5 Acrylic Paint Application Techniques

I’m always excited at the start of an acrylic workshop. Whenever I start a class, I ask students what their goals are. In a painting class, often many students express to me a similar goal: “I want to get past that stupid AWKWARD STAGE!” I use the term awkward stage in my acrylic painting books. The awkward stage refers to the painful point in the painting process where everything is blocked in and you feel nothing looks good. No amount of color or technique seem to blend together and the painting-in-progress looks rough and feels disconnected.

In fact, when I’m in this awkward stage, I often think the painting looks like a giant mess. This mess, that is the awkward stage, is often the point in the process where an inexperienced, beginner artist will quit. They feel as though they can’t overcome the awkwardness and know not where to go from there. Not only is this stage of painting awkward, it’s irritating too; part of you knows the awkward stage is inevitable and you must conquer and overcome. But how? Without proper guidance, the future of your painting looks bleak and the painting itself looks, well awkward. Good news, painting with acrylic is awesome because absolutely nothing is permanent. You can cover up anything in minutes.

For this reason, I call acrylic “endlessly workable.” Once the base colors of your painting are in place and you create a “color map” for your piece, you can add endless details on top of the base. To conquer the awkward,  I use a variety of applications. Below are a few of my favorites:

1. Dry brushing: This is where you scrub layers of colors on using small amounts of paint. This is when it actually feels like you are drawing with paint as the stroke is similar. You use the same hand action you would when applying colored pencil.

2. Washing: This is when you apply a thin layer of diluted paint over the colors already applied. The thin veil of color allows the colors underneath to still shine through.

3. Dabbing: This stroke is used when you are adding texture.  You can apply dabbing if you want to create bushes or texture seen on the ground. With a stiff bristle brush, the color, used somewhat thick without added water, is applied with a pouncing motion of the brush or with quick dabs. Dabbing can be done in multiple layers to build depth.

4. Sponging: This is similar to the dabbing technique, but rather than using a brush, you tear pieces from a kitchen cellulose sponge, and dab the paint on with a piece of sponge. The texture of the sponge gives a nice, irregular pattern that closely resembles foliage.

5. Detailing: This is when you use a smaller, pointed brush to add clean lines and details. This is where you use a lot of control to create definite shapes and precise edges. The other applications mentioned create illusions. Use detailing to create definition. The art shown here are examples of the phases of the painting. A landscape is always painted from back to front. You can see in the first example, that the canvas was divided into two parts. First, a horizon line was drawn across the canvas in pencil. The horizon line should rarely be right in the middle of the canvas. In this case, the sky was the focal point, so the horizon line was dropped below the center of the canvas. The sky was based in with the blue/violet tones in the upper area. We then added the pink tones and blended down. To prevent creating green in the sky, we stopped, and allowed this area to dry.

painting with acrylics lee hammond 8.16.14 stage 1

Painting with acrylic stage 1

Next we moved down to the horizon line, started the yellow areas, and moved upward adding the orange and red tones until the two areas came together. Then we used the dry brush technique to add the illusion of wispy, multi-colored clouds throughout the backdrop. The second example shows how we based in the color of the water below the horizon line. All of the colors of the sky are reflected down into the water. It was important to make sure the white sunspot was reflected directly down, as if it were a mirror image. The water was applied with more fluid paint, to make it appear smoother than the sky. This is the awkward stage where things seem to come to a standstill.  Persevere.

painting with acrylics lee hammond 8.16.14 stage 2

Painting with acrylic stage 2

The third stage is when we added the tree row to the horizon line. This really helped create the illusion of distance by dividing the composition. The background and foreground are now clearly defined.

painting with acrylics lee hammond 8.16.14 stage 3

Painting with acrylic stage 3

The final stage is where everything comes together. You can see how adding the trees in the foreground now divides the compositions into three distinct layers – the background, the mid-ground, and the foreground. This gives it the look of realistic depth and distance. The glow around the trees add realistic lighting and the added detail of the sailboat is the icing on the proverbial cake.

painting with acrylics lee hammond 8.16.14 stage4

Painting with acrylic stage 4

Give acrylic a try! My book and DVD about landscapes in acrylic will equip you with all the techniques you need to succeed!

Bye for now,
Lee


Edited by Meghan Norton, eMedia Production Coordinator | F+W, A Content + eCommerce Company

Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond

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