Flexibility of Acrylics by Feature Artist Alan Hunt
Whilst for the best part of the last 30 years all my paintings have been in watercolour, for some time now I've favoured acrylics. Don't get me wrong, watercolour is a wonderful medium especially for "soft" landscapes or detailed paintings, but its process is generally to overlay washes working from light to dark, the latter giving the painting depth from the foreground to the distance. Also, one can also use the white of the paper as another colour.
This technique can be adopted with acrylics, however, with acrylics you can also work in reverse from dark to light. The two paintings of the Swan and the Elephant show each of these processes; the Swan from dark to light and the Elephant from light to dark.
With the Swan I painted the dark background first, using masking fluid to cover the Swan, then I drew the reflection shapes (easily visible for painting with the pencil shining in the right light). By starting with the darker purple and then adding lighter tones, especially in the foreground, I can gradually build up to the pink shades. I left the paler and white reflections until I'd painted the Swan as I needed it to come alive to truly see the reflection, particularly the orange of its bill.
With the Elephant I started with the light background and gradually built up to the deeper tones to emphasise the craggy features on the Elephant. By using my fingers to scrub out areas whilst the paint was still wet I could create the effect of dust rising to partly obscure his legs and tusks. I borrowed the base colour throughout, even on the birds so they reflected the ground, adding the white highlights last. I made the birds sharper to bring them forward from the background.
Useful tip -
In each case, the darker purple for the Swan and the lighter background for the Elephant, I mixed a good volume of paint and kept it in a covered pot (an old cream carton) for later use. I then used this to mix the darker or lighter tones (putting them in yoghurt pots) and repeated the process to create further tones ending up with 3 or 4 pots of different tones of the original colour to use throughout the painting. This avoids trying to rediscover a colour a few days later if you've had to break off from painting. I use cling film to cover them, but any covered container will do to preserve your mixed paint and stop it from drying.
Blog by Alan Hunt - Daler-Rowney Feature Artist
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