Is Green Ruining Your Acrylic Paintings? (video)

Ballet rehearsal-Degas

Edgar Degas, Ballet Rehearsal, 1834 – 1917

Green paint is like peanut butter is for dieters, dangerously addictive.

I don’t quite know why, maybe the freshness, the feeling of a landscape, the memory of nature… whatever the reason it’s a bad one.

Step 1. If you buy a starter set of beginners paints, throw away the green that is included (usually this is Emerald green)

It is usually terrible and very unforgiving when trying to create harmonious colour in painting.

“Can’t I use it  to tone down red? or use red to tone down the green? I know about complementary colours; I’ve only just bought it, I can’t throw it away!”

You must.

Still got it?…

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New online “The Art of Acrylics” painting course

Time lapse preview for New painting course The Art of Acrylics with Will Kemp

Developing your artists eye

When I was first learning to paint my results were often disheartening, the apple looked too flat, the greens looked garish and harsh and I was generally getting more and more frustrated.

I often took a large palette knife to the canvas and smeared the entire painting.

The result?

My new abstract period!!!

The problem with learning to paint is that you have an inbuilt ‘taste’ meter. You know a good painting when you see one. You don’t have to be art educated or have studied the classics, you just need to trust your own judgments.

So when you attempt your first painting and it goes wrong, you know it is wrong.

You just might not know why…

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How to Instantly add Depth to Your Mountains in Acrylic Landscape Painting

aerial perspective Leonardo-da-Vinci-Leonardo da Vinci – The Virgin of the Rocks (detail), 1491-1508

Why do mountains look blue in the distance?

Have you ever wondered why a hill, that you know is covered in green trees, looks purple or blue when viewed from a long distance away?

Trying to create a sense of depth and distance in your landscape painting is key for creating realism in your paintings.

The simplest way to do this is with Aerial perspective…

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Self Portrait Painting selected for Ruth Borchard Competition


Off – Screen, Oil on linen, 40 x 30 cm, Will Kemp self portrait 2011

I’ve just had my self-portrait selected for the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Competition.

It was painted with Ivory black, raw umber (both Micheal Harding oil paints) and titanium white (Winsor and Newton) on pre-primed linen.

About the painting

Offscreen represents a conscious shift away from the formality of traditional portraiture.

It was inspired by the snap-to-capture culture in which we live, where everything from the mundane to the most important moments in life are a mobile phone photo away, I like the juxtaposition of an instant snap, taken in a moment, with the meticulous hours needed when painting a traditional portrait.

The portrait took over 50 hours to complete.

It poses the viewer the simple question –  if the subject is not engaged in something worthy, does that make the painting less important?

The national exhibition runs from 14th October to 25th November at the King’s place gallery, London.

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How to Draw Perspective for Beginners


Caneletto, Venice, The Grand Canal, about 1740

Perspective techniques for absolute beginners

How to solve a problem like perspective?

Perspective is one of the most common issues beginners have with drawing and painting.

Get it wrong and it can easily ruin a great start, get it right and it can instantly improve your work.

If you’re like most painters you are probably trying to create a sense of depth in your work.

Leading the viewer’s eye deep into the scene giving the illusion of reality.

But sometimes it just doesn’t look right.

The distant object doesn’t look so distant, your figures look out of proportion, a building looks like it is sliding off the page. And your still life just looks….odd.

You are not alone….

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How to Mix Pink & Purple Paint with Acrylics (video)

Mixing red and white acrylic paint

It seems straightforward.

Red and white make pink. Simple.

However, a quick look at the undertone of a few red paints can show you how mixing the perfect pink can easily allude you.

Cadmium won’t allow you to make a hot pink; this video will show you how.

This is not due to a lack of mixing ability, just the wrong paint colour for the desired result.

Mixing a bright purple

The right choice of red will influence your ability to make a bright purple, and Part 2 of this video (at the end of this post) will show you how easily purple can go muted and grey rather than bright and vibrant.

This is due to the ‘muting down‘ effect of complementary colours.

It’s all to do with the colour bias of the pigment that is hidden in paints…

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The 8 key Differences Between Artist Quality vs Student Grade Acrylic Paints


A brief overview of Artists’ vs Student quality paint

There are usually two grades of colour available, artist quality and student quality.

But what is the difference?

And, is it worth the cost?

When first starting painting lessons it is often overwhelming to try and decide which brush to buy, what canvas to paint on and the biggest choice of all. What paints to buy!

Your paints can help greatly in your progress as a painter, what usually happens is a hesitancy on investing in the ‘good quality’ paints until you yourself become a better painter.

This is a mistake.

