I started this attempt at acrylic painting with a lovely bouquet of flowers and a plan to be free and easy, working from life but also from my imagination. I covered the canvas with a loose wash of orange and red and purple paint. Then I sketched in the flowers using a brush with thinned violet paint. Next I blocked in the colors and shapes of the flowers and the background with fairly thin paint. So far so good…nice and loose. Here’s what it looked like at that point:
Acrylic on canvas, 12×16″ – I wish I stopped here
I was happy. It was free and loose and going pretty well. Then I had to go back to work, so I missed a few days. When I returned to the painting I completely forgot about my plans for loose and free. I started trying to get realistic which was dumb since I’d invented some of the flowers, there was no good directional light to model the shapes of the flowers, and they were starting to smell badly and flop over. I kept working for another couple nights anyway, trying to at least cover the canvas and finish it. Here’s how it ended…
…because I got sick of working on it (and of the smell of the gross flowers). Now it can join the pile of “learning experience” paintings I’m accumulating as I continue to try to learn to paint with oils and acrylics.
(Above) One of many useless reference photos I took but didn’t use (note how the light from above creates unpleasant shadows but no real modeling of form and no reflections in the vase).
What I learned:
- Remember my original inspiration and stick to it (or end up with a weird hybrid creature, neither free nor realistic)
- Take the time to get the lighting right if you want things to look three-dimensional.
- Acrylic mediums are my friends — use them to make the paint the consistency I want because it sure isn’t right out of the tube.
- The Stay-Wet palette will keep acrylic paint wet indefintely but will also turn it to useless colored slime. (Skip the special paper and just stick another palette inside the box atop the sponge–the paint will stay wet without absorbing water.)
- There is no Golden Acrylic equivalents to Winsor Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, New Gamboge or Permanent Rose (mainstays of my watercolor palette) so practice mixing the colors I need with other pigments.
- Before applying a mixed color to the canvas, test it on a piece of paper…yes you can repaint acrylics forever if you get it wrong, but why go through that?!
- Acrylic paint dries darker because the white medium makes it look lighter until the medium dries clear…just the opposite of watercolor which dries lighter…so take that into consideration or add a little zinc white to compensate and make the color the same as it will dry.
And most important of all:
- Lighten up, enjoy the learning process, humbling as it may be, and remember that in a year I’ll probably be much better at it (as well as a year older, so don’t rush to get there).