How to Mix Shades of Green with Acrylics – Simple Leaf Step-by-Step

How to Mix Shades of Green with Acrylics - Simple Leaf Step-by-Step

Following on from last week’s lesson, where we looked at the problem of the midday sun, I’ve put together a simple study in shaded light.

In this acrylic step-by-step, we look at creating a green ‘colour string’ and working on separating the darks and lights in a leaf-dense subject.

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5 Little Lessons from Painting a Large Painting in a New Space

5 Little Lessons from Painting a Large Painting in a New Space

Painting large scale is not just a matter of having the right size canvas and paint. It’s also about adopting slightly different working methods and brushstrokes than when you work with a small canvas, and it’s one of the best ways to stretch your skills as a painter, even if you predominately paint small.

After months of renovation, I have recently regained the use of our new studio space. For the last 6 months, it had become the perfect place for storing multiple power tools and timber that needed acclimatising. It has been uplifting emptying the space of leftover building materials back to an empty room.

So last week with great relish, energy and anticipation, I propped up a large-scale 2m square canvas against a newly cleared wall and got to it.

I had a loose plan of the final image.

I’d sketched a pen and ink thumbnail of the view and had a palette of colours in mind but if I’m 100% honest I was super excited by the freedom of painting in a big space and seeing how the new studio felt.

Here are five things I learned.

#1. A little colour change is a big colour change.

Mixing the right colours for a large scale is not easy.

On smaller-scale pieces, your reference image is often close in size to the final piece, so you can translate the effect of the colour quite easily, but when you scale up an image everything becomes exaggerated.

As soon as you scale up the surface area that a colour covers, it has more of an intensity to it. The same colour ratio I would normally go for in a smaller piece looked more colourful once it was painted onto such a vast area.

5 Little Lessons from Painting a Large Painting in a New Space

#2. Scale up your brush to match your canvas size.

Just as you have to be aware of scaling down your colour choices and scaling up the volume of paint, you have to use larger tools to apply the paint too.

I rapidly went from a 1/2-inch brush to a 3-inch brush to a mini-roller!

5 Little Lessons from Painting a Large Painting in a New Space

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Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows

Capturing Spring Sunshine by Painting Colourful Shadows

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

 

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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.

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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.

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Starter Set Challenge – Painting Street Scenes with Acrylics

acrylic-starter-set-challenge

Will Kemp, Warm Shadows in Corsica, Acrylic On Board (detail)

It’s hard to believe that city breaks, art exhibitions and museum visits were something we used to enjoy almost casually.

Here in the U.K, we’re back in another full lockdown, a cold and wet one!

I was looking through some photos from last summer’s trip to Corsica needing a bit of escapism. They instantly transported me back to the atmosphere, the colours and smells, meandering down sun-dappled side streets, ice cream in hand with the anticipation of undiscovered delights around the next corner.

Drawing and painting can be very therapeutic; so with that in mind, I’ve created a couple of acrylic step-by-step street scenes to help get us through the next few weeks.

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How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings – Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

Morning class, this week we’re going to look at how to paint fast and loose with your acrylics in this two-part apple study.

I get lots of emails from students who want to develop a more painterly impressionistic style but find when using a photo reference, they get too obsessed with the details, and the whole piece gets a bit overworked.

So in the first lesson of this two-part still life, I approach the drawing out of our apples in a bit more detail. The method I demonstrate is sometimes called ‘Envelope Drawing’ and is an approach that helps you to draw something more accurately.

In the second lesson, we approach the painting without pre-mixing the colours using our intuition and being a bit looser with our brush marks I’ve used a limited palette and simple painterly techniques with just two brushes and four colours.

Why are we drawing more accurately when we want to paint looser?

Well, it depends.

It depends on your skill level of drawing.

If you’re pretty good at drawing, then ideally you’d go straight in with your paintbrush and draw and paint at the same time, so you’re essentially drawing with your brush. That’s how you get the loosest, freshest paintings.

But if you’re a complete beginner, then spending the time getting the drawing accurate is a more failsafe way of creating a painting that looks loose but captures the subject. It gives you the confidence to paint more loosely knowing you’ve got a good structure underneath.

I paint this study with acrylics, but you could also use water-mixable oils.

So grab a brew, a couple of biscuits, and you can download a reference image below to follow along with the video.

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 1 – Drawing

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 2 – Painting

Downloading the reference photograph

The photo below can be downloaded, so you can use it as a reference image, print it out and follow along with the steps below.

