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#OneWeek100People2019 Day Four: Acrylic Paintings

April 11, 2019

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Artistic inspiration is a funny thing.

I wasn’t planning on making acrylic paintings for #OneWeek100People2019. But after a couple days of my watercolors, I was moping around going – hmmmm what next? More of the same? I would learn something if I did it. But hmmmmmmm. I don’t want to waste time repeating myself. (Even though, I know I should! Refinement comes from repetition! You are *literally* watching me not take my own medicine).

But, I’m thinking – something is missing…

Oh right!

I’ve been doing opaque painting for the last (many) months. That’s what’s missing.

I know! I have all these acrylics left over from my student-days.

Out comes the big tubs of paint and the old hog’s hair brushes for a whirlwind painting session. I should have stopped at round one. It’s kind of interesting in the half-finished state :)

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I was hoping to get seven acrylic paintings in a day to match my practice in watercolor – but this first attempt took me five hours! Clearly – watercolor is the faster medium.

#OneWeek100People_PaintedSelfie_Acrylic01 (5)#OneWeek100People_PaintedSelfie_Acrylic_Gearshot (2)

I think a big part of this 5 hour piece was mixing color. I whipped up a few batches of color – just adding a hue when I needed it, until I had a bit of a fleshcolor palette.

There’s seven colors here – a yellow, a green/grey and three values of magenta, then two warm darks.

For portraits, I think it’s best to mix your major colors in advance, then intermix as you work. Rather than putting out globs of primaries and trying to mix a new hue every few brush-loads. Re-mixing all the time is A: very slow, and B: too hard to match your own colors later in the piece.

So – start with creating the major values in the image, then inter-mix them to make transitions. You waste more paint this way at first – until you get good at guessing how much you’ll need.

(BTW – I think this is why watercolorists have endless discussion about new colors to buy. Because they can’t pre-mix batches for the day’s work).

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I’m using pre-tinted canvas boards. Yes, canvas boards are yuck, but meh – I had them in a box for years now, just waiting for their moment.

They’re primed with a mottled flesh color – in fact, these are old art-school era figure paintings, erased with leftover paint.

You can see in this second piece, I got the hang of using the undertone as a middle color and sketching with a few values of light and dark on top. This underpainting probably took 10 minutes, because I’d spent so much time making my colors before.

Once you have the basic planes, then it’s just a matter of refining the shapes of light and shadow, and re-stating the darks. Voila!

#OneWeek100People_PaintedSelfie_Acrylic02 (2)#OneWeek100People_PaintedSelfie_Acrylic_Gearshot (1)

It was quite a joy to be able to blast in bright highlights over the head, and use a rich opaque near-white on the background. Look at that thick paint! I don’t know – after all these years of watercolor, I feel guilty using so much paint :) But I can’t help it. It’s so much fun.

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Selfie #3: Once again – planar sketch – (pretty much what I would have done in a direct watercolor) – then refinement of the shapes, breaking the blocks of tone down into smaller subdivisions.

Side note – the best thing about glasses in a portrait is painting the distortion in the lenses.

So to sum up this take on acrylic painting:

  • Start with a toned canvas so the gaps between strokes are not white.
  • Pre-mix the five or six major color values you’re going to need. Try to make enough not to run out.
  • Sketch the planes of the head in your flat (ish) values.
  • Intermix the pre-mixes if necessary to make halftones for modeling.
  • Refine edges, tighten shapes, restate darks.
  • IMO it’s more about matching values on planes of the head, rather than getting the exact right color. These are very pinky, but look ‘right’ to me. You could mix more accurate colors, but I don’t feel it matters in the end. The piece will hold together – it’s internally consistent.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2019 10:47 AM

    Another interesting post. I haven’t joined this challenge this year as I’m very busy, so I’m enjoying your very different take on things!

  2. April 11, 2019 3:25 PM

    Very interesting post and description of your experience! Thanks so much for sharing this!!!

  3. April 11, 2019 3:44 PM

    Love the color palette, Mark! Dusty pink is one of my favorite colors. The portrait is excellent. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Micheline Partikian permalink
    April 11, 2019 5:23 PM

    Thank you very much for all de descriptions, love it :-)

  5. April 11, 2019 7:37 PM

    I’m a beginner at painting with watercolors. Why can’t you premix watercolors? I’ve read many people who premix EG black, letting it dry between uses.

  6. Bernadette permalink
    April 11, 2019 10:02 PM

    Thanks for this extensive post of great detailed instruction. Your examples are wonderful works of art. I have not begun this challenge but promise myself I will jump in even if after this week is over. Thanks for the inspiration to pick up a brush and…..just begin.

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