acrylic classes

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.

colorful acrylic paint pouring off a canvas

Liquid acrylic pigments change quickly due to gravity.

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 this was demonstrated in the classes I paid for. Instead, the few instructors or colleagues that used acrylic complained of the loud colors, or the quick drying time, and of the fact that it ruined brushes faster than oils. After I left art school, the stigma persisted. So I did not touch acrylics. I did not hate them, I just did not know what was possible.

A student paints on top of a giant gel plate

This giant gel plate is being used like as a monotype tool. No need for a press!

Fast forward twenty years. I took a figure painting class and met my friend Karen Zullo Sherr, a feisty lady who used nothing else. She explained it was “all in the additives.” Intrigued, I began reading and trying out acrylic “recipes” I found in books, and sometimes on video. I began experimenting with thickening agents and eventually graduated to image transfers. Along the way, I figured out how to take advantage of its many features in plein air and studio situations.

Over the years, I realized not everyone will like or use acrylic. To find out if you are cut out for it, take my quiz:

1. My level of experience is ___________.
a. beginner  b. I have taken some classes  c. I use a different medium for most of my work

2. I do most of my work ___________.
a. indoors  b. outdoors  c. both

3. This word can be used to describe most of my paintings:
a. experimental  b. abstract  c. traditional

4. I am _________ to solvents
a. very sensitive  b. neither sensitive or insensitive  c. not sensitive

Give yourself two points for every “a” response, one point for every “b” response and zero points for any “c” response.

If you scored 6-8 points, acrylic is in the charts! You are too neat for oils, too sensitive to thinner, you work where a faster drying time is not an issue, and you “seize the moment” as an artist. If you are a beginner, this water soluble medium is definitely for you.

Magenta and yellow paint blobs on a palette

Modeling paste mixed with paint turns into textures.

Those who scored 3-5 points could give this medium a chance but first they would have to set themselves up for success. Using additives that mimic the qualities of oils, using retardants to delay drying time and taking the time to learn about the medium’s attributes will let you see what you’ve been missing!

Even if you scored less than 3 points, that does not mean you should write acrylics off. You may be very experienced with other media and thus ready for a change of pace. Your health might change later on and you might have to switch, or you might be getting ready to do different work. One never nows so why not check it out?

Acrylic Still Life

Small painting of clouds, hills and grass

Realistic effects are part of the impasto mystique.

Acrylic is possibly the most versatile and forgiving medium. This day is structured so that beginners as well as more experienced painters can take a tour of its exciting possibilities while painting the still life. We’ll cover the uses of several additives and how to mix acrylic colors.

Register here, at the Frank Bette Center’s site. The FBC has a list of materials available once you register.

The workshop runs from 9-4 pm. It costs $80 for members and $100 for non-members. Here is the agenda for the day:

Goals

  • Learn the most versatile way to begin an acrylic painting
  • Choose the best acrylic paints for the task at hand
  • Understand the possibilities of the medium
  • Complete more than one still life
A hand applies spray to a small canvas on a table.

This canvas was first treated with molding paste and the acrylic wash accentuates the textures.

Format
You will be able to receive instruction and create one or more still lives during this workshop. Each student will be given the choice of trying out a new effect with an acrylic additive. You will be able to receive as much or as little support as you specify. So that we can all be in the same page, during the first hour we will go through the basic steps in the development of an acrylic piece.

Here is the agenda for the day:

9:00- 9:15
Introductions, purpose and goals for the class.

9:15- 9:45
Survey of acrylic pigments and additives. The role of quality in acrylic supplies. How to prime cardboard.

9:45- 10:15
Demo of the basic steps in starting a traditional acrylic painting.

10:15-10:30
How to prepare your own impasto or “fresco” textures.

10:30- 12:00
Still life #1

12:00 – 12:30
Lunch (bring your own)

12:30 – 1:00
Demo: how to make acrylic behave like oils. Retardant, gel medium and acrylic glazes

1:00 – 3:00
Still life #2

3:00-4:00
Debrief or critique of the work done today. Evaluation an.d cleanup

 

Plein Air Sundays

Photo of students painting at Meeker Slough.

The wind blows through our gear as we get ready to start painting.

This fall, spend Sundays painting au plein air at several beautiful great East Bay outdoor locations. Because of our weather, my next plein air class will not take place until late April 2018. $200 for six, 3 hr sessions.

Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced painting student, you’ll enjoy discovering beginner-friendly painting spots, and improving your technique in the company of new friends. You’ll receive support through the difficulties of painting outdoors.

Format
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.

