Saturday, June 2, 2012

Back to the brush...

I've lately been experimenting with traditional materials again, specifically ink and acrylic and it's been a rush!  Even though it's been ages since I've tried inking with a brush, I think all the recent acrylic painting has helped with my handling with a brush, since I've found it much easier to get the lines I want than I could before.  Still need practice, but it's a helluva start.

I wanted to share some observations I've noticed during my acrylic explorations.  I think a lot of this stuff is pretty basic when you think about it, but it they're things that I've noticed that I thought would benefit someone starting out:

1) This was probably the most important - when you place a brushstroke, LEAVE IT.  It's amazing how many headaches I had clear up when I didn't fiddle or noodle with a dab of paint I just put down.  Paint it, leave it, move on.

2) Handling a brush is waaaaaay different for me than a pencil (which should be obvious, but my muscle memory says otherwise.)  A pencil I grind or carve into the page, making my marks heavy-handed but with assurance.  A brush I need to be much more delicate with, even if it's loaded up with paint most of it is hardly touching the page 90% of the time.  I guess if my pencil is carving into the page, my brush is just lightly kissing it.

3) I've also noticed I can be much more hectic with a pencil.  A brush requires deliberate strokes.  I know where I have to put my marks before I place them.  When I don't I noodle, and then everything turns into a smudgy mess.

4) I don't need nearly as much water as I think I do to work with acrylics.  At least, for the look I want.  I want my paint to go on opaquely, but not too thick, and have good coverage.  For that, I just need to dip my brush quickly into a jar of water then bring it into the paint.  I don't have to swirl it around to try and soak up more water and I don't need to dip it more than twice at most (once usually covers it.)  Just a quick dip to grab some water, then mix it into the paint on my palette, then I'm good to go.

5) ALWAYS use an acrylic matte medium on the page before you start painting.  I've been using watercolor paper for practice, and without the medium applied the paint just gets sucked right into the page.  The matte medium also helps seal any pencils I have underneath.

6) Something I need to practice more - dry brushing for modeling and edge control.  I've been using Golden Open acrylics (mostly for the extended working periods on the palette,) but it still doesn't lend itself to wet into wet painting like oils.  I suspect the better option would be to lay in the values and colors I want, then once they dry I can put things in such as rim lighting or softening an edge.

7) Incidentally though, a neat little trick I discovered for the initial lay in of paint - lightly spritzing the surface with water from a spray bottle then brushing it down is like oiling out a canvas.  The paint applies very smoothly onto the page and has great coverage and even gives it a longer working time than if the paper was dry.

So that's all I can think of for now.  I think I'll be moving onto oils after a few more experiments with acrylic, but for now I'm loving all the neat things I've discovered.

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