One of the key things to understand is the labelling and differences between artist and student quality paint and how better quality paint, can make your life as a painter much easier…

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How to Choose a Basic Portrait Painting Palette for Oils

Will Kemp Artist head study

Head Study – After Collins, Oil on Linen, Will Kemp

“Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend”
John Singer Sargent

How not to paint a portrait, a personal tale

Let me take you back several years to the beginning of my experiments with portraiture.

It was a bright sunny morning after a long arduous night painting and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, I had finally cracked my self-portrait…. enter my wife Vanessa

Vanessa: “Why do you look like Tom Jones?”
Me: “I don’t look like Tom Jones”
Vanessa: “You do, what have you done? The portrait was looking great last night!”
Me: “I don’t look like Tom Jones”
Vanessa: “You do! Look how orange it is, you look like the freakin’ Tango man”
Me: “Shit….. I look like Tom Jones”

Skin tone, it isn’t easy….

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How to Apply a Coloured Ground with Acrylic Paint (video)

In this video, I demonstrate how to apply a coloured ground to a pre-primed canvas using Golden fluid Acrylic.

To learn more about the benefits of painting on a coloured ground, see: How a prepared canvas can drastically improve your paintings

This technique is best for landscapes and still life paintings.
Video transcript:
When I’m doing (painting) landscapes, or still life’s, I usually always use Yellow Ochre as a coloured ground.

It has got a nice mid-tone to it, a really lovely warmth to it. It’s cheap and if you move onto Oil painting it dries quickly…

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The 3 Tricks of Complementary Colours you can Learn from Van Gogh

complementary colours Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, 1888.

Complementary colours

Two colours, placed side by side, will appear differently depending on which colours are used and what they are placed next to.

The effect of this interaction is called simultaneous contrast.

Simultaneous contrast is most intense when two complementary colours are juxtaposed directly next to each other.

For example, red placed directly next to a green, if you concentrate on the edge you will see a slight vibration.

Your eye doesn’t like resting on the edge. The two complementary colour in their purest, most saturated form don’t sit well together, however, if you want to try and focus your viewer gaze on a particular part of the painting a knowledge of the ‘attraction to the eye’ can be used to great effect…

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How to Choose a Basic Colour Palette for Acrylic Painting

basic acrylic paint palette

“I am a simple man, and I use simple materials: Ivory black, Vermilion (red), Prussian blue, Yellow ochre, Flake white and no medium. That’s all I’ve ever used in my paintings.

A great deal of things in nature are actually very muted, it is often the difference between light and dark and warm and cool colours, rather than the use of a bright colour.

If you want to paint subtle still life paintings, choose muted earth colours.

If you want very bright, vivid abstracts, you might need some more man-made pigments that have a higher colour saturation.

My suggested basic acrylic colour palette is somewhere in-between. It allows bright colour mixtures as well as subtle. The pigments are all light-fast (will not fade over time) and are a mixture of series (the price labelling system of paints) so the cost will be kept down….

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The Hidden Hues of Colour Mixing (video)

Why can’t I mix the right colour?

Imagine a time of poster paints and sugar paper. Of bright colours, chubbie crayons, green grass and blue skies. These were perfect painting days apart from one thing I almost forgot to mention….brown sludge.

Lots and lots of brown.

Your teachers told you ‘mix yellow and blue to make green’, red and blue to purple.

You listened, but the problem was still there.. you created brown sludge.

What were you doing wrong?

Nothing, you were just given the wrong paints…

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Colour Mixing Basics with Acrylic Paint (video)

How to mix the colour you see. Basic principles

This video is a basic introduction to matching colour using 3 primary colours.

The palette used was Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light and Ultramarine Blue. The brand was Golden Heavy Body Acrylics.

The basics of colour mixing are discussed in How your hairdresser can teach you to mix colour

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How your Hairdresser can Teach You to Mix Paint Colours

colour mixing primary colours

“All colours will agree in the dark.”
Francis Bacon

How to Mix Colour: The Basics

Learning how to mix colour can be daunting, colour theory can be off-putting, but understanding the basics is key when starting to paint.

A knowledge of colour theory is helpful, but in practice nothing beats actually mixing colours, however, you need to start somewhere so let’s start with some basic theory. I’ll be going into some advanced techniques in later posts.

Please note: New Colour mixing course for beginners is now live!

How your hairdresser can teach you to mix paint colour

I’ll be honest, a few years ago I knew nothing about the hairdressing business until my wife opened her hair salon above my gallery, I can now tell you the difference between a champagne blonde and a beige blonde..(0.4 if you were wondering) but the main thing I hadn’t realized was the similarities between hair colourists and painters.

If you want to learn a fast track to understanding your paintings next time your at the salon have a chat to your hair colourist…

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