Painting With Acrylics: A Glass Vase Demo

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a great week. I received a lot of comments on Facebook this week about the acrylic examples I recently posted. All of them were demos from my acrylic painting class. While I talked about acrylic in a previous blog, I think this one on using acrylic to paint a glass subject is necessary as well.

Many people mentioned how difficult it is for them to capture the translucency of glass, particularly when the glass is colored. This blue bottle (below) was from a photo I took at the Nelson-Atkins museum of Art here in Kansas City. Ironically, it was in the gift shop, not the gallery, but to me it was a true work of art. I’ve always been fond of that particular shape, and am drawn (pardon the pun) to vases, bottles and decanters similar to this to draw and paint. My class enjoyed painting this one.

I’ve included some step-by-step examples from the class here for you, to explain the process of painting clear glass. I always tell students to first look and identify the “patterns” you see within the glass. These patterns are due to the color of the vase, combined with the effects of light shining through it.

How to Paint a Glass Vase in Acrylic

Acrylic painting tips

Step One: Start with the background first, using ivory black and titanium white. With these two colors, mix gray tones and block in the background patterns using a circular scrubbing motion.

The background is important for showing the edges because they vary from light to dark. So where the vase is dark on the edge, the background color is lighter. Where the edge of the vase reflects light, use a darker color in the background for contrast. Using just the black and white mixes at this stage gives you a contrast “map” to follow. You’ll place the color top.

Note: Using monotones is a good way to understand the way acrylic feels, without being overwhelmed by color theory. It also introduces the “out of focus,” blended background technique. This gives the piece a realistic look often seen in professional photos with similar backgrounds.

Acrylic painting tips

Step Two: In this stage, use color to block in the shape and color of the vase itself. I used Pthalo blue and titanium white (Prussian blue would have worked as well). Give particular attention to the edges. There are light highlights along the curved edges on the left. The edges are very dark on the lower portions of the vase.

Once the bottle is painted deep blue, add turquoise to create the illusion of the table edge. Then, streak light blue highlights (Pthalo blue and white mixed) over the top, going with the curve of the glass. You can see how this now makes it appear to have an outer surface and a back surface.

To bump up the background, use the circular scrubbing approach and add a red tone, blending some Cadmium red light mixed with white, which creates a peach color.

Acrylic painting tips

Step Three: The finished piece (above) has a little more color to it. Add some cadmium yellow mixed with white into the background. Then, built up the look of reflection in the glass. Note how the reddish colors from the background are now visible in the glass. Look at the reflections and you can see how they follow the curve of the glass. Some are horizontal, and some are vertical. Studying the reference to maintain the patterns is really important at this stage. To give it more shine, add pure white to the small, extreme highlights.

Painting glass is indeed a challenge, but it’s a fun one. I highly recommend taking some photos of interesting bottles and vases for your practice work. You never know when a practice piece will turn into a work of art, or perhaps a masterpiece!

Stay tuned for more helpful painting techniques in a variety of mediums. Since I teach all mediums and all subject matter, there will be no end to my artistic madness, and my need to share it in my blog!

Take care!
Lee


Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of ArtistsNetwork.com

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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