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Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Lesson 10 of 13

Demo: Acrylic Gradient

Mary Jane Begin

Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

10. Demo: Acrylic Gradient


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:05:14
2 Materials for Acrylic Paints Duration:08:30
4 Demo: Explore Glaze Mediums Duration:19:56
6 Demo: Brushes for Acrylics Duration:15:05
7 Surfaces for Acrylic Paints Duration:19:15
8 Demo: Gesso a Surface Duration:09:13

Lesson Info

Demo: Acrylic Gradient

I'd like to show you a gradient utilizing the acrylics that's a little bit different than how we might do a gradient with the watercolor. Because we can get thick with this we can do both, wet into wet, very wet color, but we can also go really densely thick. So I'm gonna show you what I usually like to do. I'm gonna surround this with this blue. And kind of, are there any questions that need to be answered at this point. I'm just curious. All right, let's go over and see. A question had come in from Michelle wondering if all canvas frames are already gessoed? Say that again? Are all canvas frames already pre-gessoed? Typically when you go to the store, who's this? Michelle. Michelle, so Michelle typically when you go to a store they are pre-gessoed, because it's just, it's easier for an artist to go in, you buy it. But people do like to make their own frames, get their own linen, stretch the linen, and then gesso it, because they wanna control a lot of issues related to th...

