What better way to start off the new year than with a Guest Artist Workshop with Acrylics master painter and Golden® Paint rep, Christina Ramos! My boss, Linda Wehrli and I were ecstatic to host the workshop at Pastimes for a Lifetime on Sunday, Jan. 20th from 9:30 AM – 2 PM. I have never used acrylics before, but when I discovered that Christina would be providing top-notch Golden Artist Colors Acrylic Paints, I decided to take the plunge! Students needed to provide their own brushes and an 8×10, or 11×14 stretched canvas.
This class covered the basics of painting with acrylics and constructing small still-lifes from photographs. I was intrigued to learn that acrylics, although associated with modern art, can also be used for more traditional art styles through the use of transparent thin layers.
Christina first began with a review of basic techniques:
1. The color wheel was reviewed as a valuable color mixing tool.
2. She uses pure bright colors as they are useful to mix down.
3. Complementary colors are mixed to create more natural looking colors.
4. While working, the subject should be flipped upside down or studied in a mirror to catch errors.
5. The composition of a layout should be divided into thirds vertically and horizontally. Where they intersect should be the location of the focal point of the composition.
6. Medium tones should come first in order to find the light and dark tones accurately.
7. Acrylic paints dry through evaporation. She does not recommend wooden boards for acrylic paints as they cause the paint to dry too fast. Stretched canvas is best as it allows air flow.
8. The thicker the paint, the slower the dry time.
9. For paint storage, she recommends a long narrow plastic pencil box and wet paper towels to store palettes of acrylic paint.
For today’s demo and workshop, the following palette was used:
Titanium white, Titanium Buff, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Orange, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Green, Ultramarine Blue, Dioxizene Purple, and Carbon Black.
Christina provided each guest with palette paper and a water-soaked folded paper towel with a hearty dollop of each color. Her tip was to pull the paint from the paper towel onto the palette paper.
A wash of Burnt Sienna prepped our canvases. Guests then selected the image to study from a collection of photos of persimmons, pomegranates, and lemons. I chose the same pears that Christina used for her demo. Linda opted for persimmons.
An “envelope” was then measured, meaning the area in which the subject sits on the canvas. Christina explained that you want to be “too linear” at first. We then sketched a few lines for where the subject was positioned, making sure to leave enough room for the cast shadows on the canvas.
As an oil painter, I found it interesting that we only used a small or no amount of paint! “Dry brushing” and “scrubbing” were common terms used throughout the class. For the background, we used “X strokes” and worked “around the clock”, making sure to leave the corners of the canvas dark and vignette.
Once the first layer of the background was completed, we added the first transparent layer of the medium value of the subject. Christina called this the “real estate”, meaning there was no underpainting, just adding in the basic shapes.
Next, we added in the second coat of the background, making sure to cut in around the subject, refining its shape. She reminded us not to worry about color accuracy at this stage.
We finally focused on the form of the subject. For this, we looked for volume by painting with opaque white in the thickest section. She had us imagine holding the subject in our hand to help visualize the form, where it comes forward or sticks out. For this step, we weren’t looking for dark or light, but just for volume. Christina instructed that we shouldn’t pull the white all the way to the edge or the object would lose its form. She had us paint in circular patterns and recommended not cleaning our brushes.
For the third layer of the background, we added in the cast shadows, which are the shadows that are created by the object. Christina referred to this as the “clean-up layer”; we hardly used any paint and fixed the shapes. The cast shadow color was the same as the dark background color. To soften the edges of the cast shadows against the object, we used the “rolling brush” technique, using the top of the dry round brush to blend or “scrub” all the way to the edge. Christina even used her fingers and a little spit to blend and soften edges between shadows and the subject!
After one more opaque layer using the medium value plus white with a dry brush, we fixed up the concentrated colors. For my painting, I created a cooler yellow for the back pear by adding blue and a warmer value for the front pear by adding cadmium red. Christina explained that the reflective light on the object is usually cool if the light source is warm. Weird!
Lastly, we added in the “hot spots” on the objects, meaning the diffused light and details. She reminded us that “less is more” at this step of the process. After adding in the stems using our background color, we were finished! Here’s a peek at Linda’s progression shots:
Here are some of my progression shots:
I thoroughly enjoyed working with acrylics; it was more relatable to drawing than oil painting because a lot of the time you are using little to no paint. As a charcoal lover, I liked this aspect! I will definitely be investing in acrylics at some point in my life. Thanks so much to Christina Ramos and Linda Wehrli for hosting this insightful, fun workshop!
For a list of Christina’s upcoming workshops, please visit her website.
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.
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