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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.
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-existing layer, the top layer should not be completely opaque or it will block the light reflected by the bottom layer. The bottom and transparent top layer will combine and will create a third, more luminous hue than if you had mixed them on the palette. In this example, the gray underneath combines with the transparent orange to form a subtle green.
Grisaille as Underpainting
This is a technique that dates back to the times of illuminated manuscripts. Much of the oil painting done before the 19th century was begun with a grisaille. Painters created a monochromatic underpainting in shades of gray as the way to establish volume, and laid glazes on top of it for the hues. A modern example is Tamara de Lempicka’s figurative work.
You put down one color and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody. Romare Bearden
In this example, the facial structures were laid first with a grisaille, then an orange glaze was applied and reinforced with later glazes of dark orange for the mouth, nose and ears and brown for the darker parts of the face. No glaze was used for the background or the pupils, so that the chromatic Black that I mixed could have maximum opacity.
Building Volume With Glazes
Another way to gradually saturate or desaturate color, or lighten or darken a value is to start with a base color over the whole face or object. In this case, the base color was a rather saturated orange for the skin, laid flat over the whole face. Then I used a glaze of a pastel orange and medium over this to lighten certain areas of her face. I used a dark orange to partially darken other parts. And I used a pastel orange with more white for the highlights. I did not use a glaze to paint the black hair, for maximum opacity. Unlike in the first example, here we are progressing from light to dark. A modern example is the landscape work of Peter Wileman.
Increase your expressive power and expand your painting repertoire. Enhance the work you already do! Painting experience helps, but is not required to enjoy this class that runs from Jan to March. How can such a friendly and versatile medium be so misunderstood? Acrylic is easy to use, incredibly versatile, and devoid of noxious fumes. The class runs from Jan to March and will be taught at the Richmond Art Center. Exact dates coming soon!
Learn a new acrylic “trick” every week through short and playful experiences designed to expand your knowledge of acrylic additives. You will be able to receive instruction and create something during every class. Instead of lectures, we engage in a series of short exercises coupled with explanations of the acrylic technique we’ll be learning for each session.
During the first hour, the focus will be on exploring various acrylic pigment and additive qualities though a series of fun exercises so you can be aware of the medium’s possibilities. We will go through the steps in the development of an acrylic piece and you will be able to receive as much or as little support as you specify. Click here for a list of materials for the class.
Unlike other classes I teach, this class will be taught at the Richmond Art Center, located at 2540 Barrett Ave, in Richmond. Register early! Classes fill up fast. This outline will give you a sense of what we’ll cover:
Session 1 Jan 11
Introductions, purpose and goals for the class, survey of acrylic additives. Good acrylic colors. How to prime cardboard.
No class on January 18
Session 2 Jan 25
Textures 101: “Fresco,” crackelure, impasto. The palette knife.
Session 3 Feb 1
Glazing to build gorgeous color
Session 4 Feb 8
Texture transfers with gel plates
Session 5 Feb 15
Session 6 Feb 22
Additives to use in clean and “dirty” pours
Session 7 Mar 1
Direct and indirect image transfers: Choosing the best images and additives for the job.
Session 8 Mar 8
Applying direct and indirect images to a background.
Session 9 Mar 15
Time to finish projects and celebration
Some people start learning to paint with acrylics. Others begin with oil then switch to acrylics under the assumption that they are less messy or toxic. Watercolorists switch because it is less difficult and expensive to frame an acrylic painting. Then there are painters who are prevented from bringing their oils to communal spaces.
No matter your reason to try them, rest assured no medium has been more misunderstood than this one. You see, it’s all about the additives. Knowing how to use them will give you a tremendous range of effects that simply cannot be achieved with oils. Yet visiting an art store and knowing which additives to get can be a bit intimidating, so many students continue painting without them and reaching the conclusion that acrylics is a difficult, unwieldy medium.
I can water them down almost like watercolors or I can use them thick like oils. I believe they are respected as oils when the painting is good and they look awful (same as oils) when the painting is bad. Patricia Ann Rizzo
Acrylics are in fact, a great medium for novices and experts alike. They are very forgiving (just paint over your mistakes). They dry fast, enabling you to work on successive layers in an accelerated timeframe. You can clean everything with water, and gel medium has a very mild odor compared with turps. When you mix in a little gel, the results can be undistinguishable from an oil painting.
So, to all the acrylic haters out there, you simply don’t know what you’re missing!