Special Effects in Acrylic: A Close-Up Look

Close-Up: Special Effects in Acrylic by Pat Stanley originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

My subject is the degradation of manmade structures. In Chromatic Aberration (acrylic, 30x40), the opaque gray passages suggestive of an architectural edifice cause some areas to recede optically and others to come forward. The result is an image that’s marked by the seeming effects of fire and water, as if a building were disintegrating.

I began by laying the gessoed canvas flat on the floor and pouring very diluted fluid acrylics (Golden quinacridone/nickel azo gold and transparent red iron oxide) onto the surface. Using water in a spray bottle, I sprayed and tilted the canvas to allow the colors to merge. As this thin, multicolored layer started to dry, I spritzed it with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol repelled the pigment, forming blotches. When the underpainting was dry, I drew the beams of a ceiling—using a watercolor pencil so that I could wipe off some lines later.

A I used masking fluid to save the underpainting (bright yellow) in various spots. Then, using diluted Mars black acrylic and a small sponge roller, I painted over most of the surface. You can see one coat on the boards of the beams and two coats on the sky to the left.

B What seems to be the dark red sky is actually a red area of the underpainting covered with two layers of diluted Mars black.

C I filled in some of the blotches in the underpainting with opaque grays that caused these blotches to come forward as if they were exploding.

D I used other opaque grays to solidify some beams. I followed the beam structure, as well as the light and shadow pattern, but I avoided painting over some of the interesting shapes in the underpainting.

Read more about Pat Stanley’s process in the July/August 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

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