Friday, June 25, 2010

New work in acrylics

(Posted by Bill)
Recently I began working in acrylics. My gallery suggested that in the summer when there's a lot of tourist traffic, people might buy small pieces that weren't under glass, as they could pack them in their suitcases or carry-on bags rather than having them shipped.

I started my art career as a self-taught oil painter when I was 14. So, first, I thought small paintings in oils would be a good idea. But I really didn't like how long it takes them to dry. Having worked for the last 7 or 8 years in pastel, I'm spoiled. I like to lay a color down and be able to immediately lay down another color over it. So I thought maybe acrylics would be better, since they do dry quickly.

Here are the first three that I liked well enough to frame.

Down by the River, 9x12
This acrylic painting took me about three times as long to complete as it would have in pastel. It was my fault, not the medium's. Working in pastel for the past six years I had fallen into the habit of making corrections whenever I noticed the drawing or color problem. I liked using dozens of pastels and hopping around more or less randomly with no worries about used up or dried up paint. With acrylics you can't come back later, without re-mixing the color you need and that was where I lost a lot of time.

Still Standing, 8x10
This scene caught my eye as walked in the foothills of the Marlborough area in New Zealand's South Island. I did a pastel on the spot which didn't turn out very well. It was one of those situations where the wind forced you to hold the easel with one hand and paint with the other. And flies love it when you have both hands busy, especially those flies in New Zealand and Australia, which are more determined to crawl on you than American flies. Fortunately I had taken a good photo before I started painting on site, and that's what I used as reference for this acrylic. The best and worst things about acrylics are that they dry fast. With this piece, I had to do a lot of layering and the fast drying made it easy.

Standing Tall #3, 8x10
Several years ago I did this same scene twice in pastel, once plein air and again as a workshop demo from a photo. So I was very familiar with the subject, and thought that might help in working with a new medium. The cliffs are almost monochrome and were perfectly suited to a dry brush technique which I remembered from the distant past when I worked in oils. What I had forgotten was the time spent and the wastefulness of mixing all your colors.

I'll admit that pastels have spoiled me. I like grabbing the color I want and having it ready to use again today, tomorrow or next year.