

Welcome to the surprise of your life.

micro shaq (Juxtapoz Magazine)
micro shaq (Juxtapoz Magazine)

Shaq and Micro Shaq

Micro Shaq, Willard Wigan's brainchild, is a sculpture which can only be seen through a microscope because it is in a word – microscopic, as are all of Wigan's works of art.

You have to view this work of Shaq to believe it is really him, so make sure to click on the pictures to the right, in order to appreciate Wigan's phenomenal artistry.

As to Shaq's reaction, he said the following after viewing a New York showing of Wigan's work

"Put a guy like me into a little pin? That's crazy!" said the seven-foot one-inch O'Neil, who viewed himself.

"I can't do it! Took him seven weeks? Probably take me 17 years!"

Shaq has discovered the same truth others come to accept, once they have taken the time to view Wigan's work under a microscope, he is an artist in a league of his own.

Wigan is a micro-sculptor. With his creations, the smaller, the better, because the bigger the impact.

An impact that can only be felt when viewing microscopically or with the use of slides the attention to detail and complexity of each piece Wigan creates.

Micro Artist Willard Wigan

The first question that comes to mind when examining these magnificient sculptures is of course, how does he do that?

Using a microscope, Wigan has taught himself to slow down his respiratory system and knows working between his own heart beat he has one and a half seconds to time out his steps.

Using crushed glass, fibers, and the tiniest of materials he creates works of art which typically rest on the head of pin or inside the eye of a needle.

Working with such delicate fibers means he sometimes inhales his own work, if he is not careful, which is why he has developed patience into an art form as well.

Meticulously working in between his own breathe and heartbeat for hours upon hours he endures the process to reach the finished work.

The painstaking process, the eye-hand coordination,the patience, it is no wonder Wigan readily admits, "I don't actually enjoy doing the work. It sends me insane, doing it!"

He improvises his own tools - the hairs of a dead fly for a paint brush. Tools so small, they sometimes get lost.

This is what happened to Alice through Wigan's looking-glass:

"So, I'm lifting her with the eyelash to put her underneath the table. So, I have to poke the top of her head, and I'm poking. And as I'm poking her - and I'm doing this microscopically - and at the same time, I'm going [makes deep breathing noise], I lift her out again, and then . . . !"

Wigan inhaled Alice

"And then ugh, gone!"

Of course that is not the only time he has "lost" one of his pieces. Imagine not being able to inhale for fear of swallowing your work?

It Doesn't Get Any Smaller Than This

How small does his artwork get? Most pieces can't even be seen with the naked eye. Some of them are only three times the size of a blood cell.

And each piece - fairies, animals, movie stars, Shaq - typically sit in the eye of a needle, or on the head of a pin, I suppose it would be more artistic to say each piece sits framed in the eye of a needle or on the head of a pin.

How small can he go?

"I could probably go down to, say, five microns," Wigan said. "The tip of a human hair."

Believe it or not, his work will continue to decrease in size if Wigan has anything to say about it.

"I haven't reached my peak," he said. "My work is still too big!"

A Seven Minute Explaination of How He Started Micro Art

Willard Wigan's Motivating Force

Sadly, the reason Willard Wigan started miniaturizing at age 5 is the result of learning disabilities (dyslexia for one) which made him feel unimportant and small. Surprisingly, his teacher was a very negative influence on Willard and so he slowly escaped his pain by fantasizing about small worlds. His first "work" consisted of apartments he made for ants he observed beneath his feet. (This is detailed in the 20 minute video I have linked to.)

He thought if he made a home for the ants they would stay. He did observe they never paid him any rent money, however.

When he was a little boy growing up in Birmingham, England, struggling with learning disabilities, he says a cold-hearted schoolteacher belittled him.

"'You are an exhibition of failure, and all the children in the school need to know about you, because this is what happens if you don't listen to me, children,' - you know, that type of thing? So, that made me feel that small."

