How to Create Art That’s Colorfully Chaotic and Without Constraint

You may know Chris Cozen as an acrylic painting teacher; perhaps you’ve even read her recent blog post on “10 Ways to Revive Your Studio Spirit When You’ve Hit a Brick Wall.” She’s back with an insightful explanation of how she uses acrylic glazes to transform abstract shapes into serene compositions. Cozen’s writing is almost lyrical, as you’ll see in this exclusive newsletter. Once you’ve absorbed her process, check out this preview of her video on glazing techniques, which is included in Chris Cozen’s Ultimate Acrylic Collection (with bonus video). It features DVDs, art supplies and more. 

Until next time,
Cherie

Acrylic art by Chris Cozen

Acrylic art by Chris Cozen

Acrylic Art, From Chaos to Calm by Chris Cozen 

I don’t know when my love affair with glazing began, but I’m still crazy in love with the process. Glazing techniques allow me to shift and control color, value, and depth within a composition. When I work, my first layers are all about laying down areas of delicious vibrant color, allowing the transparent pigments to overlap and mingle. I love wetting my brush and washing water over the freshly applied paint, watching it bleed and flow one into the next. As long as I stick with my transparent pigment choices, I’ll avoid making mud. At this stage I’m not thinking about what forms might be there or what will happen next. I’m determined to enjoy and experience each layer of the painting process. This first layer is truly colorfully chaotic, energetic and totally without constraint. 

When I’ve exhausted my color-playing, chaotic layer or run out of space, I move onto contemplation. I take a good long look at what’s hiding in plain sight. Is there a space that could be a flower or a figure? Is there a sense of a distant landscape? I never know what will present itself. I think this process is a lot like looking for pictures in clouds, a skill I perfected as a child. Once I’ve identified some areas I’d like to work with, I know I can either push them back or bring them forward with glazes. Blocking glazes are semi-opaque mixtures that are used to push a layer of color into the background, muting its intensity. I use this opaque glaze mixture with a negative painting technique to allow the areas I want revealed to come forward. I can control how much or how little of the underlying color layer shows by adjusting the ratio of glazing medium to paint. 

Acrylic painting techniques, by Chris Cozen

An example of stage 1 (left; chaos) and the first layer of blocking glaze (right; calm)

This process goes on for several more layers until the entire composition has been fully developed. I add many color glazes to the areas I blocked earlier to develop a rich and complex backdrop for the composition. I then add shadowing glazes to provide depth and dimension. 

Understanding and utilizing glazing techniques can bring a sense of depth and refinement to your work that no other skill can offer. It’s almost magical to see students apply this skill to their work and watch the transformation. I hope you’ll take the time to expand your painting repertoire with glazing skills. You’ll never regret it! ~C.C.

Preview of Acrylic Painting: Glazing Techniques with Chris Cozen

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