Lighthouse, Portland Bill, England: aceo, watermedia.

lighthouse painting aceo
Lighthouse, Portland Bill, England

Shaking off the Christmas couch-potato syndrome is a little easier when working a small painting; it’s focused, doesn’t take too long to prepare and gets the mind into a constructive phase. At present I’ve got two ACEO cards in progress, plus a sketched phase for a new floral pastel.

Today’s image is ideal for an aceo card (2.5 x 3.5 inches) in portrait format. Another holiday photo studied and re-created at aceo size using watercolour and gouache. This one is on HP paper. I say “recreated”, I don’t attempt to copy every last detail from a photo, but enough to make it look recognisable. This aceo, in fact, is not as heavily worked as some of the previous ones, since the cloud detail was much softer and hazy.

While working on the recent ACEO cards, I have made a few discoveries about my working-surfaces. Firstly, I am finding acid-free mountboard to be quite receptive to how I paint, especially at this small scale. I use the front (the coloured side)…haven’t tried the back as yet…and select the off-white or ivory type. I would use white also, but don’t have any right now. No preparation, just straight in with a light pencil drawing or sometimes none at all.

If the scene includes a sky, then that gets placed first as a wash, using any modest-sized soft brush (but not a tiny one, like 00….it’s too narrow and takes too long to spread the wash). The mountboard absorbs the colour and it may have to be strengthened again later. The darker cloud-shadows also get placed, where required. Now, I use white gouache for highlights so am not looking to reserve white paper….where appropriate I will also mix the gouache with other watercolour to obtain a cloudy or opaque effect. I can use the absorbency of the mountboard to achieve subtle effects as well.

Hot-pressed paper behaves in a similar manner, although it needs taping down to a board because it can curl at the edges and corners while adding washes. I find it to be a little less absorbent than the mountboard. If I don’t finish a piece during my work-session, I will let it dry and then flatten it under a heavy book….most times it emerges perfectly flat the following day. My HP paper is 140lb (300gsm); there is a heavier weight available but right now I have a stack of the other to get through!

I am not working to the standards of a Miniature Society…I am just painting small, which isn’t quite the same thing. Incidentally, I’ve discovered that “miniature painting” doesn’t always mean “miniature pictures”, but refers to tiny models of people, animals, etc……confusing, or what? I’ll call it small-format art and make do with that.

One last thought…it would be useful to get some feedback. On anything written at this site.

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