Monday, August 5, 2019

Tap the Breaks and Back It Up a Bit: Acrylic Basics

I don't know why I thought I could just grab a bunch of supplies and start painting after so many years away from the medium. Confidence is nice, but I should have done some research and watched refresher videos for beginners, which is what I have been doing these past few days since I bombed the first try at an acrylic portrait. Thanks to more seasoned artists and YouTubers, I feel a bit more prepared and ready to give this another try, but I am not going to attempt a full blown painting right away. Instead, I will start with skin tone value studies and then move on to practice parts of the face. I will film a study of the human eye and share clips in this post. But first, lessons learned!

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My Biggest Mistakes

First, I just went ham on my canvas and did not get to know the medium first. My old paintings were mostly animals and expressive vignettes that didn't require much detail. I completed them alla prima (wet-on-wet) style mostly, so the whole glazing technique was moot. I have done some portraits with gouache and watercolor, but acrylic paints behave differently and must be approached differently as well. So always practice with new art mediums, and don't hold your initial works so precious that you will become frustrated when they don't come out the way you want.

Second, I used messy shortcuts. The most egregious of these was using the portrait pink paint. I mixed it with other colors, but I only created mud for the most part. I know better than that. I should have mixed my own colors from primary shades and browns. I also should have used one of my palette knives to mix the shades on a real palette. The disposable plates are too small and allow the paint to dry too fast. They are also wasteful!

 Now I am using the Masterson's Sta-Wet Handy Palette, which is a smaller version of the classic Sta-Wet Palette, which I owned for 12-15 years. I threw it out earlier this year because it had become cracked and warped. I like the Handy Palette better because it is easier for me to handle.

I also decided to upgrade my paints. The Daler Rowney Simply are okay, and I stand by my initial review, but I do have a little bit of painting experience, and I had a feeling that some of my initial hiccups were due to the paint after all. Turns out that this was true. I am having much better results using Liquitex Basics and Arteza acrylic colors.

I bought the Liquitex Basics Classic Beginner's Set of 6, which includes Napthol Crimson, Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow Medium (hue), Pthalocyanine Green, Mars Black, and Titanium White. I bought the Burnt Umber separately as well as a tube of Liquitex Professional Heavy Body acrylics in Titanium White. I really wanted to try one of the pro colors for comparison.  The Arteza paints I bought were Yellow Ochre and Burnt Umber.

So I went on a shopping spree here, and also got some Golden Glazing fluid medium and Liquitex Basics gloss gel medium. Detailed reviews are coming, but for now I will tell you that I really liked everything I bought. Liquitex Basics is an affordable but very high quality line for students. The Arteza paints seem to be very similar. I only have two of those, but I cannot tell the difference between the brands when I am using them. Solid investment!

My final major mistake was trying to learn too many new interests at once. While I did have some confidence in taking up the acrylics, I found more challenges in learning to create and edit videos. In my first videos I had a lot of trouble with lighting and stabilizing the camera. My old tripod was absolute junk, and old junk at that. So what did I do about it? Yep, I bought a light to attach to my camera and a new tripod. Again, reviews are coming, but these two inexpensive items made a huge difference in video quality. You can see it in the video below. I have better angles and clearer shots. I still have room for improvement, of course.

Do you have tips for painting and filming/editing to share? If so, I would love for you to leave them in the comments. I will be filming the rest of this painting exercise this week, and I will also write some of those reviews I have promised. Thanks for reading and watching!

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