Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is an ACEO?

Ever since I started to sell my art online, I keep seeing other artists selling ACEOs and wondered what they were all about.  After a little internet research, I found that this is a new art craze with roots that go back a few hundred years.
ACEO stands for art cards, editions and originals.  They are like sports trading cards for artists,  and are similar to ATCs, artist trading cards, that are traded and not sold. In the 1700s ATCs were often used for advertising and for portrait miniatures.
Today, ACEOs are a very popular item being sold over the internet.  The only requirement for creating one is that it should measure 2.5" x 3.5" (the standard size of a sports trading card).  The medium used to create one is limitless - watercolor, acrylic, pencil, photography, oils, just to name a few.  The support can also be on almost anything as long as its not too flimsy.  Some examples are thick paper, wood, metal, plastic, etc...
ACEOs can be sold as originals, prints, limited editions, or even photography.  If it is a limited edition, it should be numbered and signed on the back.  They are usually priced very reasonably ($5-$50), which makes collecting art very affordable.

I've decided to make my ACEOs using watercolor with pen and ink.  Each one is a miniature original painting, and I sign them on the front and then title, sign, and date them on the back.  During my art classes that I teach, I often demonstrate different techniques to my students, and these small demos usually end up as my ACEOs.  
A handy tool that I have made is a small view finder that has an opening of 2.5"x3.5".   I then place the view finder in different areas of the painting to see what makes a good composition for an ACEO.  Next, I use my paper trimmer to cut out the miniature painting.  I generally save just about every scrap piece of watercolor paper so that I may make some ACEOs out of them in the future.  This is a great way to recycle and use pieces from those "not so good" paintings.  

Painting a Plumeria with Encaustics

In this video, I demonstrate how to paint a tropical plumeria flower using encaustics which are waxes loaded with pigment.  The materials include glossy paper, a craft iron, and the waxes.  I buy all of my encaustics supplies from .

Encaustic painting has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but has been making a comeback as an art form since the 1990's.  It is unlike any medium I have worked with before and is never really wet or dry as the painting can be reworked by heating the surface.  Most encaustics are good up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  So don't store them in direct sunlight or over a stove, fireplace, or heater.  Plus, they can be made shiny by buffing them with a piece of tissue.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Creating Your Own Reference Material

There is no time like the present to increase your library of reference material for your paintings.  Inspiration is all around us.  We just need to look.  Today it's even easier as most of us have a camera handy right in our own cell phones.  However, I do recommend a good quality digital camera to get the best shots.  

I encourage my art students as much as possible to take their own photos for their reference material.  It's tempting to do a painting from a photo you found on the internet, but this is plagiarism.  After all, the artist behind the composition of that photo is the photographer, not you, and she/he deserves the credit.  Instead, find what interests you as an artist and go exploring with your camera.  Plan a photography day and go out to a garden, the zoo, the beach, or even in your own backyard.  You will find lots of inspiration all around you. 
I have found through experience that it is important to make sure you have plenty of natural sunlight on your subject.  Sun and shadows add depth and interest to your reference photos.  They will make your paintings come alive.   Too many times I've seen other artists working from photos that are flat and have a small range of values.  This will almost always lead to a boring painting.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you are actually composing your painting with the camera.  Take different shots of the same subject by experimenting with cropping.  Get in some closeups, some with the subject centered, and definitely some with the subject off center.  

You can also play with composition once you've downloaded your photos to your computer by using some cool photo editing software.  I use a nice program called The GNU Image Manipulation Program which is totally free to download.  You can get it at  It is a really easy to use program and I've been using it for years.

So get our of your studio and plan a fun photography day.  You will come back with loads of new inspiration to paint from!

Painting a Kauai Rooster in Watercolors

Here I demonstrate how to simply paint a rooster using a loose sumi-e technique.  I basically lay down each brush stroke next to each other and let the colors blend and create some exciting effects.  If you've ever been to Kauai, then you know why I chose this subject ;-)


Making Time for your Art

One of the most difficult aspects about creating art is finding the time to do so.  Everything seems to get in the way.  The house needs cleaning.  The laundry is piling up.  The car needs a good washing.  Well, you get the idea.  Finding time to make art is a lot like finding time to exercise.  Excuses are made.  Another day goes by.  Another month goes by.  However, there is a way to take charge and carve out some time from your precious schedule for art. 

First, find a place where you can set up a mini art studio.  All you need is a table (six feet long and foldable if possible), a chair, a radio or CD player, good lighting, some art supplies, and a great imagination.  If you can find your own room to do so, great!  If you can find a corner of a room to use, then this is good too (provided that children and pets can't get into your supplies.)   You also need a place where you can spend any length of time, from a few minutes to a few hours, to create art without having to set up and take down all of your supplies every time.  This will greatly increase your chances and motivation to paint, draw, or whatever!

Next, make an appointment with yourself!  Yes, actually schedule some time for your art whether it is one hour every day or a three hour block on Wednesdays.  Put it on the family calendar, program it into your cell phone or PDA, or put a note on the fridge.  Whatever it takes, let your friends and family know that you will be unavailable during this time period.  Total peace and quiet is essential to get the creative juices flowing.  Also, once you are in your space, try to get rid of as many distractions as possible (like annoying cell phones.)  Once you start creating, you will find it easier to find the time to sneak back into your art sanctuary.

Finally, if the suggestions so far aren't working, or you need more motivation, then I suggest taking an art class or workshop.  Once you have committed to taking the class, you will feel obligated to attend.  Then, once you start attending, you will get into the art "mode".  It is a great place to meet other artists, learn new techniques, and find time for your art!


Painting Raindrops in Watercolor

This video demonstrates an easy way to add some realistic raindrops to your flower watercolor.  Here I start with a painting of a red hibiscus and then show you how to add the raindrops through careful placement of shadows and highlights.  Enjoy!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Welcome to the Kauai Online Art Instruction Blog

Aloha! My name is Marionette and I am an artist and art instructor on the beautiful, tropical island of Kauai in Hawaii. I currently teach art classes at my studio, Painting Paradise, in Waimea on the west side of the island.

This blog has been created to provide easy access to my videos, articles, and online classes in watercolor, pastels, encaustics, acrylics, sumi-e, silk painting, as well as my theories and advice regarding art in general.

I hope you will check back often to find some new inspiration for your own creativity!

Happy Creating,