Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Morning class, last week I was struck by this image of these beautiful colourful cast shadows.

Spring sunshine was pouring through the wrought iron railings on the balcony and casting all these amazing shapes of the plant leaves onto the studio wall. I really, really liked the way they framed the rubber plant and I also liked how flat the shadows were in contrast to all the textures that I saw on the front of the aged terracotta pot.

You can be put off by painting shadows or tackling greens because they seem too complicated.

So for this lesson, I want you to think about the drawing first—a tonal underpainting and then a minimal painting on top. Spend more time on the shadows and the lights to create a painting that captures the feeling of sunlight.

I’ve put together a detailed photo step-by-step (with a few video time-lapses as well), so you can approach painting shadows and greens with ease.

 

Downloading the Reference Photo

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

The photo above can be ‘clicked’ and ‘Save image as’, so you can use it as a reference image, print it out and follow along with the video.

You can also download a High-Resolution Image here.

Materials you will need:
Brushes

  • Round – Princeton Aspen size 4, series 6500
  • Flat – Rosemary & Co – Small Flat ‘Bright’ Golden Synthetic, Size 12, Series 302
    (I use a 2-inch decorator brush to apply a flat coloured ground before drawing the painting out)

Support

  • Canvas Board 20.32 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 inch)

Palette Knife

  • RGM Classic Line, Medium size 45, Diamond-shaped, cranked (angled) handle. I use an RGM 45 for mixing the paint.

Drawing

  • Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm HB pencil
  • Faber Castell Putty Eraser
  • F&W Mixed Media Paint marker, Daler Rowney, 1mm tip.

Other Materials

  • Kitchen roll/paper towel
  • Clean water
  • Metal double dipper (you could use two small pots)
  • Tear-off palette or stay-wet palette (A4 size White tear-off palette from Daler Rowney)
  • Ruler or straight edge.

Paints – The Colour Palette

I’ve used a mix of Golden Heavy Body colours, Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic (also called Artists’ Acrylic) and Old Holland artist quality acrylic colours.

  • Titanium White (Golden)
  • Raw Umber (Golden)
  • Neutral Gray 5,6,7 (Golden)
  • Cadmium Yellow Light (Golden)
  • Venetian Red (Old Holland)
  • Cobalt Violet Hue (Golden)
  • Cobalt Blue Hue (Golden)
  • Green Gold (Golden)
  • (Raw Umber High Flow Acrylic for the Mixed Media Marker)

Medium

  • Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss  (Golden Paints)

Getting a feel for the subject

Check out what power tools you can hear in the timelapse background!

I started with a sketch to see how the values worked together. I really liked the busyness of the leaves but felt I could keep the cast shadow and pattern on the wall as a simple flat value.

You can read more about the sketching materials I used here  (and there is an Urban Sketching Course that goes into more depth about plein air sketching with pens)

Step 1. – Preparing the Ground

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I dilute a little N7 Neutral Grey with water and Airbrush Medium. The Airbrush Medium helps retain paint film integrity when working in thin watery layers. I apply the paint in a thin even coat using a 2-inch decorator’s brush.

The neutral pre-mixed colours by Golden are a combination of Burnt Umber, Bone Black and Titanium White if you’d like to mix your own.

Pro tip: You can read more about thinning acrylics in this article on painting surface absorption

Step 2. – Drawing Out

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil and Midori Ruler

For this painting, the majority of your time will be spent on the drawing and the value underpainting.

When I started this sketch, I didn’t quite realise how many angles and lines there are! The repeated pattern in the shadows is worth spending time on and will take a bit of time to get right in comparison to the central subject of the plants.

I’m using a 15cm Midori Black Aluminium Ruler to draw the angles and straight lines.  Also, I’m always looking for the shape of the cast shadows of the leaves cast onto the wall on the left-hand side.

Once the drawing is complete, I lightly rub a kneadable putty eraser over the surface to remove any excess graphite before painting on top.