e texture of that linen, how it looks and feels. And that's something, I think it's almost like, again, you're deconstructing how something is done, you wanna make it yourself. And I applaud people who do that. But there are a lot of people, if you're just getting started, that might be something you do once you get really familiar with the materials. But I would say initially you go to the store and you buy a pre-gessoed surface. It's easy to access and I think it's a way to step in. I hope that answers the question. That's great, thank you. Welcome. Can you use gesso on any types of materials? For example, Lilo Swiss asks, can you use it to paint a rock? (laughs) Can you gesso a rock? Yeah. You mean, and then paint acrylics on it? Yes. Why not? Yeah, if you coat gesso, I wouldn't recommend like a family pet or anything like that, but you can gesso any surface and you've sealed whatever that surface is doing, you're holding it place. And so that makes it really, it makes any surface accessible for putting acrylics on. And that's because you're basically putting an acrylic coat on the whole thing. And I'm trying to think of some of the strange, like some people might gesso over, even if you had sand paper glued to a surface and then you gessoed over it think of that texture, that would be very toothy. I've not done it. Now I kind of want to try. But I think if you have pebbly surfaces or irregular surfaces or a super slick surface, gessoing itself creates a streak in a surface, but if it's on something that also has some kind of a texture that can make it really interesting when the paint hits that surface. And again, it's not, you wouldn't gesso to do watercolor, because watercolor is a water-based medium, which so is acrylic, but the water on the plastic of the gesso, it just resists, it's like spilling water on a countertop. It just kind of pools up. It doesn't stick well to that surface. So you do need a binder and acrylic is plastic, so plastic on plastic, they connect, they bind. All right, so I've done my usual deal here. Let me see how clean that water. Actually, it'd be wonderful if I could have fresh water. That would be so awesome. Okay, so while that's happening I'm going to put some white tape on the surface and I'm going to just cover up this blue once again. And remember when you're putting tape on the edges you want it to be super flat. I have been lazy and not done that and when that happens and the paint seeps under the tape I'm not happy, because I'm like, I know I could've avoided that. So getting some fresh water. And the reason why I kind of want the fresh water for this is I wanna make sure none of the green that was in that bucket lands on this surface. We're going to do, let's see, I'm trying to think of a, if we do like a faux landscape. What kind of, what time of day is it? What are the colors? What should I use, Kenna, would you like? Let's see, let's do a dawn, early morning. Okay, so the sky would be pinky yellow? Sure, that sounds lovely. Okay. Now my only challenge is I need more surface space, so what I'm gonna do is switch over to a fresh spot. I'm gonna move this color and bring my metal tray, because the metal tray is clean. And just with a few spots, I'll clean this up. Like I said, see I can wipe this out so much more easily. If this were plastic that color would not move off of it. This is also, again, an excellent try for oils. But I wanna make a dawn, so I would tend to also look at references, when I'm trying to paint something I tend to look at photographic references, or I do what's called plein air painting where I'd actually go out at dawn and look at what I'm looking at and paint in fresh air. Thank you. So the reason why that's kind of a cool thing to do, hold on, my brushes spot, is because, there, and I'll take these brushes out, is because two things. When you're observing from life there's something about observing from something right in front of you that's really different than looking at a photograph. A photograph tends to simplify shapes and it looks right in the photograph, but when you translate it it can look a little peculiar, especially with portraiture and things like that. I use photographic references for pictures, if I've taken pictures of something I might work from that photograph to make a painting, but I'm not trying to replicate the photograph. I'm trying to just extrapolate what I remember seeing, because I can't paint necessarily in the dark if it's a late day sun, sunset it's hard to paint, because it's just too dark, 'cause there's not enough light around. But when you're plein air painting two things are happening. You're observing from reality and you are outdoors painting. I'm mean, what could be better than that? Fresh air, you've got colors, and hopefully you have something portable. Acrylics are a little more challenging to do plein air, because obviously, look at these big tubes here. You can't have cakes of acrylics, because they don't reactivate with water. So you'd have to get a smaller set of acrylics, littler tubes, and have a small, maybe a small watercolor block or surface to paint on. In that case you can go out and you can paint what they call plein air or out in plain air. So we don't have a photographic reference, but I think with Kenna's guidance and my brain we can think about what does dawn look like. What are the colors that we would think about and associate? Let's pull a palette together. Give me some, what kind of colors, you don't have name the actual name, but what do you think? Well, I think you've said, a light yellow, light orange, light pink, some of those pastel type colors perhaps. Maybe then moving into the sky is still blue. Maybe a light, light mauve. Okay, so that's more in the purpley zone. Okay, so maybe we'll have a little bit of violet or maybe a little bit of cerulean. Where is my cerulean blue? There it is, okay. So I've pulled a palette together. I've got one cool note and some warms. Maybe we'll have, if the ground, what would the ground color be typically in the morning? It's kind of, it's, the sun's coming up, it might be warmer, it might be sort of brownish. I'll pull my raw umber. Okay, so I'm gonna start with a ground color, because you know I love to do a ground color. And I'm gonna do a gradient, because we haven't done a gradient yet with acrylics. And I'm gonna use my favorite, favorite brush, which is the soft bristle brush. It holds a lot of pigment and because I wanna keep this nice and wet that makes a lot of sense for me. Now you can see, I'm blotting it, there's still color in this brush. So I'm gonna really make sure it's super clean. And I think because I'm thinking in the morning there's a lot of pink to a sky, pinky gold, so maybe we'll start with, I'm trying to decide if I wanna start with the warm. Maybe we'll start with the orange and the pink. So I'm gonna put a patch of orange out and a patch of, there's a couple of pinks that I could use, I'll check out napthol crimson is a very pink color. But I think an even pinker one might be the Q crimson, that word that's really hard to say, quinacridone, quinacridone, who named that? Okay, let's see, nice big patch. All right, so because I want this to be, I'm gonna try to do wet into wet, I'm gonna treat my acrylics like watercolor. I'm gonna wet this whole thing. This is a rough paper, it is 300 pound, you do not need to stretch it, it's nice and thick. It's got a lot of tooth to it. And I'm gonna keep this pretty wet. Now again, you know the trick with the gradients is that you want your surface to be wet, but you don't want it to be pooling little lakes of water, because then the color's gonna mush around in a kind of uncontrollable way. You might get a nice bloom, but it might also seep to the other side. Some people actually paint on a tilt, so the water tips downward. I'm not doing that, but you can get elevated surfaces that are at an angle. Okay. So here the surface is pretty wet. I'm checking on the side to make sure that we're all set with dry spot. Okay, there. So that's pretty wet. I'm then gonna just take some of the water off the edges of this. I'm