Acrylic Practice, 24 x 24"

Acrylic Practice, 24 x 24"

After I started working on a series of paintings in acrylic I realized I needed to learn more about acrylic technique and materials if I wanted to make better progress. Although I’d read several good books and seen a couple of brief demonstrations I needed more.

Although there are hundreds of oil painting and watercolor videos, I could find only a few for acrylics. I rented a couple of awful ones from Netflix and viewed an online video from Artistsnetwork.tv that I found useless. Then I found the video that provided the lessons from which I did the exercises above. The video is “16 Acrylic Painting Techniques: A Studio Workshop with Jackie Miller.” Miller demonstrates and carefully explains how to prepare the support and create each of the 4.5″ square paintings.

I played the DVD on my computer in my studio, and worked along with it, pausing and rewinding as needed. Below are close-ups of the 4.5″ technique squares with a little information about each.

#1 - Discrete Brush Strokes

#1: Discrete Brush Strokes

1. Discrete Brush Strokes. Apply a flat, gradated blue background and many layers of individual brush strokes to create optical color mixing (and theoretically the illusion of water and sun reflections).

#2: Stencil and Stamp Painting

#2: Stencil and Stamp Painting

2. Stencil and Stamp Painting. Used a variety of materials as stencils, such as plastic embroidery mesh, hardware cloth, plastic decorative stencils. Multiple layers of paint were applied with a stencil brush and with q-tips and a rubber stamp. Fun!

#3: Energized Brush Strokes Alla Prima

#3: Energized Brush Strokes Alla Prima

3. Energized Brush Strokes Alla Prima. Using glazing liquid to keep paint workable a bit longer, applied layers of brush strokes freely, letting colors blend into each other.

#4: Impasto with Sgraffito

#4: Impasto with Sgraffito

4. Impasto with Sgraffito (scraping). On top of flat underpainting, applied paint mixed with gel medium and before it dried, scraped through it with a variety of implements including popsicle stick, rubber combs, and paint shapers.

#5: Glazing and Scumbling

#5: Glazing and Scumbling

5. Glazing and Scumbling. Applied underpainting of blue, leaving white hole in the center. Then half the blue was glazed with a very thin layer of the same blue mixed with glazing medium (to see how it enriches the color and removes chalkiness). The center hole was painted red. Then turquoise paint was scumbled (scrubbed with a dry brush) on top of the blue and softly over the edge of the red.

#6: Cross-hatch Brush Stroke

#6: Cross-hatch Brush Stroke

6. Cross-hatch Brush Stroke. I need more practice with this one. A flat, dark underpainting was done first and then the idea was to make brush strokes that cross each other in hundreds of little X’s with a fairly dry brush to create soft gradations with many layers. The original actually looks better than this photo shows because of glare, but I still found it difficult to make those X’s.

#7: Soft-edge & Hard-edge

#7: Soft-edge & Hard-edge

7. Creating soft- and hard-edged transitions. A dark, flat background was painted first and then the edge of the section at the top left was masked with masking tape and lighter red painted in that area. The transition at the bottom was created with layers and layers of softly scumbled paint lightly scrubbed on with a nearly dry brush, always starting at the corner and moving towards the center so there was less paint on the brush as it approached the transition area.

#8: Glazes, Wipe Removal & Combing

#8: Glazes, Wipe Removal & Combing

8. Glazes, Wipe Removal & Combing. On top of a flat, mauve background, layers of paint mixed with glazing medium were applied and then wiped back with a damp cloth and combed through using a rubber, multi-sided comb.

#9: Finger Painting & Mixed Media

#9: Finger Painting & Mixed Media

9. Finger Painting & Mixed Media. Started by finger painting with grey paint (she used Graphite Gray meant to look like graphite) and then added water soluable crayons, Sharpie marker, pencil, layer of acrylic medium, and more crayons and pens, finishing with medium to seal the crayon layer.

#10. Staining

#10: Staining

10. Staining. On the video she left this square of the canvas raw, but since I was using watercolor paper, I gessoed the whole sheet and then covered this square with Absorbent Ground Medium which creates an absorbent surface, similar to ungessoed paper. The paint was mixed with a high proportion of water and allowed to move and blend wet into wet. It didn’t work as nicely as watercolor does wet into wet. Mixing more than 25% water with acrylics can cause them to fail to bond with other acrylic layers, but that’s not important when working with an absorbent ground since it will sink ito the fibers.