Step 3. – Tonal map with an Acrylic Marker

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Golden High Flow Raw Umber in a F & W Mixed Media pen with a 1mm tip

I use a mixed media marker to establish a tonal map in the drawing. This is a 1mm tip marker filled with a High Flow Acrylic paint. It enables me to draw the sharp edges on the leaves quickly and start to see how the shapes are working together.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Step 4. – Painting the Darkest Darks.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Raw Umber Heavy Body Paint, Golden Acrylics

I use a heavy body Raw Umber and a round synthetic brush from Princeton to paint in the darkest areas of the pot. This brush has a nice stiffness and allows you to paint detailed areas and block in larger passages quickly.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I’m altering the dilution by adding a touch of water to increase the flow. On areas of the reference that are warmer, I wash in the Raw Umber with a watery wash. This is an indication to remind me that those areas will have warmer colours painted on top in the later stages.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Notice how the thinner application of the Raw Umber appears  warmer in comparision to the tone mass of Raw Umber when painted thickly.

I’ve also noticed in the reference image, a solid vertical shadow in the background competing with the plants, so I’m going to use artistic license and leave that out of the painting.

Step 5. – Painting the Architectural Shadows

I switch to Neutral 5 and 6 and work between these to add in the shadow pattern on the buildings. I paint most of the lines freehand and use a straight edge to paint odd ones.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I use a straight(ish) piece of foam board to draw the architectural shadow lines.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

So at the end of this stage, we have a warm base from the Raw Umber and cooler shadows from the Neutral Grays.

Step 6. – Adding the Lightest Lights

I mix a touch of Raw Umber with Titanium White to paint in the lightest areas, this mix will do most of the light block in, apart from a very small pure white area on the bottom right

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Step 7. – Adding Purple Shadows

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Now we can add some colour to create those fab shadows. I’m using Cobalt Violet Hue from Golden Paints. Cobalt Violet Hue can be hard to track down, so you could also use Ultramarine mixed with Quinacridone Red.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I mix some of the Cobalt Violet Hue and a touch of Cobalt Blue. This is then muted down with Titanium White and Raw Umber. Still using the round brush, I paint it over the cast shadows. I lighten the colour as it gets closer to the top of the painting.

This allows me to better judge the warmth of the terracotta pot.

Step 8. – Adding Warmth to the Pot

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I’m using some Venetian Red and white, just to introduce the warm areas to the pot, and also reinforce the warmer leaves. I lighten the mix to indicate where the sunlight hits the side of the pot.

Once this was painted in, it felt a little too cool as a red and feel it needs more yellow mixed in. (A Light Red would have been a closer match than the Venetian Red)

Step 9. – Introducing Yellow

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

To move the colour towards orange I’ve introduced some Cadmium Yellow Light. This will do two things:

1. I’ll be able to warm up the red on the pot
2. Mixed in with the Raw Umber will create muted greens for the leaves.

You can start to see in the video above,  how the yellow enables a more harmonious orange hue and a muted green onto the leaves.

Step 10. – Judging & Refining the Greens

Building on our muted greens, I add a touch of the Cobalt Blue to make a more intense green. This is layered onto the previous colour. I’ve swapped to the flat brush and am diluting the paint with a little Glazing Liquid.

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I layer up more intensity to the greens by using a little Green Gold. This is lovely transparent green, which is great for capturing that lichen feel on the front of the weathered pot. I’ve also added a warm glaze to the shadow but instantly felt it was competing too much with the pot.

The final piece

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

I cleaned up the cast shadow and reintroduced the purple hue, I’ve also added a few fineline highlights in the centre of the leaves. A little Green Gold glaze using glazing liquid gloss finishes off the painting.

 

Continue ReadingCapturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows (Acrylic Painting Tutorial)

Van Gogh Self Portraits at The Courtauld, London

Van Gogh Self Portraits at The Courtauld, London

‘People say that it is difficult to know oneself but it’s not easy to paint oneself either’
Excerpt from a letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, September 1889

My first introduction to the Dutch painter Vincent Willem van Gogh was at school. A tortured artist who cut off his ear and painted thick, brightly coloured swirly paintings.

He felt dramatic, passionate and extreme.

12-year-olds tend to want to produce art that looks more realistic, so I think at the time, I wanted to try and paint like Cezanne. Cezanne’s still life’s hit the dizzy heights of being recognisable yet achievable, with a nice painterly style.

But thinking back, I probably felt I was being sophisticated and different; copying Van Gogh as a young painter seemed too obvious.

It wasn’t until an art trip at 16 to the National Gallery, London that I rediscovered the Sunflowers…

Continue ReadingVan Gogh Self Portraits at The Courtauld, London

New! Acrylic Impressionistic Seascape Course

New! Acrylic Impressionistic Seascape Course

Morning class, I’m Will Kemp and welcome to A Cornish Seascape, the second painting in my series of short courses.

