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Smile Create Repeat
PO Box 1693
Cary, NC 27512

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Cary, NC

Art supply subscription box stuffed full of awesome by artists for artists, kids and adults. Available to help you get back into art or to give as a creative gift.


5 easy tips and tricks for a successful still life set up

Tony Luongo


I set up this still life knowing I was using the palette knife for the January 2019 demo. I wanted to demonstrate how to use the straight edge of the palette knife to paint with. So I picked these two different colored boxes. Using only two colors, Venetian Red and Titanium White I knew I wanted to make sure there was a strong contrast. The painting was going to be a monochromatic painting with values not color. So I started with the big empty box laying on its side and positioned it so the back of it was in complete darkness with a strong single light source. As I set up the items inside I noticed the light coming across the base, up the side planes and over the top.

Here are five quick tips on setting up you’re still life.

  1. Find some items you want to paint. If you’re making a final painting it should definitely have some meaning to you or you’re not going to want to keep at it. If you’re painting a still life as practice then maybe pick an item that challenges you or that you just have lying around. I painted a lot of apples because that’s just what I have lying around and I wanted to paint.

  2. Have a single light source that you can adjust to create the lighting affect and mood you’re trying to achieve.

  3. Experiment with the lighting to create a mood. For example if it’s strong straight overhead light that gives a much different feel than if it’s off to the side or a soft diffused light.

  4. Arrange and rearrange the items with some overlap to create space, depth and keep in mind all the rules of composition.

  5. Use a large open box on its side to set up a smaller still life inside. You have a better chance of controlling the light if you’re in a room with multiple light sources.

Let me know what you think of these tips and tricks. Have you set up a still life? What works well for you? Can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Thanks for reading.

For additional fun watch the demo of the painting here and watch me premix the colors to make the painting quicker and easier to complete.

Mixing your paints to discover exciting new colors

Tony Luongo


These are some of the awesome supplies that our subscribers received in their November 2017 box. If you are new to painting or have some new colors it might be a good idea to do some mixing in order to see what color combinations are possible. Here I used a scrap piece of cardboard with my Gamblin 1980 oil paints and Royal and Langnickel Zen brush.

I started with colors straight from the tubes in the three corners. I then took some of the Titanium White and Transparent Red Oxide and mixed a color in the middle of the two. I repeated this with Titanium White and Torrit Grey and then again with the Transparent Red Oxide and Torrit Grey.

I continued mixing colors until the triangle was complete. My goal for this exercise was to get an idea of what colors were possible not to make a smooth even gradient. When I mixed the color midway between the Transparent Red Oxide and Torrit Grey I add two levels of white to learn what values that warm grey would make.

This is a fun little exercise that gets you pushing around paint without much planning. I was surprised how orange the middle color between the Transparent Red Oxide and Titanium White was. Which was not planned but worked out well for my alla prima painting demo of the pumpkin. (You can watch that full length demo on our YouTube channel.) I frequently do this when creating color combinations for the monthly boxes and when we do a three color challenge. Like I did in the gouache painting demo of an avocado.

What tricks do you have for learning about your new colors?

Creative Ideas to Make a Mess with Art Spray

Tony Luongo


Every month we make a video demo/lesson to go along with our monthly art supply subscription box. This April was tricky because of the size of the spray and trading cards. I knew when ordering the white Sharpie paint pen to go along the Art Spray, that I would be “cutting into” the spray of color or painting over it. As I was experimenting with our kiddos I had a few other ideas too.

I used to airbrush motorcycle helmets when I raced pre-kiddos so I know I could incorporate some of those techniques with the Art Spray. Here we used some scrap paper and ripped a triangle.


Then sprayed it, let it dry and viola we had a dress. Here is a cute one from Alex, she’s 7 and one I did. She had a hard time squeezing the nozzle (funny story a little later in the post) so I had to help her just a little. Also be sure to remind kiddos to never point these or any other paints at their face.


