Two types of art seem to fascinate collectors and artists alike.

Big stuff and little stuff.

By big, I mean those paintings and drawings that are measured in feet, not inches. Murals.

Little stuff goes beyond small format artwork, which is between 4×6 and 11×14 inches in size. I’m talking about artworks that are even smaller than that. Miniature art.

Colored pencils are ideal for miniature art. Their size and shape make them a natural for producing detail in miniature and the size of miniature art (24 square inches in the United States) is perfect for colored pencil.

The article linked to above was published on EmptyEasel, and describes the sub-categories of miniature art, basic techniques for creating miniature art, and suggestions for drawing surfaces.

But what about a step-by-step demonstration?

This post begins a five-part series on drawing a bay horse with colored pencil. The drawing is a miniature drawing; more specifically, an ACEO.

How to Draw a Horse in Miniature

About ACEOs

ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. They are also often referred to as Art Trading Cards (ATCs) because they are the size of a typical trading card. The primary difference is that ATCs are designed for swaps and are not technically sold. ACEOs can be traded, as well, but are also bought and sold.

Size is the only qualification. Artwork must be 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches in order to be considered an ACEO.

They can be created in any medium on any type of support. They can be originals or reproductions. They may be created in any style and of any subject. Since 2007, I’ve used oils, colored pencils, ballpoint pen, graphite, and acrylics to make landscape, abstract, and equine-theme ACEOs.

Colored pencils are my favorite medium for these tiny works of art because they allow a high-degree of detail and the process is fairly quick, though an oil ACEO can be done in 20 minutes or less.

I also like the size because I can use scrap pieces of paper, canvas or other material to paint or draw on and because I have no compunction at all about wiping a canvas or tossing a drawing that doesn’t work. That makes ACEOs ideal for trying new materials, new mediums, new techniques, or new subjects.

How to Draw a Horse in Miniature With Colored Pencils

This is my reference. I did a lot of composing with the camera, but also began work by cropping the digital image to accurately reflect the proportions of an ACEO.

Miniature Colored Pencil Drawing of a Bay Horse 0

From the photograph, I developed the drawing.

TIP: You might want to consider making the original drawing larger than the final artwork. It’s easier to see and draw details that way—unless you have exceptional eye sight. The finished drawing can then be reduced to the proper size and transferred to the drawing paper.

To transfer this drawing, I coated the back with a graphite pencil. The soft lead I used required some clean up afterward, but I got a nice, crisp drawing without making impressions on the paper. At this size, that’s a plus.

By the way, I’m drawing on Rising Stonehenge 90lb paper in white.

The Umber Under Drawing

The Background

I used Prismacolor Verithin Dark Umber for the under drawing because that line of pencil has a thinner, harder lead. It covers paper well without filling the tooth. It’s also easier to erase and correct than softer pencils.

The background will be a textured green ranging from a nice mid-tone to a fairly dark color. Some areas received no color while others received several layers. I used hatching and cross-hatching strokes with varying amounts of openness (open strokes are not as close together, so more paper shows through them). The strokes just behind the ears are very open while those in the corners are closer together.

Since I was creating my own background, I drew a random pattern of light and dark areas, but kept the background around the horse’s head and especially around the ears, light to accent the horse.

The Horse

I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t save the highlights, I tend to work right over them. Unlike oils, where lights can be painted over darks, it’s impossible to recover those nice, clean highlights once they’ve been worked into with most colored pencils; especially wax-based pencils. So the first thing I did was lightly outline some of the more prominent highlights (outlines are still visible on the shoulder.)

I used directional strokes that followed the contours of the head and neck everywhere except the eye.

For the eye, I used circular strokes to fill in the shape as completely as possible. I worked around the lashes and used only a few layers around the lower edge of the eyeball, where there will be reflected light, while adding more layers to darken the rest of the eye.

Except in the eye, I used light pressure. When drawing the eye, I began with light pressure and worked up to medium light pressure.

Miniature Colored Pencil Drawing of a Bay Horse Step 1

Other Notes

I used a dried out fine point ball point pen to impress my signature into the paper before starting to draw. You can already see my signature. Even with a single color applied with two or three light layers, the signature is quite clear.

This is an ideal way to sign small format or miniature drawings, especially if you tend to lay down a lot of color and don’t use solvents. When you use a solvent, the signature will be filled in to some extent, but may still be visible.

You can use a colored pencil with a thin pigment core and a very sharp point to impress your signature if you want the signature to be a specific color. You can also impress your signature after the first color or two to get the same effect.

If You Want to Follow Along

If you want to follow this demonstration with your own drawing, here are the materials I’ve used so far.

  • Rising Stonehenge paper, 90lb, white cut to 3-1/2″ by 2-1/2″ (if you want to do an ACEO)
  • Graphite pencil, 2B or softer, to shade the back of the drawing for transfer. Any non-greasy transfer paper will also work.
  • Prismacolor Verithin Dark Umber pencil. I use Verithin pencils for the first stages of most drawings because they have a thinner, harder pigment core. That means they hold a point much longer and they make a thinner mark. They also contain less wax binder, so they don’t fill the tooth of the paper quite as much.

Look for the next step in the process next week.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the process so far, let me know by leaving a comment below.