The Latest

Starting The Year With Acrylics

In acrylic, happiness comes a bit faster. Robert Genn I will be teaching a class at the Richmond Art Center on Jan 11, “Acrylic Bag of Tricks.” In February, I will begin teaching a series of two workshops about painting acrylic still lives at the Frank Bette Center (Feb 24 and Mar 23). So I can rightfully say I will start the year with acrylics. But did you know that I did not start using acrylics until 2005? I did not receive instruction in it when I was in art school in the 1980s. Some instructors used acrylics back then, but they treated it like a lesser medium. If, as painter Andrew Hamilton says, “acrylic is the only painting medium that can be all mediums – it can act like watercolor, it can act like oils, and it has its own innate properties,” none of t...Read More

Thinking About Color

“I just start painting very excitedly and the last thing I think about is my palette. Most of the time, composition keep me so busy I completely forget about color.” “I feel like an outsider during visits to the art store. I must be the only person in the universe that does not know what colors to buy!” “My palette is so garish. Everything looks fine in the beginning but when I finish I see my colors are too bright for my taste.” Color is one of the dimensions of design that seems the most inscrutable. While almost everyone can appreciate size, texture and contrast, color perception is highly individual. To complicate matters, as humans we have developed a series of terms to discuss color that vary enormously from person to person. Then there’s col...Read More

Learning To Paint – On A Budget

Are you a painting student on a budget? Like most artists (except perhaps for Jim Carrey and George Bush) I am frugal with art supplies. Not only do their prices climb up every year, there’s no need to waste what I already have. Some students have asked me to describe my favorite tricks for saving money on supplies, and so I have decided to write about it in a tongue-in-cheek way. Where should we aim to cut costs? Ok. Let’s think of two kinds of learners. There is the student who is deciding whether painting is something they will like, and there is the student who already does a fair amount of painting during vacations, classes and workshops. If you are figuring out if painting is for you, keep it a secret. Don’t let your relatives or close friends pick out your gear or ...Read More

A Different Place Entirely

“A different place entirely” is how a painter friend described Meeker Slough in a blog entry. One of the locations I chose for our Plein Air Fridays class, the slough in my opinion deserves five stars as an East Bay painting spot. It is mostly accessible through the part of Richmond’s Bay Trail that borders the Marina Way development and perhaps because of that it feels far, far away. “An old mudflat channel along the Richmond Southeast Shoreline that became constrained from over 100 years of urban development starting in the late 1800s,” the slough used to be considered one of one of the ten most toxic spots in the Bay Area. Thanks to the cleaning efforts of UC Berkeley, it is possible to pass through without being significantly exposed to PCBs, arsenic, lead...Read More

Blake Garden Did Not Disappoint

Yesterday was our first Plein Air Fridays session at the Blake Garden. The day was beautiful and the temperature, perfect. This Berkeley garden did not disappoint those of us who were hoping for an afternoon free of cold wind and overcast skies. Everybody was on time and we met near the reflecting pool, where dappled light dotted the grassy area around it. After a demo on how to use a viewfinder and how start an acrylic painting, the students dispersed and I began making rounds. I forgot how much walking is involved when students are spread out. The Blake Garden spans ten acres! There are two spaces left in this class. Registration ends June 30.

A Fragrant Still Life

Several new students came to my studio on a Saturday morning to try their their hand at painting a still life with a beautiful flower arrangement. This was our first Free Painting Workshop of the year, a way for adult students who have never taken a class with me to check out my teaching and learn some painting basics. Some students were beginners and others experienced, but they all wanted to spend two hours making art in a relaxed mood. I was hoping to open one end of the studio so we could enjoy the sunshine, but we had fog instead. So we stayed inside, sitting a little closer than I would have expected, but having a lot of fun along the way. The flowers came from the garden of my student Margo Hackett. She gave me enough foxgloves, hydrangeas, nasturtiums, roses and sage flowers for fo...Read More