Alex had a great time with the Art Spray. She was doing all kind of things with it just having fun, being creative and experimenting. One of the times she was trying to spray, she didn’t push it down a hard so some little spritzes of paint came out. I saw that and said “Oh that could be cool for textures.” That spray is on the left and a full spray is on the right.

Try getting your mouth close to the paint or using a straw and blow into the wet paint and see what effects you can create. That's what we did with the splotch on the right.

What do you think about the Art Spray? We enjoy seeing what you create so please share with us. Thanks for reading.

I stuck the end of my brush right through the center of the canvas.

Tony Luongo


I stuck the end of my brush right through the center of the canvas. It felt so good. And freeing.

Author Malcolm Gladwell says, in his book Outliers, that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That works out to about 4 hours a day, every day, for almost 7 years. With that in mind we must practice –a lot. If we are painting or drawing that much we are going to have a lot of bad finished art. But if we learned something from a “bad” painting then is it bad? I actually have a sign in my studio that asks this very question.


Most paintings are for learning. They will not be finished pieces. Many years ago, I took a portrait workshop with Casey Baugh. I was going in thinking I would a have a sell-able frame-able piece when I left. One of the first things he said was “don’t think you are going to have a sell-able frame-able piece when you leave”. That was freeing. It took all the pressure off of me and opened my mind to just learn.

When you’re painting try to focus on getting better and enjoying the journey of making art. If you do this consistently great art will happen from your hard work. Part of this process is realizing  when a painting is no longer fun, and you’ve come back to it time after time with fresh eyes, sometimes it is time to get rid of it.

Draw with a charcoal sword. Sharpen your vine charcoal or charcoal pencil like an artist

Tony Luongo

First be careful and if you're a kid get your parents help.

Of course you can use a pencil sharpener, artists use pencil sharpeners, but that's no fun. Won’t it be more fun to draw with a sword of charcoal? Here is how I do it.

Hold your pencil or charcoal stick pointing away from you and with your other hand grab your blade and slowly–cutting away from you–cut a piece off. Continue to do this all around the cylinder to make a nice point. That’s it. The trick is to know how deep to cut so you don’t break the point.

Another way to sharpen a charcoal stick is to use a sandpaper block. Rub the charcoal in small circles to wear down the stick to create a fine point. The lower the anger you use the longer the point can be. Be careful not to breathing in the dust. You can save the powder and use it.

Have you done this before or do you have another technique that works great?

Challenge yourself and discover exciting new possibilities using limited palette

Tony Luongo

Draw a tree. Did you automatically reach for green? Me too. That’s why it's exciting and fun to push ourselves using a limited palette. In this example to make some Christmas Trees, I use gold, red, black and the white of the paper. These supplies were included in the Smile Create Repeat December 2016 Surprise.

Much like a green tree, I chose to start with a gold star, white snow and a dark trunk. Using solid shapes of color and just outlines I continued to make more trees varying the colors for each. The yellow snow...I mean gold snow I think works with the gold tree. It can either be reflected light of the tree or possibly dried up grass peeking through a broken snow cover.


Here is another example of a gouache painting using with a limited palette of white, yellow ochre and ultramarine blue from the Smile Create Repeat August 2015 Surprise. You can watch the demo video of this below.

This is different than using markers because of the mixing to make more colors, but ass you can see you still need to make decisions and choose the color. Plus this style of painting can create easier color harmonies.

Have you experimented with a limited palette? If so what was your experience like.


4 easy steps to transfer a drawing onto paper or canvas

Tony Luongo


You’ve already drawn and redrawn your picture and you’ve worked out all the problems. Now it’s time to finished it leaving all the ghost lines and eraser smudges in your sketchbook. Transfer your drawing to you final working surface to assure a clean preliminary drawing to paint or ink on. Below is an easy 4 step process to transfer your drawing.