‘The Morning Paintings’ are designed to be easy-to-follow single project courses; you can complete them in just a few 1hr painting sessions.

Each one follows the same approach.

  • A single painting from start to finish.
  • A limited colour palette.
  • A handful of brushes.
  • A small canvas.
  • A simple subject.
  • Taught over 3 x 45-minute lessons.

You can see student results from the first painting in the Morning Paintings series here.

Simple Impressionistic Brushstrokes

I’ve started this series because sometimes you can find yourself overthinking the end result of a painting, and the pressure of having to make it a masterpiece can keep you from even starting!

I find setting aside 1hr every morning really helps overcome this feeling of being overwhelmed; in this second short course, we’re tackling a glittering seascape from the south coast of Cornwall.

This course has been designed with small, bite-sized lessons; you’ll be building your knowledge and your painting without the task becoming too much. I’m keeping it very simple with just a handful of materials, but we’ll still get a good range of mixes even using a minimal palette.

In this seascape, the two sailboats give us a great focal point; they also provide a real sense of scale. Having a contrasting focal point against a smooth blend of a sky and cooler softer tones of the far hills sends your eye into the distance. Framed by contrasting values of dark rocks, set against the gradation of the depth of tones within the sea creates realism.

We’ll cover the preparation of your surface & drawing out, mixing colour strings and blocking-in. Starting with just two colours, showing how important it can be to get a grounding in your painting, establishing a tonal range so you can start to judge everything from that initial set-up.

New! Acrylic Impressionistic Seascape Course

Release the Pressure of Perfection

We build thin layers of watery washes followed by thick impasto marks using simple impressionistic brushstrokes. This course will help you to ‘loosen up’ whilst the step-by-step instruction will keep you on track.

It’s been kept to be really, really simple, so when we come to add that punch a vibrancy of colour, later on, all of a sudden your painting comes together in an instant, from all the work we’ve done up to that stage.

And in the final lesson, we will introduce the perfect pigment for turquoise seas; we then introduce dappled light. By having these dashes of reflections, it evokes that memory of a glimmering sea.

So find a comfy seat, a strong cup of coffee or a pot of teaand see what you can achieve in a 1-hour painting slot.

Gain confidence, and embrace the process of practice!

You could make a big step forward in the painting every day, and after three days, or even over a weekend, I think you will be amazed at how far your painting has progressed!

What’s in the Course?

  • 1 x Impressionistic Seascape from start to finish, based in the studio working from a reference image.
  • 3 x downloadable video lessons, split into separate chapters that follow on sequentially. Step-by-step instructional videos so that you can follow along at your own pace.
  • Each stage is a detailed yet easy-to-follow process.
  • Lifetime access, downloadable on separate devices.
  • One-time payment.
  • Downloadable jpeg reference images and reference line drawings.
  • Printable Class materials list.
  • 2 hrs of detailed video instruction.

(You will need a printer or print shop for the reference image)

Learn more about the course here: A Cornish Seascape Acrylic Course

Continue ReadingNew! Acrylic Impressionistic Seascape Course

How to Quickly make Sense of a Complicated Landscape Scene

How to Quickly make Sense of a Complicated Landscape Scene

I had an email from a student recently with a great question,

I’m wondering how to start painting this picture. There are so many colours, trees and bushes so I think it gets so messy. Do I start with the sky in the background and work my way forward and finally paint the trees? – Ulrikke

The photo that accompanied the email was a scene crowded with trees. Lots of layers all on top of each other, overlapping leaves and foliage coming towards the viewer with almost no visual sky.

Continue ReadingHow to Quickly make Sense of a Complicated Landscape Scene

The Art Studio Renovation Diary – Update

The Art Studio Renovation Diary - Update

After years of painting trips, holidays and a rollercoaster of a property search, we’ve finally found our dream studio in Cornwall.

Leaking roofs, copious amounts of whitewashing, numerous skips, and an epic space once the working studio of Royal Academy artist Sandra Blow, in glorious St Ives. 

I’ve been taking lots of photographs and Vanessa has been writing a monthly journal following our progress on the build. We’ll be sharing more of the Art Studio Renovation Diaries in the New Year.

