Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Using Acrylics

For some of the work in the 'Great Welsh Journey' show, I've used acrylics as they're great for quick note-taking.

Acrylics are a synthetic paint which can be diluted with water.  They dry quickly, and once dry, they are plastic-like in nature, and are pretty impossible to get off clothes or brushes because you can't dissolve them with a solvent after they harden, so be careful, and always wash your brushes out as soon as you can! 

Acrylics are like a cross between watercolours and oils to use when painting.  They can be used thickly or drawn into like oils, or thinned down with water to use in washes like watercolour.

Here's some close-ups of some of the work from the show.

This is a small painting called Afternoon at Rhossili.  The card has been prepared with a gesso primer and a warm grey acrylic base coat.

Afternoon at Rhossili (Acrylic on card, 6.5 x 10)

When looking from the clifftop at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula, you can see the wide sweep of the bay with the water shining over the wet sand.  To get the effect of the water on the sand, I used the acrylic in washes of creams and then blues, with a lage soft cats tongue watercolour brush and plenty of water.  Coats of colour dry very quickly.  You can also see the warm grey of the base coat showing through.

 Afternoon at Rhossili (detail) (Acrylic on card, 6.5 x 10)

You can also draw into acrylic with the end of the brush or a stick, as you can with oils - this is called 'sgraffito'.  It reveals the colour of the canvas, or a dry layer of underpaint beneath.  The marks at the top are the distant lines of waves, the thicker marks at the bottom are grasses on the cliffs.

 Afternoon at Rhossili (detail) (Acrylic on card, 6.5 x 10)

This is a detail from Clouds over Wolf Castle (pictured in yesterdays blog).  Wolf Castle in a dramatic collections of jagged ruins on the crest of a hill which you can see rising up from the road across from Fishguard to Haverfordwest.  

To get the looseness and airiness of the clouds, I again used a large cats tongue brush, but using white on a dried background of sky blue, so that the colours didn't mix but retained their integrity.  The white was also thicker and more substantial, so didn't apply so thinly over the blue, although still allowing for a very free form of mark-making.

Clouds over Wolf Castle (detail) (Acrylic, 10 x 10)

Lastly, this is Houses at Betwys y Coed, which shows how you can apply acrylics thickly with a palette knife or edge of a piece of card.

Houses at Betwys y Coed (Acrylic, 10 x 10)

This is an area with autumn trees, so the paint here indicates volume and foliage.  I've also drawn into the paint so that the lilac of the base coat shows through (lilac being a complementary colour to the yellows of the foliage of the trees)

Houses at Betwys y Coed (detail) (Acrylic, 10 x 10)

These various ways of applying acrylic build up to form a vocabulary of different marks, which you can use in various combinations as part of a painting.   There's no right way or wrong way of applying the paint.  Find what's right for you.  When it looks right to you, and says what you want it to say, then you've got it right.

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