Acrylics: love at first plight

A beginner painter feels three things immediately upon embarking on his or her newfound hobby. The first is the thrill of attempting something new, an interest with virtually no restraints. The second is a feeling of sheer terror, which envelops you upon staring at your first blank canvas. The third is blatant astonishment at how much lighter your purse or wallet became after that initial trip to the art store.

A novice painter myself, I am grasping firmly to whatever tips and techniques I can get my hands on. I listen to my uncle as he energetically and eccentrically bounces our conversations between the three pieces on which he is currently working. I am glued to YouTube tutorials in the most unhealthy way. I steadfastly read the instructions on the back of my newest paint by numbers kit. (Kidding!)

Having to start somewhere, I decided to begin my artistic journey with basic acrylics in hand. About halfway through the ride, I realized that the feeling of terror decreased along with my growing relationship with the paint. Acrylics are the most forgiving and easy to work with of all mediums I have yet to try. Stick with them long enough and you’ll be taking them home to meet your mother.

Below are five basic tips that, when applied with the use of acrylics, will help you overcome initial painting plights.

  1. Onions – and paintings – have layers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that layering your objects from the background to the forefront is essential in creating a dynamic piece. Colors in the background should lack the richness of those in the foreground, especially your focal point. Keep layers from building up thickly by thinning your acrylics with water. If preferred, acrylics can be diluted to the point of having a watercolor-like consistency.
  2. Slow down time. With acrylics, you don’t have that slow drying time in between layers like you do with oils. Frustratingly enough, this means that mixing colors on your canvas for a seamless skyline or smooth river is a bit more complicated. Try using a retarder, which contains glycol, and will slow the drying process, as well as allow for a longer blending time.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail. Applied too much pressure to your canvas and left a disastrous blotch behind? Didn’t like how those trees turned out? No matter how badly you think you’ve ruined your painting, it’s 100 percent fixable. Acrylics dry fast and can be painted over, which means you can get over your mistakes and onto an even better re-creation quickly. Trust me -I know. I have a kitten who thinks it’s perfectly ok to leave paint-filled paw prints across any available piece of canvas.   

  4. Experiment. When I first began painting, I struggled to replicate grass. Finding the correct technique for painting certain objects is all about testing the waters. Experiment with different brushes to see how they respond to the paint. Use diverse strokes and pressures. I always keep a practice piece of canvas nearby, which eliminates the chance of error on the canvas I’m working on and ensures I haven’t loaded my brush too full. When you’re ready, testing out different additives can instantly add a stronger dimension and creative aspect to any canvas. 
  5. Patience: it’s a virtue, after all. At times I think I’m getting the hang of a certain technique, only to realize it doesn’t fit into the scope of the new painting I’m working on. Enjoy finding the right style of painting that fits your personality, and don’t be upset when things don’t turn out the way you expected. Oftentimes, that’s an indication of your true painting style coming forth. Be prepared that with each new painting comes new difficulties and techniques to overcome. Although the road can be slow and sometimes arduous, finding your creative niche will make painting with acrylics a pastime you can truly enjoy. 

7 responses to “Acrylics: love at first plight

  1. Very encouraging writing …India…What u have written here is absolutely true..

  2. Watercolor is my medium. I love the way that it flows and is so dynamic. I still have much to learn but have succumbed to the pressure of some of my friends to sell a few of my paintings to help support some missionary friends. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of someone else liking your painting so much that they want to pay for the priveledge of owning it. I only hope I can continue to paint pictures worthy of that desire…

    • I completely agree with you there – and you know that they will get great enjoyment out of the artwork. I especially feel that way when I give a painting to a close friend or family member.

      Watercolor can be frustrating to me because it has a mind of its own, so kudos to you for sticking with it and enjoying it!

  3. princessrainbowflower

    This is a great post with great advice.
    I would never say that I’m a great painter, but I dabble in it.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    check out my blog:

  4. I agree with you completely – it’s relaxing, yet challenging, and that’s what I enjoy.

    I’m taking a weekly art/wine class and we are exploring beginner watercolors, pastels/drawing and acrylics. Watercolors have opened up an entirely different world to me these past few weeks – working from light to dark and being at ease enough to allow the paint to do what it will (and trust me – it will, with all the audacity of a five-year-old hopped up on sugar!). It’s been such a fun experience. I recommend trying it sometime! Watercolors, I have found, pair nicely with a great bottle of moscato! 😉

  5. I love to paint but I am somewhere 400 levels below novice. I do it for fun. Painting is relaxing and gives me the ability to focus on something other than everyday chaos. I also work with acrylics and couldn’t agree more with your post. I found you from the freshly pressed but will continue to read because I know your blog will provide me with great insight and inspiration. Thank you!

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