Here’s a brief update of the journey so far, bringing this eclectic empty property back to life. The highs and lows of creating a studio, home and new life fuelled by large amounts of ice cream. 

First things first, the Annexe

It seemed like the most logical place to start. Small, manageable, single-storey, and far enough away from living conditions to be contained.

The Annexe is where it would all begin.

Continue ReadingThe Art Studio Renovation Diary – Update

A Thanksgiving Thanks!

A Thanksgiving Thanks!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank all the students and well-wishers that have supported the Art School blog over the last year. It’s so inspiring when students share their creativity, progress and fantastic painting successes.

Have a great weekend, Vanessa & I are wrapping up warm, soaking up nature and walking the coastal path …. which so happens to pass an ice-cream parlour. I’m hoping to test if my Dad’s theory that ‘You get bigger portions in the Winter’ is true!

Will

p.s. I’ve been working on a new ‘Morning Paintings’ Course which will be launching in the next couple of months. I’ll keep you posted.

Continue ReadingA Thanksgiving Thanks!

Fishing Boat at St Michael’s Mount – Acrylic Step-by-Step Tutorial for Beginners

acrylic boat tutorial

Will Kemp, Fishing Boat at St Michael’s Mount, 10 x 8 inches, Acrylic on Board

Morning class,

After posting photos from my recent trip to St Michael’s Mount, the most popular request was to create a painting tutorial of the little blue boat. So here it is, a new free step-by-step acrylic lesson!

Grab a brew, maybe a biscuit or two (now the weather’s turning a bit more autumnal I’ve got a piece of particularly good ginger cake from the local farmers market) and let’s get painting, I really hope you enjoy it.

Continue ReadingFishing Boat at St Michael’s Mount – Acrylic Step-by-Step Tutorial for Beginners

Exploring St Michael’s Mount, the Castle & Recovered Portraits

Exploring St Michael's Mount, the Castle & Recovered Portraits

After a week of steady mizzle, the skies cleared, and it felt like the perfect autumnal day to head off and explore the nearby island of historical St Michael’s Mount in Marazion.

Nestled on top of a rocky hill, surrounded by blue water, it truly is an incredible sight, even as we approached by road: a medieval church, ancient castle and a family home rise impressively out of the sea.

Exploring St Michael's Mount, the Castle & Recovered Portraits

As we negotiated our way through the old town of Marazion and along the slipway, we went past this super cute cottage with the hand-painted door weathered by the sea air.

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How to Create Strong Painting Compositions using ‘Notan’ Design

notan painting

‘The combination of lights and darks especially as used in Japanese art : the design or pattern of a work of art as seen in flat areas of dark and light values only.’- Webster Dictionary

st-ives-harbour-morning

Out for a beach stroll early this morning, as the sun was coming up behind the boats in the harbour, it was an idyllic image.

I had sunlight, a beach and a view, so I took a photo on my phone, and you would think this would make a brilliant painting—a reflection in the water, the pier in the distance and the boat in the foreground.

However, I know if I painted this back at my studio, it wouldn’t work out as well as it promised.

It would be just okay.

It might still translate if I wanted to create a piece that focused on the colours of the water and sky, but the basic graphical design of the piece just isn’t strong enough to create a great painting. The boats aren’t instantly recognisable as boat shapes, and the harbour is obscured by other unidentifiable shapes.

I find three value studies or Japanese Notan studies can be surprisingly helpful in guiding your choices for creating a compelling composition in your paintings. If you were just to look at a scene in simple values or Notan, it becomes glaringly obvious what really works as a successful image.

Continue ReadingHow to Create Strong Painting Compositions using ‘Notan’ Design

New! Acrylic Still Life Course

New! Acrylic Still Life Course

Morning class, I’m Will Kemp, and welcome to the first course in my new series ‘The Morning Paintings’.

I’m super excited about these because they are easy-to-follow single project courses that you can complete in just a few 1 hr painting sessions.

Each one will follow the same approach:

  • A single painting from start to finish.
  • A limited colour palette.
  • A handful of brushes.
  • A small canvas.
  • A simple subject.
  • 3 x 45-minute lessons.

You can see students’ results from the course here.

Advice for perfectionists and procrastinators

The reason I’ve started this series is that sometimes you can find yourself overthinking the result of a painting, feeling that it’s got to be complicated or a masterpiece. The pressure of having to make it perfect can result in lots of unfinished paintings or keep you from even starting!