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

You can download a larger 30 x 30 cm version of the image here.

Materials you will need:

  • 30 x 30cm canvas or board or you could work on a smaller square

Paints:

I use Artist Quality acrylics but you follow along with any brand.

For the coloured ground:

  • Raw Umber (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)

For the painting:

  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)
  • Cadmium Yellow Light (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Burnt Umber (Winsor & Newton)

Brushes:

  • Isacryl Filbert, 6572, Size 6 (Isabey)
  • Small round synthetic (any brand is fine)
  • 1 1/2 inch XL Elite Monarch decorators brush (Purdy)

Extra tools

  • An HB Pencil – (I use a Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm Uniball)
  • An Eraser – (I use a Putty Eraser by Faber Castell)
  • Burnt Umber chisel nib acrylic marker (Liquitex)
  • Delacroix Charcoal & Pencil fixative (Sennelier)
  • Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss (Golden Paints)
  • Palette Knife (I use a diamond shape size 45 by RGM)
  • Metal dipper or small pot for mediums
  • Jam Jar for water

I’m using a 30 x 30 cm cotton canvas and I toned my canvas by applying a diluted grey mix that matched the colour of the linen in the reference image.

A coloured ground helps to take away the glare of the white canvas and gives me a head start – if you want to learn more about the benefits of painting on a coloured ground see: How a prepared canvas can drastically improve your paintings

Line drawing

Here is the line reference image from the end of Part 1.

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

 You can download a larger 20 x 20cm image of the line drawing here:

Finished Painting

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

I really hope you enjoy the lesson, have a great festive week!

Cheers,

Will

 

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Acrylic Painting Tutorial – Fishing Boats in St Ives Harbour

fishing-boats-st-ives

Longing for the sea during lockdown, I decided to have a look through some of my old travel photos from trips around the coast.

sketches-for-fishing-boat

I did a few thumbnail sketches looking at different images; I liked the diagonal composition in the first sketch. I used an Acrylic Marker by Daler Rowney (FW Marker) filled with Sepia High flow acrylic (Golden Paints).

I settled on an image looking down on some fishing boats, moored in the harbour of St Ives, Cornwall.

You can download a reference image below to follow along with this acrylic lesson, hope you enjoy it!

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How to Dilute Acrylics vs Water-mixable Oils (Comparison Video)

How to Dilute Acrylics vs Water-mixable Oils (Comparison Video)

Morning class,

Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with various mediums, recording drying times and noting the handling of water-mixable oils – all in the process of creating a new course.

Amongst the copious footage, I wanted to share this introductory lesson where I compare the dilution of acrylics to water-mixable oils.

Simple but fundamental observations.

You may find there are times when acrylics dry off too quickly or are difficult to blend especially when you’re painting in thin layers. Using water-mixable oils can be fantastic because they give you that extra working time. Painting wet-into-wet is one of the significant advantages you’ll notice because you gain a lot more time for smoking together colours.

But how do they both compare when diluting with water?

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Simple Acrylic Still Life Tutorial – Painting Morning Sunshine

orange-segment-acrylic-tutorial-wkas

Morning class, this week I’ve been enjoying taking my breakfast outside onto the terrace which gets great mid-morning sunshine. Because the angle of the sun is lower at this time of the day, it can create a lovely backlight for translucent subjects.

I really liked how the sunlight coming from behind the orange segments gave them this wonderful backlit glow and thought it would work well as a little weekend acrylic study.

You can download a reference image below to follow along with the lesson, hope you enjoy it!

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Acrylic Still Life Painting Tutorial – Terracotta Plant Pots

 

terracotta-pots-acrylic-tutorial

“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”
Claude Monet

Free 1 hr video tutorial

Morning class! This week we’re taking inspiration from around your home.

You might have always wanted to capture the corner of your sunlit living room or an interesting collection of books stacked up on your coffee table or a section of your garden or patio with all the vibrant greens and spring colours.

But when faced with a new painting subject, where do you begin?

How do you decide on the pigments to use or what’s important to focus on?

The tendency can be just to get started and work it out as you go along.

But without adopting a systematic approach to your painting, you can be faced with frustration with your colour mixing, wasted time on your drawing and an unsatisfying result; I want to show you an easier way.

In this acrylic still life tutorial, I go through the steps of how I think through my colour composition, from choosing the coloured ground to introducing the pigments and then slowly building up the piece before putting the brush to canvas.

So let’s grab a brew and any remaining biscuits you may have left, and let’s get painting!

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