His mother was more constructive and helpful.

"She said to me, 'You are now going to continue to make small things.' And I said, 'Why?' And she says, 'If you keep making small things, your name will get bigger!'

"She said, 'The smaller your work, the bigger your name'."

Noteworthy Honors

Wigan's work has been called "the 8th Wonder of the World".

Wigan has been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Prince Charles.

Currently he is receiving much interest in books and movies about his life story.

Art Curator - Shaquille Oneal's Connection to Wigan

Shaquille Oneal has become an art curator and has his giant exhibit to prove it.

Aptly named “Size Does Matter” all things tall are highlighted – with one small exception- Micro Shaq.

Actually he picked pieces that were significant and meaningful to him and appealed to his taste. Both of Willard Wigan's pieces can be viewed by scrolling down to the end of the picture gallery. In addition to Shaq, Wigan also did an inaugural image of the first family.

“It began when I was five years old,” says Willard. “I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticize me. That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”


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    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      Now there is something that I didn't know, BK, but makes sense that he is in the Guinness Book of Records. "Making shoes for ants" that is a great comparison! Thanks for your valuable input!

      I do wish he would come to Philly or New York!

    • BkCreative profile image


      11 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Willard Wigan is amazing! I first found out about him when I was teaching English is S. Korea. He was in a book over there and my students were in awe. I've since followed his career a bit when he was exhibiting in England.

      How in the world can he do this? Can you imagine making shoes for ants - and knowing to slow down your respiratory system? - beyond amazing. Of course he is in the Guinness Book.

      What Mr. Wigan reminds us is that we can start out brilliant - and so-called formal education is not designed to further that brilliance - you may only be as bright as the person teaching you and no more. You have to cultivate yourself.

      And don't believe NYC is the cultural capital of anything because the exhibit should have been here. Thank goodness for progressive places like ATL. And thanks for this Shaq connection.

      Rated way up!

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      Yes fascinating is a great word ethel, thanks for the comment.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      11 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Fascinating stuff. How quirky

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      I'm glad we agree about him Linda! He is truly amazing. Appreciate you stopping by. :-)

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      I agree with you Hussains he truly is talented. Thanks for your comment.

    • Hussains profile image


      11 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Yet another great hub.Only an extremely talented artist can produce such intricate micro sculptures. Thanks for sharing this. :)

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      He does put a smile on the faces of those who check out his work doesn't he fishtiger? Glad you enjoyed it,thanks for the comment.

    • fishtiger58 profile image


      11 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      wow outstanding work he does. It is just amazing, great hub as usual Jen.

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      Thanks inwest, glad you found it interesting.

    • inwest profile image


      11 years ago from Romania

      Very nice, interesting ....... good luck! gigi

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      Cathi and ocbill it was wonderful reading your enthusiastic comments. I am happy I am not the only one who thinks Willard Wigan is amazing! :-)

      ocbill I wonder how many artists are out there doing micro/miniature work. It would be fun to take a look at their work, they should get together for an exhibition, that would be thrilling, wouldn't it?

    • ocbill profile image


      11 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      That is amazing! I saw something like this on a TV series where the lady made a full miniature room with people reading a paper, all micro-sized but fine attention to detail. Remarkable is one word.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 

      11 years ago

      Absolutely fantastic! This completely captivated me! Thank you so much for sharing this. This is just crazy cool! If I ever get a chaqnce to see Mr. Wigan's work, I'll be first to line up at the door! I am blown away by this artist's ability and style! I can't even imagine what skill and determination are involved in this type of art! It's absolutely amazing! Wonderful Hub!

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      11 years ago from Delaware

      Glad you enjoyed it Paradise. His patience is incredible to me too! :-)

    • Paradise7 profile image


      11 years ago from Upstate New York

      This was FASCINATING! I can't IMAGINE the patience the artist must have. I've never heard of micro-art before. Thank you for a most interesting and informative hub.


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