Watching paint dry by Colin Ruffell [artist in Skylark One].
Last Saturday I gave a demonstration of my acrylic painting technique in a huge new artists supply shop in London. The shop is the Great Art store in the trendy East End of London. This is in Shoreditch, just north of Liverpool Street station, and the square mile City of London.
My hosts Great Art happily supplied me with my choice of acrylics, canvases, and tools. I chose to experiment with their own in-house brand to see what I thought of them. Their I Love Art brand was ideal for my purpose. The paint comes in generous portions and is just right for making big art without breaking the bank.
The demo was co-organized with The Fine Art Trade Guild who were promoting their Original Art Register. This a new, worldwide, online, service that is available to any artists, not just Guild Members.
So acrylics and OAR!
I am a keen advocate of both. And of course I realize that was why I was asked to do the demo.
The demonstration spot in the shop was next to the free coffee dispenser. That was good. But it was a corner position on the ground floor with big windows facing south. That meant that the sun blazed down onto the tabletop and across my palette. The lovely strong sunlight did make the demo a bit more of a challenge.
On this occasion I started with two blank white canvases, and I painted a couple of new London paintings. Well not quite ‘painted’, because neither was completely finished at the end of the day. Here they are when I packed up in the afternoon. Visitors to Skylark Galleries will recognise that my ‘Blackfriars Bridge 2017’ picture is based on the view from our Skylark Galleries location on the Southbank of the Thames.
I enjoyed several interesting conversations with other artists who had come along to watch me play around with the acrylics. This is why I have called this blog ‘watching paint dry’, because that is what you can do if you use acrylics. In fact it is probably one of the most exciting thing about acrylic paint, namely that it is water-based paint and so it dries and fixes very rapidly. If an artist paints in oil-paint then it takes absolutely ages for the paint to dry. But an artist using acrylics can paint a second coat over previous paint soon after the first coat is applied. The first coat won’t bleed into the second coat like it does in wet oil-paint or water-colour.
As I have written before, artists can get several extra effects by painting over dry paint, like scumble and glaze. During the demo I glazed both of the paintings that I was working on. It is a quite scary process. Basically I washed a layer of thin watery colour right across the whole half-finished painting. The under paint is still very visible. The effect is to bind the complete picture together. After a glaze the next paint strokes have extra oomph. With oil-paint you would have to be certain that the under-colour was dry, and that might be days, weeks or even months later. You cannot do that with water-colour either, even if it is dry, because everything would smudge.
I used a set of lino-printing rollers. This prompted a question or two. In fact I have used these soft-rubber type of rollers to paint with since I was a student. They are great for getting big blocks of colour and tone across the painting as a whole. The textured surface is a bonus. It dries quickly and you can over-paint with other colours to get interesting effects.
I blocked in other bits of the picture with big fat brushes. I like to get the whole surface covered quickly and start by establishing the basic areas of colour, and dark and light. For a long while both paintings were quite abstract. But I had a rough idea about my subject matter. I had taken previous photographs of the River Thames including some taken on London Bridge that very morning.
For detailed areas I used smaller brushes and painting knives near the end of the painting.
During conversations with other artists I explained why the Guild Original Art Register is such a good idea. As soon as I finish these two new paintings I will register them and thus ensure that I get the copyright security available. I have recorded my ownership of course by publishing them here in my blog, with a date, but the OAR enables me to show the world my range of subjects and it can be used as a very useful library of my images.
Altogether it was an interesting and enjoyable day.
Thanks to hosts Great Art, and thanks to The Fine Art Trade Guild, and thanks to the other artists who came to discuss, encourage, stimulate and watch.
The two new paintings will eventually be added to my portfolio, and be published as prints and greetings cards.
And I will make sure that they feature on the Skylark Galleries online shop as well as being available in Skylark One in Gabriel’s Wharf.