Acrylic Painting Tips with Kevin Kelly

This demo is a free excerpt from Daniel Brown’s article From Sardonic to Serene: Seeking the Spiritual in Landscape. You can read the full article along with many others in The Artist’s Magazine‘s September issue, now on newsstands! Keep scrolling to read all of Kevin Kelly’s acrylic painting tips, and to see his step by step demonstration.

Masking and Painting Ride the Champion

by Kevin T. Kelly

Step 1

1. Drawing and Masking:

Scroll all the way down to see a detailed list of Kelly’s materials. This large (48×80) painting was commissioned by Breitling, a Swiss company that manufactures high end, technical watches, often for the aviation industry. One of its watch lines is named after the luxury car, Bentley. The finished painting would be hung in Breitling’s flagship store in New York City.

After creating a detailed sketch with Prismacolor colored pencils on drafting film (Grafix Frisket film matte), I project and trace the image as a line drawing in graphite pencil onto the prepared canvas. I then tape off and paint the largest and simplest shapes first. After I’ve applied the tape, but before I lay down any paint, I brush on a thin coat of diluted Golden matte medium within the masked area, creating a seal to prevent the paint from seeping outside the mask. I use 3M #232 (tan) masking tape to create the actual painting mask. I apply 3M blue painter’s tape to extend the masked area, thus reducing the risk of splashing paint into adjacent areas. Once large or particularly detailed areas have been painted, I’ll tape large pieces of brown kraft paper over them for added protection from splashes and drips.

 

Step 2

2. Masking and Choosing Colors:

Often when I’m working on a large project or commission, I will hire an assistant. Most of my day is spent masking off areas and labeling which color goes where. I mix all the paints (Golden Artists Colors) myself and store them in labeled plastic containers for easy identification. All of the masked areas requiring a solid filling will be painted by my assistant while I continue to cut masks and mix paint. Toward the end of the day, I slow down and paint all areas requiring colors which are blended directly on the canvas.

Step 3

3. Protecting the Sky:

This photo shows the woman, sky, plane and most of the background nearly completed. I draped kraft paper below the plane to ensure that the dark gray of the plane wouldn’t splash or drip on the completed blue sky.

 

Step 4

4. Cutting Tiny Masks:

Cutting very tiny masks for intricate details can be tedious and annoying, and often requires cutting and recutting the masks several times before they’re right. The car in Ride the Champion is a Bentley with a license plate specified by Breitling. I knew the automobile was going to require a lot of concentration in painting the copious amount of blended colors, so I decided to get the bothersome details of the trunk, logo and license plate out of the way early.

5. Applying and Labeling More Masks:

A.

Step 5A

Here you can see the masks I’ve cut for the Bentley and the outline for the hillside in the background. My assistant will apply the solid colors; I label the areas that have to be blended so he will know to leave them for me to paint.

B.

Step 5B

This photo shows the completed hillside and, on the car, the blends applied to the exhaust pipes before the tape has been removed.

 

Step 6

6. Blending Colors:

At this point I’m working without an assistant because every shape in the Bentley needs to be blended. Painting the Bentley’s side and trunk is progressing, and I’m now taping off the rear window for a large blend. The 1/4-inch masking tape is very flexible, allowing for long and fluid contour lines. Where small details are needed (e.g., the Bentley logo), I will cover the area with 2-inch wide tape and cut the details out by hand with a No. 11 X-Acto blade. The tape over the license plate will remain in place for awhile to protect the already painted surface.

7. Completing the Picture:

A.

Step 7A

I’ve completed the roof, the windows and trunk blends, along with additional details in the door handle, rear lights and license plate.

B.

Step 7B

I turn my attention to the rear quarter panel and lower back part of the car along with the wings of the Bentley logo.

 

tam_sept15_Kelly08

8. Exactitude for the Rim:

I knew ahead of time the complexity of the Bentley signature wheel rim was going to be a tape-cutting nightmare, so I saved it for last in order to give it my undivided attention. To assist in understanding the complex shapes, using Photoshop, I stripped the rim out of my reference photo and had a print made to the same scale as it appears in the painting. This small section of the painting took an entire day to paint, about a third of the time it took to paint the rest of the car. With this method of painting, every single shape has to be masked off twice: once to paint the negative space around the shape and again to paint the shape itself.

I would varnish the painting with Golden Soft Clear Gel (gloss) as an isolation varnish and then with Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS as the final, removable varnish.

 

The finished painting!

The finished painting, Ride the Champion (acrylic on canvas, 48×80), as it appears in the Breitling flagship store at 5 E. 57th Street in New York City.

Materials

Paint: Golden fluid matte or heavy body acrylics

Gesso: Utrecht Artists Acrylic gesso

Brushes: Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II short-handled brushes and Series 7 kolinsky sables; Princeton series 6300 synthetic flats

Other: Prismacolor colored pencils

Masking tape: 3M #232 in 1/4-, 3/4- and 2-inch widths and 3M Blue Painter’s Tape in 2-inch width
[All photos by Sheri Besso]

This article is an excerpt from Daniel Brown’s article From Sardonic to Serene: Seeking the Spiritual in Landscape. You can read the full article along with many others in The Artist’s Magazine‘s September issue, now on newsstands.

Meet Kevin T. Kelly

“When I was in the fifth grade, long before I knew anything about art history, I recall seeing Grant Wood’s American Gothic on the cover of a magazine,” says Kevin T. Kelly. “There was an instantaneous recognition because Kellogg’s had used the image a few years earlier in a Corn Flakes ad campaign. I found the image captivating in its pared-down realism and ability to pull me into a magical narrative space within my own head. It was my first experience of fine art merging with mass media and popular culture.” Kelly has a BFA in sculpture from the Art Academy of Cincinnati. His most recent show was at Cincinnati Art Galleries (cincyart.com). His studio is the Essex building, which has 10-foot high ceilings, a concrete floor and an entire wall of north light windows.

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