#11. Alla Prima as Underpainting

#11. Alla Prima as Underpainting

11. Alla Prima as Underpainting. The underpainting was created like #3 using bold strokes of paint, wet into wet. When dry it was painted over with various techniques including combing and glazing. On the video she did the over-painting with oil paint. I used acrylic.

#12: Painted Gel Relief

#12: Painted Gel Relief

12. Painted Gel Relief. First a a pile of heavy clear gel was applied to the surface and then pushed around and smoothed and shaped with various implements. When it was dry to the touch after 24 hours I painted it with Micaceous Iron Oxide, Copper and Bronze acrylic paint.

#13: Found-Object Collage

#13: Found-Object Collage

13. Found-Object Collage. A flat layer of heavy gel was applied and then random stuff stuck into it (twine, match stick, pennies, plastic stretcher bar “key”, electrical wire thingees, some glitter for texture). When dry it was painted.

#14: Rubber Cement & Tape Masking

#14: Rubber Cement & Tape Masking

14. Rubber Cement & Tape Masking. Rubber cement was applied and when dry, the square was painted. Then rubber cement was removed, another layer of rubber cement painted over a different area, another layer of paint, cement removed. Masking tape applied and then painted over, etc.

#15: Paper and Fabric Collage

#15: Paper and Fabric Collage

15. Paper and Fabric Collage. Acrylic medium was used as an adhesive to attach scraps of fabric, string, lace and paper. When dry the surface was paintedĀ  using various colors and Iridescent Gold paint.

#16. Water Soluable Crayon

#16: Water Soluble Crayon

16. Water Soluble Crayon. This was supposed to also include bits of dried acrylic paint film but I didn’t quite see the point of using scraps of dried up paint. I’m not sure I really got the point of drawing with the water soluble crayons and then coating them with acrylic medium (they smear) either, but I gave it a try.

IMPRESSIONS:

I was suprised how much I enjoyed the more abstract, random, textural pieces; a nice respite from my usual striving to capture what I see in a somewhat realistic fashion. I can see many possibilities for exploration with acrylics, but I’m still not convinced of their suitability for my work right now, although I haven’t given up yet. I’ve gone back to working on the paintings in progress with more understanding and skill but still feel like I’m fighting the medium. More about that later.

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Acrylic Painting, Art supplies, Art theory, Painting
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Join the conversation! 23 Comments

  1. What a great synopsis of your findings! Thank you. The info is useful for people like myself who make art quilts. The amount of info avaliable is a lot and having it condensed in one spot like this is very helpful.

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    • Hi Libby, Thanks for your comment. I’m curious how the information is useful for a quilt maker. I have a friend who is trying to find a way to combine her love of painting with quilt-making or work in fabric since she’s become highly allergic to most paint. Maybe your knowledge would be helpful to her. I’m going to send her the link to your blog. (Love your work there — especially the quilted still-life!)

      Jana

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  2. Jana, thank you for posting such an in depth explanation! I, too have been searching for a good acrylic “how-to” video. You have demonstrated that this one may be just the one for which I have been looking. It also took me a while to learn to work with the medium and not fight it, but once I did, I found it a useful addition to my bag of tricks. Good luck with your experimenting!

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    • Thanks Julie. I’ve updated my post with a give-away for this video (in VHS) if you’re interested. I visited your blog and website and it looks like you make good use of mixed media which I assume means acrylic with “stuff” and this video is really good for that. Jana

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  3. Great collection. Thanks for it. Liked this one a lot”Paper and Fabric Collage”. Thanks
    Lavette

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    • Thanks Lavette. I had fun with the paper and fabric collage sampler too, especially because I went with my own color choices instead of following what she did on the video. Jana

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  4. Interesting. I will look at the video next. You are a very patient woman. I don’t know if I’d be able to do it but then I’m sure you’d make progress much faster than me. (I hate reading directions, too. I’m such a man.)

