Acrylic Painting Techniques
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Acrylic painting is characterized by bright colors, sharp brushstrokes, and quality lines. One of the most desirable qualities of the medium is its ability to be used on a variety of surfaces and mixed with other media. Below are the most prominent techniques used to create a structurally rich painting that has both the soft- and hard-textured elements.
Dry brush is relatively simple to execute. Using a brush that has not been dipped in water, you can create a scratchy, textured, uneven movement of lines on your canvas. Make sure your brush is as dry as possible and loaded with paint for the optimal effect.
So I paint with a smaller brush, dip it into color, splay the brush and bristles, squeeze out a good deal of the moisture and color with my fingers so there is only a very small amount of paint left. Then when I stroke the paper with the dried brush, it will make various distinct strokes at once, and I start to develop the forms of whatever object it is until they start to have real body…. Drybrush is layer upon layer.”
One of the most impressive qualities of acrylic paint is its ability to modify its consistency; it can be applied in thick layers, or be applied lightly to create a thin, translucent hue. Using a washing technique, you can elicit a softness that resembles watercolor. Dilute your paint with a sufficient amount of water to create a translucent wash. Be sure to note that acrylic paints dry fast and set permanently.
Stippling is the creation of a collection of tiny dots, often used in landscape painting. Though acrylic is a relatively new medium, this technique originated in the 1500s as a method of engraving. Today, artists construct varying degrees of shading based on the closeness and boldness of the assemblage of dots as well as utilize different colors to establish real dimension.
Stippling is closely related to Pointillism, an approach associated with the soft flickering surface of small dots. Though the early masters of this technique, like Seurat, used oil or gouache, this technique can easily be applied to acrylic as well.
Splattering is a lively, unpredictable technique that relies on applied energy to achieve its aesthetic. It was popularized by Jackson Pollock, who is widely regarded today as the leading force behind the Abstract Expressionist movement. He worked mostly with gloss enamel rather than acrylic, applying the pigment to his canvases with a stick and creating his famous “drip paintings,” and ultimately revolutionizing the way art is defined.
To mimic Pollock’s texture with acrylics, use a wet brush, dip the bristles in paint, and direct your tool in the direction of the canvas. You can use a stencil to control where the paint lands if needed.
Much like the name suggests, dabbing is a technique used to “dab” accents of color onto the surface of a canvas. Using a stiff bristle brush or paper towel, simply apply the paint with quick, light pressure. For more depth, add multiple layers. Dabbing adds movement to your painting and is often used to illustrate bushes or greenery.
Similar to dabbing, sponging requires a cellulose sponge to apply paint in a springing motion, creating an irregular, textured pattern. Sponging is a great painting technique for beginners, as it’s visually pleasing, great for foliage, and hard to mess up.
Like dabbing, this technique first emerged during the Impressionist movement, where contrary to realism, artists aimed to capture momentary, fleeting effects achieved by a sponge’s irregular surface.
Though this technique is a bit more advanced, it is an easy way to add texture to the surface of a painting and can be beneficial in creating sweeping, flat layers. To achieve the effect, use a thick layer of paint and apply it to your canvas with the knife, much like frosting a cake. Palette knife can be applied to many different types of paints, offering texture and thickness to build up the surface of the canvas.
Often used when an artist is nearing the completion of a work, detailing should be done using much control and precision. Working with a small, fine brush, apply details and clean lines where needed. This is regularly performed to create particulars like the flowers within a landscape or other minute features that need careful attention.
A glaze is a thin, translucent film mixed with acrylic paint to create a rich, luminous hue and texture of the surface. By applying a transparent layer of glaze over another layer of opaque paint, you can create a unique, stained-glass effect
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