Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Acrylic Break

Acrylic on textured canvas paper
For me, watercolour is the most exciting medium for expressing my artistic leanings. But like anything else in life, too much of any one thing is not good for us. In any case, a break is as good as a rest, so they say, and a break in my way of thinking is to do something like pick up a pencil and just sketch or, as in this case, get out those under used acrylic paints and having another go at something that didn't go too well the last time I tried it.

So with brushes in hand and a newly acquired pot of  'flow improver', I set about another portrait. The one thing I did learn from last time is that, unlike watercolour, an acrylic painting is not improved by leaving (either on purpose or accidentally) small pieces of white paper showing through the painting. This in mind, after the initial pencil sketch, I went over the whole canvas with a diluted wash of burnt umber before adding any other paint. Also, unlike watercolour, I've found it's best to paint darker areas first, working towards lighter areas last. This also seems true with regard to detail, just blocking in main areas of colour first, then working finer and finer in detail.

The main sanity saver with acrylics though is the fact that any wrong brushwork can be easily overpainted to correct it, whereas with watercolour you are more or less stuck with it. But the one big drawback with this medium is the fact that, even with flow improver, the paint will set rapidly, especially on the palette. This can be a headache when you want more of the same colour you mixed earlier, only to find it set hard and re-mixing another lot to the same hue can be almost impossible. I now take very great care in remembering what colours I mix together for a particular tone.

The finished painting I think is not bad but took really quite  lot of work - this not helped by the stripy garment Kate is wearing here. The trouble is that I am still learning quite a lot as I go along and have to redo things like her face for example; painted twice once I realised a better way to do it, which adds unnecessary time. Most of you know that I have to finish a painting fairly quickly so as not to get bored and shove it to the back of the wardrobe! Again I got fair hair far too yellow and chunky for my liking - what is it with me painting hair, it's like I get a mental block or something at the end when I do the hair - can't do it at the beginning as I need to flick it out over the background and suchlike.

Still, the learning curve for me with acrylics is steep but leveling. Don't know if I ever will master this medium though, especially when I think of how much quicker and easily I could have done this painting with my favourite medium, watercolour.


  1. Well I think it's fantastic Frank. That expression is FABULOUS! :)

  2. Me too. I think you have captured the expression in her eyes perectly! There is some new paints on the market which come either as slow drying Acrylics or fast drying oils. Either way you have an entire day to keep working with them before they dry. Perhaps you could give them a go. It's always a good thing to persevere with a medium you don't get on with. I am a good example! Though I haven't mastered watercolours just yet, I have hugely improved just by keeping at it! :0)

  3. Oh ... I think this is my favourite one so far! The expression is great and the hair - very much improved, on the top and on the right.

  4. As I said Frank, up, up and up ... you're climbing that steep learning curve brilliantly. Hats off to you, this is another great painting.

  5. Thanks Sandra, Crystal, Alice and John for commenting, but there is one thing I forgot to add and that is the URL for the source photo. Here it is so you can compare the painting with it:

  6. Beautiful Portrait! Great expression! The striped shirt and nice use of negative space under her arm work well and make the composition interesting. I love it!

  7. Angela, thanks very much for mentioning 'negative spaces'. I had to look this one up, it seems I am learning more and more about painting, thanks to comments like yours.

  8. Fantastic portrait, Frank
    It was a great idea to take up your brushes again :)

  9. Thanks Anais, I cannot imagine why I ever stopped painting and I know I never will stop again!