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Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Lesson 1 of 13

Class Introduction

Mary Jane Begin

Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I'm Mary Jane Begin, author, illustrator, and professor at Rhode Island School of Design. This course is designed to help introduce the proper use of the materials used in exploring acrylic paints. I'll review the colors, painting tools, and various papers and surfaces, as well as the additional tools needed to create acrylic paintings. I'll show some examples, demonstrate the properties of the materials I introduce, and answer questions about the materials and methods I show. So let's get started. Acrylic color is a water-based paint that comes in two types, heavy body and soft body, and is used for impasto painting, or painting thickly, transparent watercolor-like painting, and glazing. It was created as an alternative to oils to replicate the glazing capacity, but with much faster drying time. As a result of the drying time, which is almost immediate, it functions quite differently in how it is applied to a surface than say oils. The exception is when it's applied really thickly, or...

impasto, the drying time is a little bit slower, but it really dries within minutes. Acrylics are portable and don't require extensive clean up, like oils, but because their binder is plastic, the requirement for washing the brushes and palate is a little bit more intense than watercolors. Acrylics have the distinct advantage of having a wide range of value, value meaning just the darkness or lightness of a color. They're relatively light, or fast, lightfast, or permanent, meaning that they won't fade quickly as watercolors or inks in sunlight, because they're made with plastic, but like any color, they can fade in direct light over time. So these are some examples of both thick application and transparent thin layers of color. If you look at this, this is work by a student of mine, these areas are fairly thickly applied, particularly down here, not quite impasto, but very dense, and then some of the back areas are more thinly applied, and you can see that there's a transparency to the color in these thinly applied areas and the thicker parts are more opaque or dense, you can't see through the color. This study is utilizing a ground in which the opaque color is applied, and it takes advantage of a dry brush technique. This technique allows you really to see the mark of the brush, and I'll talk about that when I do the demonstration. Dry brush is really intended to give the brush a chance to shine, and it just means literally that the brush is dry, except for the paint. Jason Brockert who's a colleague at RISD and also an amazing painter, painted these trees in dry brush, and utilized the surface of the paper to really make the texture. So it's both the fact that the brush is really dry as well as the fact that the paper is really textured, that make this kind of vibrant, textural color. And these are not very big paintings, they're quite small. So in this class, the project was created by one of my students, there's also a dry brush method used on textured watercolor paper, and you can kinda see that texture picked up throughout the piece. It's something that I'll talk about, which is really about the surfaces of the paper, and how it changes how the mark reacts to it. The value range of acrylics really does mimic oils, and that means you can get this beautiful wide range of extremely light tones all the way to very dark tones. Watercolor has less of a range, as opposed to acrylics or oils. Now you can also see that, now these are painted on canvas by Deeann Sander, also a student of mine, who just graduated from the Hollins University Children's Book Literature Program, and she did these just for an experiment for some licensing work, and she actually used beads, these sort of acrylic beads to make the color even more textural. And she worked on canvas, and you can really see the canvas's texture on this close up, and that again, it's a really interesting effect that works well with acrylics and with oil painting. And the canvas surface is covered in gesso, so it's not just a pure piece of canvas. Now this is my work, this is from Little Mouse's Painting and I actually brought the sample piece here, you can see it's really tiny. I use a kind of acrylic method, but what I do is combine watercolor and acrylic gloss medium to make what I call homemade acrylics. And the reason why I do that is because the acrylic drying time is so fast, I want to be able to save my color, to be able to continue a painting and keep going back to that color. And I'll show you what I mean by that, I'll demonstrate my technique so you can see the advantage of mixing watercolor with gloss as opposed to just using straight on acrylics, but both ways are completely fine. These are from The Wind in the Willows, and I used the same technique, but I really tried to control my brushstroke so it almost disappears. So with acrylics, you can paint in a way where that, like Dan's, where the brushstroke or that texture is really obvious, or you can control it and have very tiny modulations where you don't even see what the brushstroke is, it's really about the color and the textures of fur versus fire, versus wood, etc.

Class Description

Are you interested in working with acrylic paints but not sure how to get started? In this course artist and illustrator, Mary Jane Begin will introduce you to the world of acrylic paints. This class is perfect for beginners looking to learn the basics of the medium in order to begin a painting practice. By the end of this course you will be equipped with the know-how to pick up a brush and start experimenting with acrylics!

In this class you’ll learn:

  • All about acrylic paints and how they work
  • Which brushes and papers to use with those paints
  • How to begin making simple marks and shapes to familiarize yourself with the medium 

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anshu priya

Very thorough . perfect for someone who wants to start painting with Acrylics.


Nota review but a suggestion. Use a table knife to remove paper from bloc. No curling of edges.