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Notes on BASICS of  ACRYLICS

 

Hi! ... I was approached by fellow artists a few times with acrylics related queries, probably under the misconception that I know something worthwhile about this medium. Well I'm as much a learner as anybody else, but having used this medium (on and off) for about a decade now, I've gained a little experience which I could share. 

Below I've copy-pasted a (de-personalized) compilation of messages to people. 

<< Left: A study in monochrome


Thank you
for asking me about acrylics. Since I have had no formal art education, the 'internet' has been my teacher. Someone or the other will have put up something that'd answer most of your queries... that's the wonder of the internet! Also, there must be many 'how-to-do' vids on Youtube that you can access.  I hope you'll find the linked vids useful.

 
Having said that, I'd suggest that you start with a limited palette in order to get a hang of the medium, before adding colors to it. You may start with -

1) Burnt Umber and Titanium White, and as you get proficient in handling the medium - add...

2) Prussian Blue, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow (medium) to the palette. Further on, add...

3) Ultramarine Blue, Crimson Red, and Cadmium Yellow (pale).

 

There is a logic behind this - and you'll notice that I haven't added a green to it. You can mix a green with the yellows and blues in this list, and you can mix a purple with the Ultramarine and Crimson. You may get a 'black' by mixing Prussian Blue and Burnt Umber, and a shade of red-brown by mixing green with Cad Red. Otherwise buy a tube of Burnt Sienna (always better to purchase the Artist Grade if you're using Camel).


Tint your mix with white as and when needed, have fun experimenting. But do start your painting with Burnt Umber at first... do a monochrome painting as you would with watercolor, but unlike in watercolor, you may add white to it to get umber-tinted, opaque passages.

  

Do gradation studies, i.e. paint a band of color from the left to the right of your paper, starting with pure Umber on the left, and as you move to the right keep making it lighter and lighter by adding progressive amounts of water.

Repeat the same, but instead of thinning the umber to a watery transparency, keep adding more and more white until you end up with pure white on the right side of the page.

For mixing, you may use water, but too much water will thin out the acrylic film and destabilize it (i.e. it might come out in flakes when dry). So purchase a small pot of Acrylic gloss medium(not gel) and in a smaller pot, add a little of the milky liquid to it and (a little less than) the same amount of water - approx 60 : 40 mix. By occasionally dipping your brush in this diluted medium, you may do your mixing on the paper/canvas/palette. It will be easier to mix using the medium and the resultant acrylic film will be stronger.

  

Brushes - always keep your brushes dipped in a pot or tray of water when not in use, and that is because acrylic dries super fast, and in no time at all your brush will dry to a hard, useless gunk. At the end of the painting session, its advisable to wash the brushes with soapy water - doesn't harm if its a little warm as well. Put gentle pressure near the ferrule, where most of the residual acrylic tend to accrue. Store the brushes upright. You may use watercolor brushes, nylon brushes and also the hog hair brushes the art stores sell for oil painting. I use Nylon brushes mostly (its kinder to the animals as well, unless the hair is harvested under humane, approved conditions). Watercolor brushes may be used for finer details and light washes.

 

Surface- acrylic can be painted on almost any surface! You can paint it on canvas, some good quality, thick acrylic paper.  For my Indian readers: Arfina(Camlin) sells A3 size Oil Sketching Pads, which are very handy for beginners and those wanting to practice acrylics, since canvas is costlier. These are primed canvas-textured paper for dual - oil/acrylic use.

  

Paint handing- Since acrylic dries very fast you'll have to work under A.C. because the ceiling fan will hasten the drying process and quickly harden the colors on your palette. Of course, you may use a table or stand fan and place it in such a way that it doesn't directly blow across the palette. Purchase a water-sprayer (plastic bottle thingy with a spring handle, that can be pressed to send out a mist of water) and occasionally lightly spray the palette to delay the drying. Don't squeeze out a large amount of paint at one time, unless you're going to quickly use all of it - otherwise you'll be wasting it.

Do you have a large-ish plastic bowl/dabba at home... the kind we sometimes use to warm up rice in the microwave? These are air tight containers and the inside of the lid can be used as a palette. Squeeze out your paint on this inside surface and once you're done painting, and there's still some paint left, just cover/seal it with the bottom part of the container - after spraying / sprinkling some water on the remaining paint. That way your paint will remain usable for a day or two.

 

That's all I can think of at the moment.. do watch the linked vids and read as many resources as you can find. The best way however is to experience it yourself, by experimenting with the various aspects of this wonderfully versatile medium.

Wish you luck!

---

Resources

I found this set of videos on acrylic painting which might help you - view the first one at least a couple of times, and the three-part, landscape painting video after that. Wait a few secs for the embedded video interface to appear, then hit the play button. (If you're using Firefox with Noscript Addon, turn it off temporarily for the video to appear). 

Acrylics Basics - "how to paint with acrylics" and "learn to paint with acrylics"

You may also search Youtube/Google for more such vids and tutorials, I found these on a quick searching... doesn't mean they are the best available on the internet. Search the Youtube channels of individual paint manufacturing companies, many of them have instructional vids on different uses of acrylics.

 

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