How do I achieve this effect with acrylics?

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pairofjacks wrote
on 11 Jan 2011 4:35 PM

I have been painting off and on for nearly 30 years.  I typically paint things that I envision or paint

things for family and friends.  Recently I've seen an effect using (this is what the artist told me) acrylics.

The photos below are examples of the effect painted on canvas.  If anyone has any knowledge on how

to achieve this look, could you please let me know and if you don't mind sharing, please provide details

of the method and products used.  I've tried replicating this effect several times and have wasted a lot

of materials and canvas trying to figure this out.

Thank You


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on 18 Jan 2011 1:25 PM

I too find this look very interesting.  My first thought was that it was done with gel mixed with paint and having a palate of colours mixed up so that one could apply and intermingle the colours,  perhaps using a palette knife to apply.  A couple of books you may want to look at are:  

ARTEFFECTS by Jean Drysdale Green, ISBN 0-8230-2529-2 published in 1993 by Watson-Guptill Publications - and  On page 100 one method shown is to apply solvent-based ink and let it merge with already laid-down acrylics.  Another (101) applies mineral spirits to a wash of acrylic paints.  It also shows effects with modelling past (108) to mention a few.  This book also deals with oils, watercolour, gouache, etc.  

The second book called ACRYLIC INNOVATION by Nancy Reyner, ISBN 978-1-60061-864-2.   She also has a title called ACRYLIC REVOLUTION.  In the 'Innovation' book on page 129 you can see an effect on Yupo paper,  on 131 pouring puddles of a colour mixed with GAC 800 spreading this out then spraying with isopropyl alcohol (it doesn't show the end result).  But this book is devoted to acrylics and many ideas you can try.  It also has a 14 minute DVD you can watch - I haven't looked at it yet.

In trying to find a method, did you try using gel, paint(s) and a palette knife?

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KatPaints wrote
on 18 Jan 2011 4:33 PM

This can be achieved several ways; know that you will not get an exact replication, but can get similar effects.

Notice in the middle image the bottom blue is gradated and blends into the dark sepia brown, then it transitions into to the blue then gold..... I would start on a slick surface and create a roughly blended blocked in area using acrylics - use a drying retardant mix (try with and without)so that it is the consistency of an enamel paint. 

Look at the top purple and yellow design. See the yellow running into the purple? That tells me that a thin mixture of yellow paint was applied and then swirled around with some wet purple over some dried areas (you can see purple brushstrokes going a different direction than the yellow veiny drip.),  or air was blown through a straw, but allowed to have a controlled and directed drip. I would also experiment with allowing the blocked, gradated areas of color to dry and then splash some baby oil or mineral spirits onto the surface, then take thinned acrylic ( a bit thinner than enamel) and pour over areas. The oil will repell some areas and you can try to direct the paint somewhat. When dry, wipe off the oil. Paraffin wax will also have an interesting effect. You can also try a marbelling effect starting with that blocked in gradated painting using Matisse Faux finish and marbelling gel. (I have not used this medium though.)

My guess is that this was done in at least 2-3 stages and something was used to repel the paint- mineral spirits?? and then let it drip.

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Rosella_D wrote
on 23 Jan 2011 9:50 PM

I agree this seems most likely achieved over a number of sessions with the paintings. Acrylics allow for a marvelous layered effect if patiently utilized! Alternating thick, opaque layers with thinner, more watery layers will produce more gradients and enable you to achieve sharper edges of tone and color.  These are gorgeous paintings! Good luck!

It is better to get something done late than never.

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 13 Feb 2011 7:44 AM

While I've not tried any of these, I've read that the use of oil or water can possibly be used as already suggested by others. I've also read about using alcohol to obtain a marbled effect. You lightly brush rubbing alcohol over wet acrylic and when it dries the acrylic is marbled. I'm self taught and have had many starts and stops over the years. So, I'm far from as experienced as you. Thus, I'm still struggling with the basics. The examples you provide are beautiful


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vrashton wrote
on 17 Feb 2011 9:58 AM

You might want to try using Yupo paper it can give very similar effects, when using acrylic very wet. Do not try to mix the colours allow them to do what they want.

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rsfloresart wrote
on 17 Feb 2011 7:40 PM

Doing some light reading came across this:
You might want to check out the website. Resources>Publications> The Acrylic Book .Chapter 4 Applications - Pouring



Robert's Studio

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The_furr wrote
on 15 May 2011 1:40 PM

Im not much of an expert but to me it looks like highly liquified acrylic and then they turned the canvas or blew it on it with their mouth.  Also I agree with others that alcohol could have been used as well.  There was definitely many sessions of applying color and it looks like gels (liquified again) were used to obtain most of the texture.  Hope this helps...

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ValeriaSmith wrote
on 23 Apr 2014 1:38 PM

Starting with a well primed canvas, paint a background painting with the colors you intend to use, using color blocking method, once dried (about 1/2 hour). you can use masking fluid to block off small areas, this comes with practice and experimenting as where to place the areas of masking fluid, you can also brush more paint into those areas to get a feel of where to place them. Then using large amounts of paint (I use straight from the container) apply with a palate knife like icing a cake. (look at the two blues in the bottom middle pic) once you spread one paint start with another color without cleaning the palate knife (only clean it when working with a different color group) and spread second color. Then step back and look at your painting, with 30 years of experience you will be able to get a feel for the areas to work with. You can lay your palate knife loaded with paint down on the painting and lift and turn your wrist outward, kinda in a flicking manner. Using the same color palate you are working with thin with pouring medium and continue to work with your painting. It takes practice so start on something small. Well primed paint boards are cheap enough to practice on, always remember a good painting starts with a good foundation and then build up. This artist (I recognize the work, she's one of my favs) is self-taught with no formal training and is just super talented, so I would imagine it took some time to acquire her technique. I recently did a black and white like this, it's so awesome. These are the techniques I used. I do not pretend to know how this artist paints. There is no set way to do this, it's not a science. Have a idea of what you want it to look like and then let the paint take you there. Good luck with this endeavor. You may never achieve HER technique but you will achieve your own.

This probably goes without saying but working with you canvas laid on a table is necessary when working with more liquid paints. And several layers of paint is used.

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