Creating ACEO art cards

Practicing watercolor and pen & ink combination technique with little ACEO art cards lately.

What is an ACEO? ACEO means “Art Cards Editions and Originals”. These are miniature original works of art measuring 2.5” x 3.5”. Many artist are creating and selling them online and collectors are happy to have an affordable way to obtain original art.

I sell these on eBay. Here’s a look at a few from June and July:

ACEOS  1 for web.jpg

Field Studies and Scientific Illustrations

There are a number of names out there for the illustration of the natural world around us such as, field studies, scientific illustrations, field sketchbook, botanical bird illustrations, natural studies and field notes. Each of these have different goals and specifics from capturing the beauty of the animal and plant kingdoms to including the many phases of the life cycle. One important aspect of all of these is being a keen observer of detail and making sure your work is correct. With the internet we have so much information at our fingertips to check and increase our knowledge of just about anything we observe in nature. I have recently started a series of field studies where I will use my pen & ink with watercolor and pencil sketching. Here is the first of this series, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. Notice the hummingbird nest in the upper left corner of this photo. I watched a hummingbird build this nest right outside my window in an Arizona bougainvillea bush. As we lived beside a cotton field you can see the nest is made of cotton. Sadly, a heavy rainstorm ruined the bird’s plans to lay eggs and raise young but it was still a magical experience watching the nest building process.

Giclee prints available in my shop-

Humming bird study

Adding watercolor

I love working with pen and ink but have wanted to add color for a while. Of coarse, I have been learning to do digital painting that has worked great for book illustrating. But the traditional brush on paper type of painting is calling me. I have in the past collected numerous books from proficient watercolor artists and also many of the tools: professional quality paints, watercolor paper and a set of nice brushes. It seemed so mysterious and hard to break into, I struggled for direction to help my self study. Recently I stumbling across a youTube channel: Steve Mitchell is an illustrator of many years and has a great teaching method. He’s been posting video instruction for about four years and has many followers and students. As I work through these lessons some of the mystery is clearing up and I’m finding it really is a fun medium!


An original watercolor painting on an ACEO artist trading card.

Using reference material

“Use a lot of reference material. I often hear kids and adults say they can’t draw. They measure their ability by how well they can realistically reproduce something out of their heads. One of the problems I have with art presentations and drawing by request, is that I can’t draw either. I don’t have the visual memory to make a cow look like a cow without a picture of a cow in front of me to refer to.

Without that, we’re talking horse/cat/bear morph. This doesn’t mean that I am realistically rendering the cow to make it look like the photograph. I just need help remembering how the hipbone attaches to the leg bone and whether cows have horns and lips. Even if you have a highly stylized illustration style having reference material can be very helpful.” Eve Aldridge

reference picture.jpg

When should you hire an illustrator?

You have a book manuscript going and have talked to a self publishing company, now you want illustrations for your book. When is the best time to bring an Illustrator into your project? From my past experience as an illustrator I can tell you the best time is after your manuscript is finished, edited and ready to go to print. Jumping the gun and seeking an illustrator’s services when changes are still being made to your writing will result in frustration and lack of success for your project.

Rennefarre  , by Malve von Hassell

Rennefarre, by Malve von Hassell

I can illustrate your book.

A family member asked me to illustrate a book he was self publishing. It featured a lab mouse named Piebald, who became the first character I brought to life on the written page. The publishing company liked my drawings and began giving my name to other clients. Over the next 14 years I selectively worked on a number of book projects. Each client helped me to learn a little more about how to work with an author to get their book ready to print. I joined the SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and attended a number of their state and national conventions. This was a great venue to begin to understand how the children’s book industry works. I have received many emails from aspiring authors who are looking for an illustrator. In future blog posts I will write about some of the things I’ve learned that may help you in your quest to obtain a published book with illustrations.

this little mouse started the whole thing. . .