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Acrylic is affecting my watercolor

Trying my hand at acrylic is slowly teaching me that paintings can be changed: if you don’t like something, paint over it.  What’s interesting is that painting with acrylic is affecting my watercolor paintings as well.  I now look at my watercolor paintings with new eyes: maybe there is something that really could be changed.

A perfect example:  Earlier this year (June) I painted David X 4.  Our model, David, was very creative in his poses and props, and I combined 4 different sketches of him into one painting.  And I thought it was finished. And I guess it was … then.

David X 4

David X 4 v1

This was the original David X 4, which I am now calling version 1.  It’s fine as is, but the new version is better.  In retrospect, I decided the left side of the painting was a little blah. It needed something more, but at the time I didn’t know what.

Somehow, the freedom to paint over things (with acrylic) is affecting how I look at my watercolor paintings … even though this time I didn’t even need to use acrylic.  I simply made the changes with watercolor.

David X 4

David X 4     12 x 15     $800

The changes are subtle. They make the left side of the painting more interesting and emphasize depth.

Who’d have thought that playing with acrylic would affect my watercolors in this way? The painting is rotating: the right side comes forward, the left side recedes. I’m much happier with David X 4 now.

Playing with Acrylic on Yupo, Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday’s blog;  now I’m playing with acrylic on Yupo, part 2. This time I decided to try some Golden Fluid Acrylics that I have from who knows when: Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Quinacridone Crimson, and Quinacridone/Nickel Azo Gold plus Golden High Flow Acrylic Titanium White.

First, I put down a few drops of each color, spritzed it with water and then moved the colors around using my home-made lift out tool (a cut up credit card).  I immediately learned a few things.

  • The white gets lost quickly.
  • The Fluid Acrylics are very intense; a little goes a long way. The Phthalo Blue, in particular, is very intense.
  • The Azo Gold changes color a lot, depending on how thick it is.

Reflection    4.5 x 6    $300

Red Mask

Red Mask    4.5 x 6    $300










Dancing Fools

Dancing Fools    4.5 x 6    $300

I have to keep reminding myself that once it dries, I can’t change it (unless I paint over it). I keep looking at them and thinking, “Well, if I wet it here I can…”   But I can’t.  It’s not watercolor.  It’s acrylic. (Sigh.)

But I love the colors.

Playing with Acrylic on Yupo

The painting I do at home is very different from what I create at the Art Students League. At home, I play. This week, I’m playing with acrylic on Yupo (Yupo is that plastic “paper” … like painting on a plastic dinner plate, except it’s rectangular).  And I’m also playing with my new lift out tool (a cut up old credit card).

First, I decided to experiment with red and green using the paint I already have from who knows when: chromium oxide green, cobalt titanate green and cadmium red light.  And I had some small pieces of Yupo (4.5 x 6), perfect for experimenting.  Finally I cut up an old credit card on the diagonal a couple of times so I’d have lift out tools of varying widths.

I squeezed some paint directly onto the Yupo and then started moving it around with a flat brush. The lift out tools came in handy toward the end.

Red and Green V

Red and Green V 4.4 x 5.9 $300

Red and Green IV

Red and Green IV 4.4 x 5.9 $300










Red and Green III

Red and Green III 4.4 x 5.9

Red and Green II

Red and Green II 4.4 x 5.9 $300










And last, but not least …

Red and Green I

Red and Green I 6 x 4.5 $300

Because of the colors, they are all vaguely reminiscent of Christmas: fir trees, red ribbon, candy canes. Even though I’m not religious now, I grew up with Christmas so that’s my reference.

This is fun.  Next time, I’ll have to try some different colors.



My favorite model is back…

Well, it’s a different day and a different color scheme, but the process is the same. Quick watercolor sketch the day before in the LPM (late PM) class and then create an acrylic painting using the sketch in the next day’s afternoon painting class.  And my favorite model is back… (Jason is one of the best models at the Art Students League).