gonna pick any little hairs that landed in the surface. Now someone had asked about dust for the watercolor class. I do wanna reference the issue with dust with acrylics. So dust is a real pain and with acrylics they seem to call to the dust, come to me, land on my surface. And it's maddening, because then you have all these little speckles. So you do not want to be in a dusty room painting with acrylics or oils, but acrylics especially. So keep that studio really clean. Dog hair loves acrylic paintings. I know, I have a dog that sheds a lot and her fur is always landing on my paintings, and I'm like, oh, there's another hair. But you do what you can to keep your studio clean. All right, so I'm gonna start with, I'm gonna keep it thin with water as apposed to the gloss mediums, 'cause I'm not glazing, I'm trying to do a wet into wet. Okay. And I also tried to make sure I didn't have a big chunk of paint on the end of this. I have a little bit of color there, but I'm trying to keep it as even as possible. Okay. And I'm gonna use a little bit of our pinky color. Oh, it's so yummy. I'm gonna sort of mix it on the surface. Okay, maybe a little more pink. Now the water, again, is activating that color and moving it around, which is really nice. Do you think it would move from this sort of pink to the orange up to the blue? What do you think, Kenna? Yeah, I think it would then have that blue layer on top. There might be more, some of that gold on the bottom beneath the pink. So let's try, I don't know if that's gonna be, that's gonna be too green. I'm gonna move to a different kind of blue. Maybe a little cobalt blue. I wanna test these. And this is another thing. I do like to have a test paper nearby, so if I'm like, I don't know what that color's gonna do. Well, guess what, I'm gonna test it over here and make sure I'm not gonna make this yucky color. I don't really like that color, that's too gray. So that's not the right blue. And I'm not even sure this is gonna be the right blue. That blue with this orange, neutral, no good. Okay, so we have to shift from blue and think of a bluish color like purple. The color of your shoes. Periwinkle was another color that came in from online. Periwinkle is an awesome choice. And actually, to make periwinkle. Who suggested that? Ryan Love. Ryan Love, well, Ryan Love, you are super smart about color, because that is a really good choice. And I'm actually gonna do it with a little opacity to make this more of a kind of purpley, pinky tone, because I think that'll be fun. Make it more mauvey. Yeah. And maybe we can wake this up with a little bit of blue. So I'm using a little bit of cobalt blue, but I'm trying not to let it eke too much into the orange. And then I'm using a little white with purple, so it is sort of mauvey. Little bit of more blue. And now I think I'm going to add a little more of the pink to the orange. And you can see, look at this beautiful gradient down here. It's really, oh, I just think that's delightful, 'cause I didn't have to do a darn thing. I just let the water do the work for me. Pink to this area up here, so that the whole thing coheses a little bit more, makes it a little more mauvey. So the colors there are violet and a little cobalt. I'm letting the water, there's a lot of water on this surface. And that's really helping to make this gradient. And then I'm gonna go back and add a little more of the orange for our early morning sky. And then I'll add the gold. A little more water. Blend it in. So what I'm trying to do is kind of connect all the colors, so it doesn't feel like you have a streak. Now where's our yellow that's gonna be, cad yellow. I'm gonna use cad yellow, because it's a really warm yellow. And I think that will make sense, because we have a fairly warm piece. I've got a little red on the end of this brush. Okay, let's get that in there. And you can see, the surface is sort of drying. But again, the rough paper seems to let that color last a little bit longer and water mush a little bit longer than hot press. That's at least been my experience. And that's like our sun, is that our sunrise sky? Dawn as apposed to dusk. Does that feel dawnish to you? It does. And I'm keeping, I'm using the white of the page, I'm not using white down here. I'm trying to bleed that yellow back into the color above it and letting the water do its work. There. Now if I wanted to do something, how should we say, madness, let's have some madness here. Now these things happen by accident, right? These are things that people do not on purpose. Water lands on the surface and they're like, oh my god, I just did this thing. Okay, so when you're playing with materials you also want to experiment with all the things that material can do. So what I just did, and you can start to see, it's creating these wild sort of blooms of color, the water has landed in a sharp little pah on top of that color, so now I'm not touching this. If I keep moving this around I'm just gonna make mud. Excuse me, neutral colors. But if I leave these beads almost like tie dye and it dries fully then I have this really interesting, almost fantasy feeling to a sunrise. I would probably then be inspired to have blades of grass and little tiny characters floating around a scene, because it has a kind of active energy. You could leave that the way it was before totally, but I just wanted to do something that acts very much like kosher salt and subtractive color you can do with watercolor and you can do that a little bit with acrylics if it's really super wet and it acts like watercolor. So while that's still wet let's do a little, let's see, maybe I won't do it on this surface, a little bit of impasto painting or we could even try a dry brush on here. I wanna try a few other different ways of using this, but the surface is so wet right now I'm not sure how far I can go with it. But let's just test and see. I'm gonna use a stiff bristle brush, because I know that's gonna have this nice reaction. And I'm gonna try, let's see, I'm gonna try like blades of grass. That green is, okay, that green is dry, so I'm gonna make a new green. And we talked about a little bit of raw umber, let's see, to make the grass in the morning. Let's just see. And as I do this this could all turn out really badly. It's always the risk. I don't care how long you've been painting, it doesn't matter. When you're experimenting, you're trying something, you haven't exactly done that precise thing before, there's always that opportunity to really muck it up. But you have to be prepared to make a mess, to do something that might not look so good. So I'm gonna try, I'm gonna try something here. Now again, there's a lot of water on this surface, so it's, the dry brush is gonna turn right into kind of a wet surface. The drier this gets the more you're gonna get sort of more of a reaction. So right now it's acting like just wet into wet. So maybe we'll just let it be a kind of, okay, it's a hill. And then I would go back over it and maybe do some dry brush. I'm just gonna use it as a kind of a tone, as our hillside, our landscape. Maybe go a little darker. I want to feel like earth. I'm trying to make the paint a little bit thicker. Ah, it's starting to, okay, it's starting to dry, so it's starting to get a little bit thicker. There. But you can see the water is still moving this color around. So I can only go so far before it's no longer gonna be dry brush, okay. But you can see the thickness of this color down below versus the thin. Can you see the difference? And because this is still pretty wet I might be able to subtract a little bit of the color from the surface. Oh yeah, look at that. I still can. That's cool. When acrylics are really wet they act like watercolors. And that was part of their intention too. But when acrylics are thicker you can't move them off this way. This is only because they're super wet. So that's sort of a fun little landscapey picture, it looks sort of like sunrise. We winged it together. I think I'll leave this one, because it is really, really damp, I think I'll put this one aside.

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.