  1. Cover back of your drawing with a dark layer of graphite.

  2. Flip over, so your drawing is right side up and place it on the surface to transfer to.

  3. Trace lines on you original drawing with a ballpoint pen.

  4. The pressure of the pen will transfer the lines you draw onto the surface below. Leaving a clean line drawing to then ink, paint or anything else.

Professional Illustrator, Gina Perry takes notice of Smile Create Repeat!

Tony Luongo

BUT take a look at her blog! Her illustrations will have you hooked on her fun children's books- coming soon!


November 16, 2016

Two years ago I received a box from Smile Create Repeat - surprise art supplies and other treats, shipped to you as a monthly subscription or as a gift. I loved everything about the service and did a giveaway to a reader. Fast forward two years - I totally forgot that a gray Mepxy brush marker in THAT box really kicked off a whole other style of work for me - doodle style!

Art supplies are no longer convenient or diverse. We don't always try new supplies on our own. We don't always know what to pick for our growing artist kids. If I hadn't tried that marker, I'm not sure I would have found that new style in my own work!

Christmas is coming and I just LOVE that they have a deluxe holiday sketch box. Buying from them is supporting small business (local if you are in New Hampshire!)

Professional Fantasy Illustrator and University Professor Jeremy McHugh happily recommends Smile Create Repeat

Tony Luongo

I received a package in the mail a while back that I’ve wanted to write about for ages.

A busy work schedule and parenting duties kept me from giving this write-up its proper due.

Smile Create Repeat, the brainchild of artist, Tony Luongo, is a fantastic subscription service for the aspiring artist or creative hobbyist.

Each month, art supplies are delivered to your door along with instructions and ideas on how to use them.

The package I received contained the following:

  • 1 Graphite Pencil for sketching your ideas.
  • 1 Pentel Oil Pastel ( yellow green)
  • 3 Mungyo Gallery Oil Pastels ( ochre, red, and white)
  • 1 Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watersoluble wax crayon *I especially liked how the crayons were carefully encased in a  strip of burlap to keep them from rolling around in the box during shipping.
  • 1 Tria Art Marker (blue)
  • 1 4x4 Da Vinci Pro Birch Wood Painting Panel (great for oil pastel painting).
  • 1 4in x 6in Sheet of Guerrilla Cartón Board (great for pastel and water-based media. It is resin-coated to keep from buckling when water is used).
  • A sheet of light brown craft paper for practice with your new materials.
  • An art lesson on how to use the materials in an abstract drawing/painting.

Coloring and creative projects are a terrific choice for family time and Smile Create Repeat is here to help guide those enjoyable hours.

Smile Create Repeat also maintains an active presence on Facebook where it shares further ideas, video demonstrations, and special projects with its growing community of subscribers.

As a professional illustrator and art instructor, I can happily recommend Smile Create Repeat to anyone with a desire to broaden their creative repertoire or parents raising a young artist.

What artist wouldn’t want new art supplies to arrive in the mail each month?

In my case, I chose to play a bit with the oil pastels. This is a medium I’ve never really experimented with and having a few arrive in the mail proved an enjoyable opportunity.

I did a quick pencil sketch on the Guerrilla Cartón board. I then used the Tria Art Marker to finalize the basic drawing.

This was followed up with passages of oil pastel. I used the brown of the paper as a color in my final image simply by leaving it untouched.

I hope you will give a subscription to Smile Create Repeat a try!

Jeremy McHugh
Fantasy Artist and Illustrator
Art Instructor

New Acrylic Painting for Beginners Demo Video

Tony Luongo

November subscribers will be testing their new acrylic paints- check out the demo video and get started!

In this full-length, real time episode from Smile Create Repeat, artist/illustrator Tony Luongo takes you from a completed pencil drawing to a finished tonal alla prima acrylic portrait painting using using supplies from the November surprise. He talks through his process while he's paint which makes this a great way to learn acrylic painting for beginners. He uses washes, thick applications of paint and shows different ways for blending acrylic paint. Each monthly surprise from Smile Create Repeat includes ideas to get you creating. This month a self portrait is a great acrylic painting idea.