I’ve found the best way to get around being overwhelmed is to set aside 1hr painting slot every morning. Embracing the process of practice really helps to build momentum and self-confidence, and that principle has inspired this series.

With small bite-sized lessons, you’ll be building your knowledge and your painting without the task becoming too much. I’m keeping it very simple with just a handful of materials, but we’ll still get a good range of mixes even using a minimal palette.

The actual starting is the hardest part – well, the thought of starting, once you begin, it’s much easier to keep going.

In this first course, I’ve taken all the principles from a traditional still life composition but kept it simple and contemporary. You’ll learn classical principles that are the building blocks of all great old master paintings.

We’ll cover the preparation of your surface & drawing out, mixing colour strings and blocking-in, and how to create the illusion of a three-dimensional shape by observing the cast and form shadows. We’ll understand the importance of harmonious colour and adding texture to the surface to control the viewer’s gaze.

It’s been designed to be really, really simple, like when we paint the pears, we only use two colours for most of it, and then add a few extra little magic bits of glazing to give you a little zing at the end!

So find a comfy seat, a strong cup of coffee, or a pot of tea, and see what can be achieved in a 1-hour painting slot, thoroughly engage in the process.

You could make a big step forward in the painting every day, and after three days, or even over a weekend, I think you will be absolutely amazed at how far your painting has progressed!

What’s in the Course?

  • 1 x Modern Still Life subject from start to finish, based in the studio working from a reference image.
  • 3 x downloadable video lessons, split into separate chapters that follow on sequentially. Step-by-step instructional videos so that you can follow along at your own pace.
  • Each stage is a detailed yet easy-to-follow process.
  • Lifetime access, downloadable on separate devices.
  • One-time payment.
  • Downloadable jpeg reference images and reference line drawings.
  • Printable Class materials list.
  • 2hrs of detailed video instruction.

Learn more about the course here 

 

Continue ReadingNew! Acrylic Still Life Course

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Every few weeks, I share my top art inspirations that I’ve read, experimented with or listened to. Here’s this weeks edition of things I enjoyed when I should have been at the easel, with the hope they might inspire your own work too…

I’ve enjoyed watching:

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Documentary: Christo and Jeanne Claude: Monumental Art

I found this a really inspirational journey, documenting the lengths and dedication that artists can go to, to bring their vision to life. Christo’s projects are self-funded by his own preparatory drawings, and some of the planning stages span over 10yrs for the installation of art pieces that are temporary in nature. The scale and impact of the pieces are awesome!

Art finds:

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (detail),

The National Gallery, London, has a page dedicated to the latest arrivals into their collection. A recent highlight is this beautiful self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi. Students painting with the grisaille portrait method (from the Oil Portrait Glazing Course) may be interested in having a zoom in on the face, and you can just make out the underlying grey tones.

(You can learn more about the oil grisaille method in this series of blog posts.)

On my Easel this week:

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

I’ve been in the studio working on a couple of new courses looking at a modern & classical still life using a limited palette of materials. Inspired by our one hour morning paintings, the modern composition should be released first, hopefully in the next month or so.

Have a creative week!

Cheers,
Will

Continue ReadingStudio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

The first painting I remember having an immense amount of pressure to get right was in my GCSE art exam.

For the final piece, I had moved into new territory and arranged my own setup of objects in front of my easel.

I thought a still life would be the easiest choice for a timed study.

It felt doable and I was too nervous to tackle a portrait. I also knew there were a few rules I should stick to.

A harmonious colour palette, good placement of objects and strong directional light.

After moving a vase, a bottle of wine and a bunch of grapes around for a little longer than anticipated, I reckoned I should just get on with it.

And some aspects of the finished painting worked ok, they really did.

My drawing wasn’t bad and the composition balanced but the hardest job was judging the colours from life. The light kept changing, I remember desperately trying to block off bits of the window and the immense pressure to create a ‘finished piece’ really lost all the logic and joy of observation.

I know we don’t often find ourselves in art exams, but the same pressure of having to make a great painting every time we pick up the brush often results in unfinished work or worse, unstarted work!

I’ve found the best way to get around this and bring spontaneity back into my studio is to try and paint daily.

Do a quick small study of something I already have lying around the house, try a new technique, colour palette and subject with no expectation.

