I've put together a step by step demonstration, an "anatomy" if you will, of the creative process behind my miniature paintings... also known as (ACEO).
The surface that an artist creates their painting on is called the “support”. I’ve experimented with many different surfaces and arrived at something I am pleased with for my miniature paintings (ACEOs). Since the little works of art are only a few inches either way (3.5”x 2.5”) and I use water based media, I needed something that wouldn’t warp and would stand up to many layers of pigment . The surface I use is 10 ply Cotton Illustration Board. The board is 1/8” thick (about 10x thicker than a sheet of printer paper) and has a slight “tooth” (a bit of roughness that allows pigment to adhere).
Putting the idea down on paper in the form of a "Thumbnail"
One of the joys I find in creating a new painting is imagining the subject. I gain inspiration from the little woodland animals and nature that I enjoy during my jogs through the Berkshire countryside. Once I have an idea in mind, I then build a “Thumbnail” (a quick sketch that an artist uses to work out ideas). This is a small, rough pencil sketch that helps me work out a painting’s composition.
The Ink drawing
Once I have the Thumbnail drawn and have the composition for my miniature painting all worked out, I gently draw out my idea on the Illustration Board in pencil. I then carefully and painstakingly ink in the painting, (I actually find this very enjoyable and relaxing). For years I used very expensive and temperamental Rapidiograph technical pens, but have since discovered Sakura Micron Pigma pens. These great little disposable technical pens have many different size nibs (points) and use archival ink which means the pigment will last for generations.
I consider my ink drawing the “bones” of a painting. The ink is permanent and will show through all my consequent layers of colored pencil, so it needs to be exact!
The next step in my painting process is laying in washes of color. I use watercolor, or diluted ink, or sometimes a combination of media that’s a bit of a secret. I might use very light layers of watercolor to help build a more “toothy” or rough surface for my colored pencils.
The layers of pencil
The bulk of the little painting is layer after layer of translucent colored pencil. The pencil I use is called Prismacolor and has a waxy-buttery quality. I add colored pencil layers, slowly and gently until the pencil becomes more like paint that I can push around and blend.
My final touches include scratching through the many layers of pencil and sometimes adding small touches of white acrylic. I then spray the piece with fixative and carefully paint the edges of the art to give it a professional finish.
Presenting the finished art to the world
The very last step in creating my original (ACEOs) is to present the miniature painting to the internet world. I sell my originals here on my blog, Etsy, Artfire and on Bonanzle.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my step by step “Anatomy of a Miniature”. I find great pleasure and satisfaction in creating intricate -highly detailed little paintings that will also inspire my audience. Below are several recent miniature paintings that I completed shown "in hand" to give you a sense of their diminutive size.