I have an acrylics workshop this Saturday, Feb. 28 at the NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit. The workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will focus on experimenting with acrylic as a medium on different surfaces. The class fee is $90, call the center right away if you would like to register, space is limited and only a few spots remain open. To register, call 908-273-9121.
You don’t need sophisticated materials or paper to convey texture and style. Using the side of a scholastic-grade pastel, each of these sketches illustrates how a little bit of gesture can go a long way!
Everyone asks me if I paint everyday. No, I don’t, there isn’t any time–but I do at least 10 minutes of drawing or sketching. Additionally there are the drawings done during my demos in class, but those don’t count. Mostly I like to do small sketches based purely on whatever happens to interest me in my current surroundings.
I came across an old coffee cup at the art center made of that chunky institutional dinnerware material, with a typical pattern on it. It has a lot of paint stains on it. I sketched it on the back of an empty canvas pad with black acrylic and added in some cream colored pastel for the cup and some light red for the pattern. The stamp I found in the museum’s collage box and liked it because it was from Czechoslovakia, it matched the color and feel of the sketch so I’ll probably add it in somehow, maybe as a tea bag tag or something. Sketches like this spark ideas for me and gives me a chance to take a break do something unstructured that doesn’t have to make sense, I need that after teaching all day.
This is moving along, I have mapped in some of the local color and noticed that I am straying quite a bit from my usual limited palette. First, a good thing to note is that the color harmony of this still life is very strong to begin with–if you start out with good color harmony in real life, maintaining that harmony should be relatively easy as you put paint to canvas. Second, the next time you are unsure about what you are putting on your canvas, look at your palette. If it looks muddy on the palette, it will look muddy on canvas–conversely, if it looks vibrant and strong on the palette, it will look that way on canvas. Try to place your colors next to one another instead of allowing them to mix on the canvas–mix on the palette, then place the color on the canvas.
Below is a photo of the palette I have used on this: cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, naphthol crimson, dioxazine violet, cerulean, sap green, pthalo green, titanium white, burnt sienna–a HUGE departure from my usual 5 colors. This is partially because of the subject and partially because I am working in acrylic as opposed to oils.
This is an acrylic I started last night. I don’t often exhibit my flower paintings, mainly because most gallery directors and curators that I’ve worked with expect urban landscapes from me. Every now and then I’ll have one in a show and I’ll always hear “I didn’t know you painted flowers, or still life, etc.” It’s almost as if an artist who paints one subject should not stray into another–quite honestly, it’s all the same to me as far as approach is concerned. I look for repeating shapes, colors and patterns to develop my composition. The painting begins with a study of form and value as a monochromatic underpainting, color layers are placed on top using the complements to provide color variation in the shadows. I try to use as few brushstrokes as possible, keeping them bold and loose only to suggest what may be there as opposed to replicate to a highly realistic level of detail.
I think painting flowers actually strengthens my ability with urban landscapes. It’s always good to take a break from your primary body of work just to stay fresh. Also, I have the opportunity to explore different color palettes that may at some point migrate into my urban landscapes. Another thing the flower paintings do is allow me to paint directly from life. I have to use my photos as departure points for the urban landscapes, it just is not logistically possible for me to paint in the middle of NYC. Painting from life keeps my sense of color fine-tuned to the way it appears in the real world, it also keeps my drawing skills in their best form.
However, the urban landscape also has an effect on the flowers–my flower paintings aren’t meant to be “pretty” in a delicate way, instead they are bold and have a solid structure to them similar to the architecture in an urban landscape.
Anyhow, I think it is good to vary your subject matter, even if you choose as I do to primarily focus on one area as your main body of work. The urban landscape interests me in a way that is different than the flower paintings, it’s difficult to describe other than to say I relate to the content (subject) on a different level. The flowers are purely visual studies, the urban landscape has intangible qualities of mood and atmosphere, that is what I find so appealing about it as a subject.
- to get bolder colors, use more paint and less medium
- build layer upon layer increasing opacity as you go along
- if you have a basic value study done and work with a limited palette using complementary colors for shadows, darks, you can complete a painting in your studio even if you don’t have the actual set up in front of you
- keep the color harmonies tight and repeat colors throughout the composition for consistency, don’t be afraid to experiment with color placement
- if you are working on a canvas pad or paper, play around with cropping…I actually prefer this cropped as an abstract study in pattern and form (see below)
Rubbing alcohol (or water or Turpenoid) can be used to created blended backgrounds on top of which you can place additional layers of pastel
Technique works best on Wallis paper, does not work on LaCarte, try a small test sample if you are using a paper other than Wallis
Start by blocking in colors in large areas
Using a soft flat brush, drag some of the rubbing alcohol across the surface to blend the colors together and coat the paper
This technique is great if you are working on a large painting and need to cover your background surface, it really saves time and creates a beautifully blended background upon which you can build your layers
Both of the examples above, although very different in feeling and subject, have used this technique
Atmospheric effects as in the sunset painting can be acheived using this method, as can the gritty feeling of an urban environment to set off the bright neon and taxi colors
This method also helps to make your darks darker, which can sometimes be a challenge with pastels