acrylic

Plein Air Wednesdays Session 6

Topic
The role of values in a landscape

Directions To Meeker Slough
Take 580 towards the San Rafael Bridge. Get off on Marina Bay Parkway. Cross Regatta Blvd and continue through the Marina Bay development. Turn left onto Bayside Dr. Our meeting location is the round end of Bayside Dr, where there are approximately ten parking spaces for visitors of the Marina Bay development. Park there, or if this small lot is full, park along Bayside. We will walk together to Meeker Slough.

Important Note
Please keep in mind that the address is for the house closest to the parking lot where we will meet and that GPS will take you elsewhere if you follow the GPS alone. Follow the written instructions once you get to Richmond, and you will find the parking lot very easily.

The closest bathrooms are located at Shimada Park, five minutes away via Bay Trail.

Printmaking Studio Etiquette

Setup
Based on safety and experience, your instructor will determine the location of print stations, additional supplies, and cleaning materials.

You decide where your personal supplies will be located.

A station consists of any table or area where your instructor has determined printing or cleaning will take place.

Printing
Be kind to others. If you see someone struggling, offer help!

If the number of printing or cleaning stations is limited, be nice as you wait for your turn.

Share rollers, brushes, spray bottles and any other supplies.

If in doubt about how to use tools or equipment, please ask your instructor.

Leave plates and work areas free of ink or paint as you go, unless your classmate has asked you to leave them “as is.”

Pay attention that you do not leave your supplies behind at a station.

Ask permission to use materials or supplies that belong to your instructor or your classmates.

Cleanup
Cleanup takes time, so a ten-minute reminder will be issued as cleanup time approaches. After that heads-up, please stop printing when your instructor tells you to stop, and assist us in cleaning up the collective areas.

Intellectual Rights
Never use images created by your classmates or your instructor without first asking for permission.

Be aware that mages used by students in class must be either properly attributed or used in a “transformative manner” in order to be covered by Fair Use law. More on that here: http://www.arl.org/storage/documents/publications/fair-use-code-faq-students.pdf

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?

Thinking About Color

Photo of a watercolor palette

A watercolor tray with a chart that shows how the colors behave on paper.

“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 color theory. Some of us were taught color theory as a means to learn those specialized color concepts such as the law of simultaneous contrast. Others just remember the tedious exercises.

Photo of four flower still lives

Student Diane Platner tried out four different color harmonies for this subject.

Is there a way to make sense of color that is friendlier to the average art learner? I would say there are many, but what they all have in common is that they all involve today’s most precious commodity: time. “Serious” art students have for decades gravitated towards instructors with a mastery over color. Those instructors have in turn passed on their methods for making color decisions very much like passing on a recipe. Those students adopt those methods and use them forever.

Then there is the rare instructor who has developed their own teaching technique for helping students figure out color relationships on their own. Some host wonderful, meaningful studio discussions and others, like Josef Albers, have developed interesting exercises to stimulate this type of individual discovery. These two approaches require the context of a class in order for a student to have time to ponder what color is all about. In short, there is no quick and dirty method to “learn color” overnight.

Photo of a finished exercise with two limited palettes.

I send these exercises home as a way for students to experience a limited palette.

All of this would have no meaning if a students is not allowed to engage in the most important aspect of color learning for an artist, which is to integrate this new knowledge into the work they like to do. In my opinion, the only reason we learn about color is to develop and enhance our voice as visual artists. Questions like the role that color plays in our work, the mood that color variations bring to a painting, the importance that adopting a given palette might have or not have. This is why we would take a class, to engage in this type of thinking. No instructor can answer these questions for us. A good teacher will provide the space to answer them.

Plein Air Sundays Session 8

Topic
The cell phone as a tool of the landscape painter.

Directions To Lake Anza

No exact address is provided by Tilden Regional Park, but the lake is located at the end of Lake Anza Rd. The exact GPS Coordinates are
37.89700°N / 122.25359°W

If coming from Richmond, el Cerrito, Berkeley or Albany:
Go to the intersection of Arlington Blvd and Boynton St. Get on Boynton, go uphill until you see Colorado Ave. Continue going uphill until you hit Michigan Ave, then Spruce. Turn left on Spruce. You’ll cross Grissly Peak later, and find yourself on Wildcat Canyon Rd. Go on Wildcat until you see a Lake Anza sign pointing to your left. You will get to the multiple intersection, and take the one that seems to go in the opposite direction, which should be Lake Anza Rd. We’ll meet at the very last parking lot.

If coming from Emeryville, Oakland, Lafayette:

The Shasta Rd entrance at 1180 Park Hills Rd, Berkeley is your best bet. There is a map here. Go north on Grizzly Peak, then turn right on Shasta Rd. Make an immediate left on Park Hills Rd. Stay to the left at the fork on Park Hills Rd. Continue on Park Hills Rd, then cross Wildcat Canyon by making a right and an immediate left onto Central Park Dr. Make a right onto Lake Anza Rd. We’ll meet at the very last parking lot.