Welcome back to our series ‘Starting out in…’ where we give advice about the materials you need to get into a new art form. It is time for Acrylics, a relatively new medium whose versatile use is only exceeded by the abundance of materials available on the market: paints, primers, mediums, varnishes – not to mention the surfaces ranging from canvases to wood panels! Worry not; after reading our beginner’s manual, the only thing you will question is, why haven’t you started earlier?
Lawrence Art Supplies is now stocking Canson Héritage, a brand new watercolour paper that is a result of centuries old tradition and modern technological innovation. This 100% cotton paper was specifically designed to allow artists to lift colour easily and without damaging the paper’s surface. To celebrate the release of Canson Héritage, we decided to put its lifting ability to a test and give our readers a little insight into what it feels like working with this new paper.
Welcome to our new series, ‘Starting out in…’, where each time we will cover a different art form and give advice about the materials you need to begin your journey with. This post is all about watercolours, but it’s more than just a buyer’s guide! We are giving away a QOR trial and sample pack to two of our lucky readers – stay tuned for more details below!
Glenn demonstrating the difference between traditional and modern pigments. Cadmium red medium is dulled with the addition of titanium white, where the modern napthol red is very vibrant.
If you have been frustrated when mixing colours, for example you can’t make a hot pink with your red and white, it is probably because you have a traditional pigment, try using modern pigments for more vibrant colour mixing. The clue is in the name. Anything that sounds like a chemical ie phthalo, quinacridone, napthol etc will be modern. Don’t blame your mixing skills!
Here are examples of traditional pigments verses modern pigments. The old masters painted only in what was available, e.g. yellow ochre, raw umber, venetian red, ultramarine etc. The colours are more neutral. By the time the Impressionists were around colour technology had got much better with a wider and brighter range of colours; cadmiums, alizarin crimson, viridian etc. Today we have a vast collection of colours with the help of science we can achieve bright and vibrant colours the Old Masters could only dream about. Hansa yellow, napthol red, phthalo blue etc
Glenn explains the colour wheel and how limiting your palette will limit the vibrancy of the colour you mix. Ideally having a warm and cool version of yellow, orange, red, violet, blue and green will allow you to achieve the best intensity mixing colour. If you stick with just the primary colours which is often what you are taught at art school you can only achieve more muted colours when mixing. In comparison the painting with fewer colours will look murkier
Glenn explaining how to approach mixing colour. He advises it will help if you start with the white. Try to imagine what percentage of white is in the colour you are trying to achieve, then slowly add the main pigments. More often than not you will need to mute the colour down to look more realistic. Try using a colour from the opposite side of the colour spectrum before you use black!
On to mediums! Glenn went through each of the mediums in the Gamblin range. Starting with Gamsol – An odourless and nontoxic mineral spirit. Very safe to use in the studio and reusable.
If you are looking to create glazing techniques or impasto textures Gamblin has it all. Galkyd is fast drying and self-levelling – great for the ‘Oiling out technique’ (will explain later in the album) it is quitethick and sticky but can achieve an enamel like finish. Galkyd Lite flows better than Galkyd which is probably the best one to try first when experimenting. It retains brush stroke definition and is fast drying. Galkyd Slow Dry is similar to Galkyd Lite but dries slower, which might work better with your style of painting. Galkyd Lite and Slow loosens the paint making it easier to be more expressive. All three are transparent and dries with a gloss sheen.
For impasto work Galkyd Gel will extend the colour and give body to the paint. It dries fast too. If you are worried about solvent content try Solvent Free Gel instead, this is made with oil so will try slower. Neo Megilp is a contemporary version of Maroger medium, it gives a silky feel to the paint with a satin gloss finish when dry. Neo Megilp like Solvent Free Gel will dry slower so workable for longer. Cold Wax Medium is pure white bees wax, used to thicken paint and has a matte finish. Add this to reduce the sheen in the other mediums and Gamvar picture varnish.
‘Oiling out’ is a brilliant method for a number of reasons. Mix 1 part Gamsol and 1 part Galkyd together (make sure is it Galkyd medium)
To ‘oil out’ brush your mixture onto surface and let it sit, then with a dry cotton cloth wipe in. This creates a thin layer of medium to be used in any of the following ways;
1) Sealing wood/canvas – acts as clear primer. Ready to paint on if you want to see texture/colour of the substrate under painting.
2) Reactivates an old painting – acts like a retouching varnish. The oil out process allows the surface to be suitable to work back in to. Without oiling out the painting might have cured leaving the surface less likely to stick to the new application of paint in the long run.
3) Levels the sheen of a painting where there is a mixture of gloss and matt on the surface. You may find this distracting and the ‘oiling oil’ method will help with this.
4) Apply to your dry painting before vanishing with Gamvar. Test it is dry by pressing your nail into the thickest painted area, if it is hard it is ready. (try to be gentle!) The surface will be more even and the varnish will not be absorbed in to the paint.
Gamvar varnish can be removed easily with Gamsol. Picture varnish can get dirty in time, being able to remove the varnish allows you apply the varnish again.
We have really been enjoying reading the Gamblin Mediums Guide. Brilliant information and gorgeous images of the mediums in use. Check it out.
Artists often ask us why some paints are described as “hues”. When a paint colour is described as a “hue” – for example Cadmium Red Hue, it means that it has the appearance of a particular pigment, but is not actually made from that pigment or contains less of it. Often it is a blend of several pigments. This may make it less toxic, cheaper or simply match the colour of a pigment that is no longer readily available.
Sometimes a natural earth pigment will vary in colour from batch to batch so its equivalent “hue” will be a representation of how it looked historically.
For example, Golden Artist Colors make a Naples Yellow Hue – a warm yet pale yellow colour valued by many artists. Traditionally, Naples Yellow is a lead based pigment which is now banned in paints because it is highly toxic. Golden has created a close copy of the original colour using a mixture of three pigments – Yellow Oxide, Diarylide Yellow and Titanium white.
There are lots of different brush shapes around, we thought we’d try and explain a little bit about several of them for those of you who didn’t know already!
Used with Old Holland oil paint Turquoise blue deep. Good for broad strokes, spreading paint evenly and quickly across the surface.
Used for the same purposes as a short flat, can hold more paint as it’s longer.
Filberts are similar to flats but the hairs are domed at the top. Good coverage, as with flats, but also good for detail (using the edge of the brush).
Used with Golden acrylic- Pyrrole red. A round brush with very long hairs, very good with creating fine lines. They are named riggers as they were often used to paint rigging on pictures of ships. Work well with water. Designed to retain point and shape.
Often used by sign writers to create block letters in one stroke. Precision to detail, good spring and strong lines of block colour.
Long haired brush, very good with water for creating long, smooth lines. It has adaptability- can be used to create thick or narrow lines using different parts of the brush.
Fans are mainly used for blending broad areas of paint. The shape of the brush can also be used to create interesting effects- good for creating trees by using the brush in a stippled manner.
Short, stubbly round brush. Good for effects, blending, dabbing. Creating texture is one the the main uses for this brush- it is great for painting trees, flowers etc.
Very versatile, can be used for both detail and for general painting.
Good for painting grass and reeds as can create thick to narrow lines. This brush is also good for floral painting.
Some other brushes:
Bright- Similar to flats but with shorter bristles, good for thick, impasto work. Mop- a large, soft brush with a domed head. Absorbs water well, is often used for washes in watercolour painting.