Freshness – a new painting


The question is, how do you translate a sketch into a painting and retain the dynamic quality of freshness?

I’ve been working on 8 x 10 canvas panels, trying to get some freedom back into my work. I find the acrylics quite daunting because they dry so fast (yes, I know there are retardants and mediums that might help).

I started out with this  little 3 x 5 inch sketch (above) thinking that it was simple enough in composition and even in colour mixing for me to play around with. It’s a field note  with this bit of direction on it:
All grey with one thin grass green (line) high in pic plane.

The sketch is moody and the mark making is lively. For being quite dark, it has quite a bit of light in it. You can feel the sudden rain just coming or conversely, just gone by.

The sketch has some variety in the greys – the sap green colour has bled into some of the grey in the water. A warm dove grey has been underpainted in the top third, and the second grey, an overlay, is a moody mix of burnt umber and French ultramarine blue. The drawing has been made with a Pilot Hi-Techpoint V5 Extra fine pen.

Now here is the in-studio acrylic I’ve done using the sketch for information.


One of my problems is that I’m used to working with thin paints in oils. When you apply oils, they remain a little bit like butter and you can mix them together on the painting surface. In this acrylic painting, I brushed on a background over the whole surface but the colours did not meld as well, nor did I have much time to adjust the colours through working with them on the canvas. I”m not sure that it’s possible with acrylics. Before I stopped on this first go-around, I painted in the sap green stripe of grass on the river’s edge.

On the second stage, I painted in the trees and their reflections and ensured that they were dried before I put on the next layer. I find that it’s hard to get fine lines with this paint. If it’s too thin, it doesn’t carry enough paint to cover, and if it is thicker, one can’t obtain fine lines.

On the third go-around, I mixed a goodly proportion of  medium to the grey and used it like a glaze or a watercolour wash, directly over the trees, in the upper right of the sky and in the mid section of the water. I found this mixture applied streakily and I spent quite a bit of time managing where the streaks were unwanted.

Now I’m contemplating. The acrylic version seems so much more staid. I agree with Mrs. Stepford next door that I need to use thicker paint. I’m wondering if another layer of the grey wash/glaze will help the trees blend into the sky and river.

So there it is. Comments anyone? Suggestions?

And by the way, when I take photographs of these small works on canvas, I seem to get unwanted patterns from the canvas texture which my photograph shows on screen. Scanning the picture makes it even worse.

Have any of my readers come up against this problem? If so, have you found a way of correcting or avoiding it?

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7 Responses to “Freshness – a new painting”

  1. Yohuahuas Says:

    If it makes you feel better, i have the same problem – my sketches have a life that my paintings lack. used to lack. i’ve put painting aside and have been experimenting with camera and photoshop lately! But so there. Good luck!

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks, Yohuahuas,
    I took a look at your photo creations and they are truly wonderful. I’ll go back to look at them again for a closer inspection soon. I really liked one called Orchids.

  3. Carol Barber Says:

    I have been using acrylic since 2003 and keep rediscovering that I only like the end result if I start out very wet with water and flow medium on the canvas and then build up thick only in some areas. I also like the paint thick if I use Golden’s light modeling paste for a grainy soft texture. I also like the results on wood panels rather than canvas. But I get involved with my subject matter and start to forget to use my mediums then I am unhappy with the overall plastic look of acrylics. I have to rediscover my methods a couple of times a year.
    Good Luck and keep trying.

  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks so much for commenting and thanks for giving me tips to try. I looked at your web site and I see that you are very talented.

  5. swatch Says:

    Hey K
    You don’t say so but I assume your sketch is in watercolour, well it looks like it anyway. Being a little biased in this matter I like the sketch best – though this is not the point of your post. I know nothing about Acrylics. Is it possible to recreate the stuff that happens with blotches of paint and back-runs of water? Watercolour is so full of life. – S

  6. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks for commenting, Swatch,
    I agree with your comment about the liveliness of watercolour. I’m afraid my watercolours are quite tight, though. It’s my sketches that are lively. Just how do you get to where the paintings are lively too? That’s the question
    I think, actually, that you have the answer – it’s working from life, on the spot, and doing it, doing it, doing it, doing it until it becomes second nature.

  7. suburbanlife Says:

    Lookingforbeauty – several years ago at the BCFestival of the Arts i attended a workshop with Tiko Kerr who paints exclusively in acrylics. One thing he showed us is his method for keeping the ground and freshly put paint film most for subsequent reworking or wrking into.
    he used a plant mister full of water and blasted some sprays onto his canvas which allowed him to put down smooth passages quickly, and which moisture affected the edges of painted areas – it softened them. He tilted his moistened canvases this way and that to help paint flow and pool. He sure used his sprayer a lot. It seems to me that you have to paint strategically when wanting to exploit the filmic/ liquid potential of acrylics. Me, personally, I hate them, but it’s like any other medium – one has to play with possibilities inherent in the particular material. G

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