Painting using Acrylics

Calzada de Orepesa, Spain

Calzada de Orepesa, Spain, 2005, Acrylics

Estromoz, Portugal

Estromoz, Portugal, 2005, Acrylics

Vimieiro, Portugal

Vimieiro, Portugal, 2005, Acrylics

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal, 2005, Acrylics

Portugese Coast, 2005

Portugese Coast, 2005, Acrylics












Andre – Painted in acrylics with a group at the Rockport Art Assoc., Rockport, MA


The title of this section is LANDSCAPE but I’ve included the painting of Andre because the thinking is similar. The best approach for me for acrylics is a rapid execution, loose treatment due to the fast drying characteristics of the medium both for people and landscapes. My center of interest is his eye on the left, (his right eye). If you paint both eyes with the same degree of clarity, you set up a confusing tension for the viewer.

As far as color is concerned, I used the principle of simultaneous contrast that states that a color may be enhanced and harmonized by using its complement in the shadow. The model had a florid, reddish complexion so I was looking for a place for green in the shadow, the complement of red. I found a place for green in the bounce light from the shirt in the lower portion of the shadow side of the head. I didn’t see green and was painting according to theory and, frankly, I just like the way it looks. Side planes tend to pick up influence from the background and neutralize, so at the left of the jaw under the ear out in the light, I used a neutral purple-red. As the values move toward front planes and lighten, I employ a principle called ‘spectrum painting’. So as the values lighten, they start at purple-red and then, red, Yellow-red, and finally yellowish for highlights.

For a soft edge where the shirt in the light meets the background, I used an intermediate value, which gives the impression of a soft edge and is useful for a fast drying medium. It can only be used if it’s in keeping with the treatment of the rest of the painting.
I deliberately lost the local of the cast shadow on the shirt because if the value change were too abrupt where the shirt meets the background, the eye would be tempted away from my center of interest. The local of the shirt in the light is lighter than the head so it should logically be lighter in the shadow.

Taormina, Sicily 2000

Taormina, Sicily 2000, Acrylics

Just before a trip to Sicily, Italy in April of 2000, I again began painting in acrylics. Toward the end of my time with Mr. Reilly I had learned acrylic painting because acrylics was the illustrator’s medium of choice. The sample illustrations in the ART SCHOOL AND ACTING section from my student days are painted with acrylics.
The reason to switch back to acrylics from oils after so many years was to facilitate painting in foreign countries.
A necessity for acrylic painting is finding a way to keep the paint wet while painting and from day to day. I have a small plastic box with compartments used by fishermen. I spray with water, both the box and the palette, during painting. The compartments contain my paint and one of them has cut-to-size water-soaked sponges. After the paint in the box is sprayed with water and the lid is closed the paint is protected from drying and is ready for use the next day.Water, the medium for acrylics, is of course readily available abroad and the paintings dry more rapidly than oils so they don’t have to be kept separated. I paint on watercolor blocks for an increased variety of sizes and, compared to the mahogany boards I had been using on foreign trips, a significant reduction in luggage space. Flammable materials are not required for acrylic painting which is important for airline security.
I have adopted the medium for these reasons and the results have been more than satisfactory.
The methods I employ for acrylics are the same as with oils apart from the particular requirements of the medium. The paint dries at a darker value than it initially appears so matching close values is difficult. By dry brushing the paint this can be overcome or the tendency for strokes to tell may simply be incorporated into the technique. Soft edges require a different paint manipulation than for the same result in oils, again dry brush, unless the edges can be softened while the paint is still wet. My overall aim is to make an acrylic painting look much the same as an oil. When changing media, however, it’s important to adjust to the new characteristics and use them to your advantage, ‘Listen to the paint.’ When I return home form a trip I mount the successful paintings on masonite, coat them with a protective transparent polymer and return to oil painting.
Painting with acrylics, Sospel, France, 2001

Painting with acrylics, Sospel, France, 2001

Finished painting

Finished painting