Jason's Poncho

Jason’s Poncho      7×10      $500

I did the sketch using green watercolor (you can still see some of the lines) and then created the painting the next day using acrylic. After I’d already painted the outside shapes blue and red, I decided it would be better if the outside were white and the main color shape were in the center. Putting white on top of a color but letting some of the original color show through is something I’ve often wanted to do. But it’s the kind of thing I couldn’t do with watercolor.  Acrylic is so liberating!

And no, Jason didn’t really have a poncho or a red hat … that’s just the way the painting turned out.

I’m starting to get used to this acrylic thing.



Still no clue, but making progress…

Okay, three weeks into this experiment with acrylic and … still no clue, but making progress…

I’ve settled into a routine.  Well, it’s only been a week and a half, but it’s working so far.  In the LPM class (5:00 – 7:00) I do quick watercolor sketches from the model … five or six of them.  Then the next day, in the afternoon class (1:00 – 4:30) I create acrylic paintings from the ones that appeal to me the most.  The results are definitely mixed.

The beauty of this arrangement, however, is that in the LPM class I only have to worry about the composition.  And in the afternoon class I only have to worry about picking the colors and using acrylic paints.  And I’ve even started organizing my color choices: each week I pick a color combination and see what happens.  This week it was the split complementary of purple, yellow and orange.  Not a combination I would normally like but, hey, it’s a learning experience.

So… here is one of my quick watercolor sketches.  I haven’t painted it yet, so it’s just the sketch.

Jason Sketch

Jason Sketch

And here is one of my purple-yellow-orange paintings (the various shades of brown are different combinations of purple, yellow and orange).

Jason in White

Harumph    7 x 10     $500

You can still see in spots the blue of the initial watercolor sketch.  In some places I followed the sketch outline, in other places I ignored it or combined shapes.  The time delay from evening sketch to day(s) later afternoon painting makes it easier to forget what I had been looking at to make the sketch and simply focus on the painting itself.

Making progress.

I have no clue

I just started taking a painting class at the Art Students League in order to learn how to use acrylic paints. But I have no clue what I’m doing.

The instructor, Fran O’Neill has been very helpful, as have the other artists in the class. However, it all comes down to me: what do I want to paint and how do I get rid of all my really useful watercolor habits which are counterproductive with acrylic? It’s very frustrating.

No matter how many times I tell myself I can paint over something if I don’t like it, I still end up trying to plan the painting so those kind of mistakes don’t happen (’cause they’re hard to fix in watercolor).  Even though I know I should do the reverse with acrylic, it’s hard not to automatically start with the light colors and gradually move to the darker ones. I still unconsciously think of white as the color of the paper to be reserved and not painted, rather than something I paint on top of everything else.  I’m tearing my hair out (metaphorically speaking).

I won’t show you my very first attempts, because that would be too embarrassing. However, here are three quick studies in acrylic and the watercolor study they are based on.

First, the watercolor study on Yupo.


Space      4.5 x 6      $300

Next, my first acrylic on Yupo.  I simply put down some acrylic paint and let it swirl around until I saw something. The only difference is: this is permanent.  I can’t wash it off, as I can with the watercolor.

Happy Hippo

Happy Hippo     6 x 4.25     $300

And my next acrylic on Yupo: more of the same, except there’s really only one color (not counting the tiny bit of faded green left over from when I washed off the earlier watercolor painting).


Monster     6 x 4.25     $300

But the problem was, they looked too much like watercolor.  I wasn’t really doing anything very different.

Fast forward to something different:


Halloween     4.5 x 6     $300

Since I put the paint down with much less water, it doesn’t swim around so much.  I also experimented with scraping the paint while it was still wet with a palette knife ( I didn’t have the lift out tool I read about in the how-to book I bought). Actually, the man who runs the store at the Art Students League said to forget about the lift out tool; he just cuts up an old credit card and uses that. (It’s wonderful to have knowledgable people around.)

Well, to be continued. We’ll see what this week brings. I still really have no clue.