Archive for March, 2012

New Materials: Interactive Acrylics, Part 2

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Assisi was calling me. I knew a depiction of that landscape would be my next major project. The landscape called for something large and daring (for me, anyway). I hauled out one of my 30×40 canvases. The canvas meant I’d need to do it in acrylic. And covering that much canvas before the paint dried meant giving the Interactive acrylics another go.

I began with a flat, warm, mid-tone, ochre-like wash with a standard acrylic, so it wouldn’t lift if I needed to rework any over-layers very deeply.

As the underlayer of standard acrylic dried and cured, I was aware of the sharp odor of the product and realized that there had been no such odors when I had used the Interactive acrylics. This is a factor worth considering in our household, since my husband is sensitive to a lot of chemicals and solvents—one reason I don’t use oil paints.

While the base coat dried, I planned the composition from my reference photos, sleeping on it (figuratively speaking) to give my subconscious some play. Then, value study in hand, I set to work. The peculiar angles of the old hilltop village made the perspective appear out of whack, but I stuck with it, taking considerable artistic license in simplification and interpretation of the scene.

120105 Assisi Aspect

I did use the reworkability of the Interactive acrylics, including the so-called “unlocking formula” (that smells and acts like rubbing alcohol, which, by the way, can also be used to “unlock” the set paint). As the painting was nearing completion, I realized that the stonework in the focal area was darker than I’d originally intended. Though it looked weathered and old, it had lost the golden glow that is so typical of much of the Italian countryside. So, using the “unlocking formula,” I gently wiped off some of the upper layers, sometimes taking it all the way down to the ochre base coat. A soft gold glow reappeared, and I was happier with the result.

A month later, I was still uncomfortable about several aspects of my “finished” painting, so I went back to work. Using the unlocking formula and alcohol, I wiped away some of the dried paint and reworked several areas. The Interactive acrylics made that possible. I don’t particularly like the texture of the paint, though, when I attempt to “unlock” what has dried on the palette. I find it much preferable to squeeze out more, fresh from the tube. So I found the “unlocking formula” more useful for removing unwanted paint than for making dried paint workable.

The Interactive Acrylics did make painting—and repainting—easier. But it isn’t ideal. Neither was the result. I still prefer watercolor.

New Materials: Atelier Interactive Acrylics, Part 1

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Having tried working watercolor on canvas gessoed for acrylic use and on unstretched Fredrix pad canvas, I decided to try one of Fredrix prestretched watercolor canvases (sold specifically for use with watercolor paint). …I won’t keep you dangling; I was no happier with that canvas than I had been with the other two options. Although it didn’t shrink as the unstretched canvas sheets had, it is somewhat lighter weight than what is sold for oil or acrylic use. And I still experienced a problem with the paint’s lifting as I applied glazes.

Rather than discard the failed painting, I determined to rework the canvas using a relatively new product that had come to my attention and that I thought was worth investigating—Atelier Interactive Acrylics, by Chroma.

What, you may ask, is a watercolorist doing using acrylics? I will admit that I have used acrylics in the past but was discouraged because they dried so quickly in Southwest Florida’s low humidity. I much preferred working with watercolors, with which I can control the fluidity and rehydrate paint that has dried in my palette. Atelier Interactive Acrylic, however, can be rewetted when it becomes tacky—or even dry—on either the palette or the canvas. I thought that this might be a solution to my problem.

I had ordered an introductory set, which includes a good range of preselected paint colors, three different additives for various purposes, an empty spray bottle for distilled water (to “unlock” the drying paint), and a DVD that offers tips on composition, perspective, values, and color (though no explanation of how to use the additives, which are roughly explained on printed inserts). The set also includes an informative color chart for the line that lists, among other things, the pigments used in each—very helpful for making informed selections.

Washing the watercolors off the canvas under running water left enough stain to act as a guiding sketch. My subject had been a repeat of the one I used in “Anticipation,” composed slightly differently on the larger ground. I set up my palette, chose a few appropriate brushes, and roughly laid in the background and foreground colors. Then I tackled the clustered figures, blocking in the larger areas of color and gradually refining them. I didn’t use any of the additives.

120104 Anticipation 2

In the process of painting, of course, the Interactive paint, which I had applied quite wet and fluid, watercolor style, began to dry. Following directions, I sprayed the drying paint on both the canvas and the palette and continued working. The paint did indeed become workable again, and I was able to blend with previously laid color rather than simply over-painting in layers, as I would normally have had to do with a standard acrylic.

Being thin, the rewetted paint did have a tendency to lift more than I would have preferred, as I moved it around on the canvas, but that was due more to the thin initial washes, which I was going back into to rework, than to a fault of either the paint or canvas itself.

I liked the result, and yes, I will use these acrylics again. Maybe I’ll try a thicker application next time—more like oils—and see how that works. Stay tuned.