Blake Garden Delights

For our first visit to the Blake Garden, I thought I should talk about its enduring appeal to east bay painters. While the garden “contains a large diversity of plant materials that grow in our Mediterranean type climate” as well as “new and historic garden design and structures” I’ve long suspected this is not why artists flock to this enclosed space. It is more because, unlike other (and perhaps more) popular gardens in the area, this one packs a lot into a relatively small and it seems to have been designed with the plein air painter in mind. No, there aren’t a lot of benches, but there is plenty of shade near its most popular attractions, and a high number of secluded nooks and crannies where one may paint undisturbed. If to this you add that it lies...Read More

Acrylic is Perfect for Multimedia

We used a giant gel plate for experimental monotypes, and I have to say the colors are always much brighter than when we use block printing ink. The other big difference is that the results cannot be altered as acrylic is not water soluble. But these prints can become a background for play with other paint with watercolor or ink, for example. The gel plate was created using a variation of a recipe I found on the internet. 6 months and $150 later, I found the right combination of gelatin and glycerin and now share it with my students. I love gel plates, not just because of their sensitivity to textures but because they require almost no physical exertion. Pours on small canvasses are the happy experiments on which anyone can build a larger or more complex piece. I buy packs of these 9 x 12&...Read More

Acrylic Washes And Pours

Those who love texture will appreciate the point of enhancing it with specially-mixed acrylic washes. Learning to make this mix was the first part of our class. While there are many recipes for it on Your Tube, we were aiming to mix something that could be used in a variety of materials such as paper, molding paste or canvas. Our surface was heavy watercolor paper because this paper can take a lot of abuse. We scored it, sanded it and covered it with masking fluid. The texture and hues on the wash can serve as a beautiful background for a collage. Once the acrylic washes were applied with a spray bottle, we tilted it and let the excess pour on a mixing tub that had an inch of water. The second part of our class was devoted to learning how to mix the paint for a pour. This time we tried bot...Read More

Impasto!

The third acrylics class was just like a food network show. We gathered round to see the making of modeling paste “recipes,” then we saw an impasto demonstration, and then it was time for us to try it for ourselves. Impasto is the application of thick paint to a surface. This can be done in a variety of ways with acrylic, thanks to the many applications of this medium and  to all of the additives in the market. We worked from simple references, mixing colors first on the palette, then applying the thick paste with a palette knife onto primed cardboard. People like impasto because it visually reminds viewers of the very physical nature of paint while simultaneously creating an illusion. It gives you the opportunity to work with paint that is easier to control. Application with a...Read More

Plein Air Class Starts June 2

Dust off that acrylic or oil set you received last christmas. Act on your resolution to spend more time on your own development. or finally embark on an activity that brings the satisfaction of learning something new. Learn how to paint the sights you love with as much or as little feedback as you desire. Use the media of your choice. I can help you with acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache or pastel. We’ll spend two weeks at each painting location so that students can either begin a new painting or complete the one begun in the previous session. I am excited to announce that will be teaching this popular class again this summer, but this time I will be offering plein air in a different way. Students will be able to buy a package of six Friday afternoon classes and take them in June, July or ...Read More

Acrylic Glazing Demo

This 20 min demo is part of my Choosing and Mixing Color class. An expanded version of it is part of my Painting in Acrylics class. Uses Acrylic glazing, done by mixing smaller amounts of paint with pouring (liquid) polymer medium, is a great way for painters to control the opacity of their paint mixes. For painters mindful of color, glazes have additional uses. Glazes can be used to add temperature, intensity and contrast to parts of our painting, without the bulk of repeated layers of pigment. They can give a watercolor feel or can be used to create very subtle gradations between values. For beginners, glazes can be a way to “test” a mix. How Glazes Work Glazes are semi-transparent and as such rely on light reflected by the layers of paint underneath. So, when painting a glaze over a pre...Read More

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