This class is taught on Sunday afternoons, from 12-3 pm. Each class consists of a rotating 30 min introduction to painting concepts that may be a demo or a discussion with examples, followed by 2+ hours of painting. Locations are announced well in advance of the first day of class. You will receive accurate driving instructions and Rebeca’s phone in case you get lost.

Registration
If you are planning to travel this fall, you can buy a package of six classes, which you can take on any of these dates: 9/10, 9/17, 9/24, 10/1, 10/8, 10/15, 10/22, 11/5, and 11/12. No proration or registration after Sept 30 can be accepted.

This is a rough outline of the class, subject to revisions:

Sept 10, Session 1 at Miller Knox Park
Get to know each other, review of materials, supplies and gear. Goals for the class. Aspect ratios. How to use a viewfinder and begin a painting.

Sept 17, Session 2 at Miller Knox Park
How to begin a landscape painting part 2. Safer painting practices.

Sept 24, Session 3 at Hoffman Marsh
How to begin a landscape painting part 2.

Oct 8, Session 4 at Tilden Botanical Garden
Selecting pigments for a Bay Area landscape. Limited palettes.

Oct 15, Session 5 at Rebeca’s Studio
Determining a focal point.

Oct 22, Session 6 at Tilden Botanical Garden
The role of values in a landscape.

Oct 29, Session 7 at Lake Anza
Foreground, middle ground, background. Aerial perspective.

Nov 5, Session 8 at Lake Anza
The cell phone as a tool of the landscape painter. Revising from photos.

Nov 12, Session 9 at Location TBD
Avoiding the dangers of overpainting

Bad Weather
Please note that in the unlikely event of bad weather, the session will be canceled. Bad weather is defined as double-digit wind speeds, rain, temperatures in the fifties, all-day fog, or a heat wave. All students will be notified via phone and class will be extended an additional week.

Cancellations

Registration fees can only be refunded in full if canceled up to three days (72 hrs) before class. With less than 72 hrs but more than 24 hrs notice, you receive 75% of your registration. If you give less than 24 hrs notice and do not attend the first class, you’ll receive 50% of the registration fee. No refund will be given to students who attend the first class but decide not to continue.

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.

Photo of students painting at Meeker Slough.

The wind blows through our gear as we get ready to start painting.

“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 and mercury. It is a Clapper Rail habitat and
Photo of a female student in front of an easel.

Working in perspective to capture the vast expanse that is the Slough.

home to numerous other species. This is apparent on any visit as the birds don’t seem to mind the warning signs posted on the fence bordering the slough.

Despite this history, Meeker Slough has become a painting destination in the East Bay, perhaps because of the beauty of Richmond’s Inner Harbor, or because of how distant it is from the freeway noise. In October, the grasses turn orange, and during winter our mild weather makes it possible to paint in less windy conditions. Of Meeker Slough, painter Karen Zullo Sherr said,

Every time we are there people want to go back again. It is actually a very modest place on the Bay trail so close to the condos on the bay in Richmond. But the more you look at the place the more you see to paint. Last time we were there it was high tide and it was completeley different. A different place entirely.

Maybe it is this variation what makes us return. I do know I have sold each and every one of my Slough paintings. And while summertime tends to come with the winds that bring down our foggy skies, that part of Richmond tends to be sunny and warmer than other East Bay spots. To see some artistic interpretations of Meeker Slough by the East Bay Landscape Painters, please visit this link.

A Fragrant Still Life

Photo of woman, painting on a table.

A student covers the broad areas of her painting with mixes she is trying out.

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.
Photo of vase with flowers-

One of the bouquets we painted at the first Free Painting Workshop.


The flowers came from the garden of my student Margo Hackett. She gave me enough foxgloves, hydrangeas, nasturtiums, roses and sage flowers for four vases. I didn’t want anyone to feel nervous about drawing, so we began by rehearsing the use of a viewfinder, because it makes marking the location of objects so much easier. Then each one of them had the chance to choose one. I passed out a handout with notes so that no one had to worry about writing while painting.
Photo of woman painting a vase of flowers

The background is almost done!


We worked on primed cardboard. Everyone took home the “recipe,” and some students loved the idea that they could recycle their Amazon boxes in this manner. Then we moved to composition, how to mix a good color for the background, and when to tackle details. This workshop had something new for almost everyone in the room. Most students had questions about mixing specific colors, and others were new to acrylics.
We ended by talking about something we learned during the workshop and it was then that I found out most of them appreciated painting and learning in a supportive atmosphere. The next Free Painting Workshop is on Saturday, September 9. Register through Eventbrite a month before.