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    • Hi Andrea, I liked #4 a lot too. The video is only available for purchase although I’ve added a giveaway to this post of the VHS version I was sent in error. I’m just the opposite, and love reading directions and hate how so few things come with directions or manuals anymore and if they do they’re either written incomprehensibly or have those little pictures that I find impossible to understand.

      I hardly think you need to watch an acrylics video though! I’d buy yours if it existed! You are my acrylics inspiration! Jana

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  5. Hi Jana;

    Acrylics are great, and I’ve been using them more and more–you can use them like watercolor or like oil, or anything in between.

    There are several of us that are doing a paint-along using a new workbook type book by Rolina van Vliet. I’ve just posted the first exercise on my blog. The main emphasis on our studies is not, however technique, but artistic–elements and principles of art. You might like to join us.
    Merle

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    • Hi Merle, Yes, I’m mostly interested in the “anything in between” since I’ve only frustrated myself trying to use them like oils. Thanks for the invite to join your abstract-inspiration group. I love the idea and will save the book title for future exploration but right now I’m deep into figurative work and can’t really stretch my time in any more directions! I did take a look at what you guys are doing and it looks fascinating.

      Jana

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  6. Wow…this was lovely. I love that you worked through the whole exercise. I am a watercolorist who dabbles in acrylic too.

    When I get back to FL and back on high speed internet I’ll be sure to look at this video.

    I’d also like you to look at http://clicks.robertgenn.com/not-going-anywhere.php and watch Robert Genn paint with acrylics. Just a nice contrast. He works en plein air in acrylics which is NOT the easiest thing.

    I am wondering what kind of acrylics you use? I am currently working with Golden’s new open acrylics because I want to be able to work out doors too. My goal is look as much like oil as possible. A lot of painters in acrylic seem to try to emulate watercolor technique! If I wanted that I’d paint in watercolor! Have you rented any videos from smartflix? There are some acrylic videos on there as well but I haven’t found anything too great either. We have to get good and make our own!

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    • Hi Ginny, The video I recommended is only available for purchase; unfortunately not available online. I do have an extra VHS copy though, which I’m going to announce as a freebie later today.

      I’m using mostly Golden Acrylics, but the regular kind. I do have a small set of their Open Acrylics I bought to try monoprinting but I didn’t like them for that.

      Basically, when I want to do watercolor I’ll use watercolor and ditto for oils. But acrylics have many cool capabilities that watercolor and oil don’t offer, and that’s what I wanted to explore.

      I have rented dozens of videos from SmartFlix but their acrylic selection was extremely limited, and seemed to be more about using acrylics like watercolor.

      Thanks for the link to Robert Genn videos. I’ll spend some time there later today. And thanks for writing! Jana

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  7. Yes! I found these sample exercises to be really interesting. I feel the same about acrylics. I want to learn more but all the emphasis around here is on watercolor. I’d like to find this DVD and give it a shot before the workshop I’m taking in November. Thanks for an informative post.

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  8. I’m just starting to use acrylics – I could use this instruction if it isn’t already found a home! Thanks for posting your efforts – so useful.

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  9. Just catching up with your art blog. You have been busy and what an instructive post to inspire others to try out various ways of using acrylics. Great post.
    Wendy

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  10. I just knew there was such techniques I have learned a lot from these articles, because I was a beginner in watercolor painting view

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  11. hi im just wondering what you did this painting on? water colour paper? canvas?
    thanks!
    x

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  12. Great post! Thanks for sharing. Acrylic Paints really are so diverse, I love them!

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  13. Thanks for sharing these acrylic techniques! I paint with acrylics, but don’t have any special technique. I try to paint what I see. Now I have some new things to try!

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  14. Thanks for sharing. I would like to get the video, but are there no more copies? I am teaching an acrylic painting class, and would love to use some of these exercises in the class. I am actually an oil painter who is trying to use acrylics and need to get adjusted to the new media. Can’t take the fumes any more.

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  15. Very instructional and useful! I paint mainly on steel with an alkyd primer. I use glazing techniques to bring out the most from mica based metallic paints. Something about how the light refracts within a clear acrylic medium with mica flakes inter dispersed. Check out my metal art blog!

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