Just thoroughly engage in the process.

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

15-min sketch of garlic onto Raw Umber & Titanium White Ground.

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

45-minute total painting time.

Continue ReadingA Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

7 Ways to Stop Acrylic Paint Drying too Fast

acrylic-slow-drying-mediums

Acrylics are a great medium. Pick up a few well-chosen materials, and after a simple set up, you can paint on almost any surface.

But.

They dry quickly. And sometimes really quickly.

If you’re new to painting, the seriousness of this small window of free-flowing acrylics begins to dawn on you, little by little.

The paints don’t seem to blend quite as well as they did when you first put them out on your palette. In fact, that expensive paint you took so long deciding on has now gone completely hard, and there’s a distinctive shift in colour.

This is not just frustrating but feels like an undisclosed complication.

You thought it was going to be getting the painting techniques right that would be difficult, not battling with the paint drying out too quickly.

So how do you stop it from happening?

Paint faster? Invest in specialist paint mediums? Use a broom rather than a brush?

Humidity

Everything revolves around evaporation.

Controlling water evaporation is the key principle to manipulating the drying time of your acrylics.

Acrylics dry by evaporation. So, the wetter the air around the acrylics, the longer they stay wet. You might be painting in a dry climate and not realise how much that affects the paints’ workability.

The drier the air, the faster the acrylics will dry.

  • Wet air (around acrylics) – paints stay wetter.
  • Dry air (around acrylics) – paints dry out quicker.

humidity-monitor-acrylics

In my studio, I’ve got a humidity and temperature monitor. This helps to keep an eye on the water content of the space, so I can adapt my techniques if needed.

I’ve noticed when I’m painting near the coast, and there’s a higher amount of water in the atmosphere, the paints will keep working for a lot longer. If you are based in an extremely dry climate, you could introduce a humidifier into your space that will emit steam or water vapour to increase the air’s moisture levels.

Heavy Body Acrylics under ambient conditions of 70ºF/21ºC and 30% Relative Humidity in a 0.15mm brush stroke.

wet: under 5 minutes
workable:  10 minutes
touch dry: 30 minutes
locked down: 3+ days

Temperature & Air Flow

If it’s a hot summer day, you might have placed an air conditioning unit or fan next to your painting space; this will shorten the working time of the paints as airflow aids water evaporation, definitely something to consider.

Pro tip: It’s also handy to check the ambient temperature of your studio. If you drop below 9° C, it can cause issues when creating a strong paint film.

Acrylics are ideally used at room temperature, above 60° F / 16° C, and avoiding any applications below 49° F / 9° C, which is the so-called “minimum film formation” temperature (MFFT). Below that temperature acrylic paint cannot form a strong, coherent film and will be prone to failure and various drying defects, such as cracks, poor adhesion, and cloudiness – Golden Paints 

On top of your studio environment, there are a few successful ways to manipulate the drying times of acrylics by controlling evaporation. However, I don’t use them all in one painting but pick and choose whatever would work best for the style or stage of the piece I’m working on at the time.

How would you speed up the drying time?

Here’s an inversion thought experiment.

What would you do if you had to dry acrylic paint as fast as possible?

Paint in a thin layer? Warm room? Wind turbine? Sunshine? …Blow torch?

If I had to get a painting to dry as quickly as possible, I’d use a hairdryer on thin paint. High airflow, high heat, about 1 cm from the paint surface! This expels water the quickest from the paint.

And this knowledge is the secret to your success.

All we have to do is work on the opposites.

Continue Reading7 Ways to Stop Acrylic Paint Drying too Fast

Starter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene – A Mediterranean Washing Line

Starter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene - A Mediterranean Washing Line

Will Kemp, A Mediterranean Washing Line, Detail, Acrylic on Board

For this week’s free step-by-step acrylic lesson, we’re returning to the gorgeous faded paintwork and quiet cobblestone streets of Corsica.

After the challenging perspective in our first Starter Set Challenge ‘Warm Shadows in Corsica’ the simpler shapes and clear blue sky of ‘A Mediterranean Washing Line‘ should be plain sailing.

I particularly love the multiple wires threading your eye towards the sea in this scene and the washing strung up between the buildings brings a human presence of day-to-day life, breathing real energy into the composition.

Continue ReadingStarter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene – A Mediterranean Washing Line