Why Not to Give Up on Your Acrylic Portrait Painting

Why Not to Give Up on Your Acrylic Portrait Painting

It’s easy to get frustrated in the middle of painting an acrylic portrait. Possibly your skin tones aren’t looking natural, or the values are off. Maybe the portrait just doesn’t look like the person you’re trying to capture. When you’re going for realism, and it just isn’t happening, what do you do? Although you may be tempted to give up, don’t. I want to give you 3 reasons why: 1. You will save time, paint and materials. Let’s face it. Painting is a labor of love. As artists, we could choose more lucrative jobs, where our exchange of time for money paid better. But we put a lot of hours into creating a high-quality unique work of art. So if you have put several hours into a painting only to scrap it and start over, you lost that time. In addition, you lost money with the cost of canvas, paint, and wear and tear on your brushes. Now, even if you paint just as a hobby, it’s frustrating to take the time to create something and then have nothing to show for that time you allotted in your busy schedule. Finishing the painting makes sense then, even from a purely material standpoint. 2. Pushing past a difficult point in your painting will build your resilience and grow your “artistic muscle”.  It’s easy to give up. Sticking with something when your thoughts and emotions are screaming, “This looks terrible…I’m done with this!” is way, way harder. This is similar to weightlifting. Serious bodybuilders know they won’t get great results unless they push past the pain. As they break down their...
How I do Shading with Acrylic (Video)

How I do Shading with Acrylic (Video)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I know I did. It was rejuvenating to take a little time off from the studio, and spend it with family. Sometimes as an artist, you feel the crunch of having to create a lot of artwork, and your creative energies get tapped out. Thanksgiving’s a fantastic time to recharge, give thanks to God for all the blessings He’s given, be with family, and of course, eat a wonderful home-cooked meal. Back to the studio tomorrow. While teaching art classes lately, I’ve discovered one of the most challenging things for my students to learn is how to shade. For artists and art appreciators, shading is a mysterious thing. We wonder how to do it, or how others did it. Shading– the transition from a dark value to a lighter value in a two-dimensional work of art–is one of the most important techniques you can master to make a painting or drawing look realistic. I’d like to share a video (hosted on YouTube) I created earlier this week about that, with you. This is my first art instructional video–in fact really the first serious video recording I’ve done, since the old days of playing around with a VHS-C camcorder with my buddies after school. We made some pretty crazy movies back then! Somewhere towards the end of the video–maybe about 2/3 of the way through–is where I really get into it: how to do shading with acrylic and make it look real. Hope you enjoy this video, and let me know if it helps you in your painting. Let me know, too, how I can...
How I Learned to Save on Acrylic Paint

How I Learned to Save on Acrylic Paint

One of the biggest costs for a painter is the canvas and, of course, the paint. I’ve been painting for over 20 years and during that time, I’ve had many fine brands of acrylic to choose from like Liquitex, Windsor & Newton, and Golden. But tubes of paint are crazy expensive. In 1999, I got turned on to Nova Color paint by a muralist from Los Angeles. Nova Color manufactures and sells their own high quality paint, comparable to the name brands, out of California, and ships it direct to artists, cutting out the middleman–and the huge price tag. I can buy a pint (16 oz) of paint for the same price as a 6 oz tube at the local art store. Big savings. And big mess. The only problem was that Nova Color ships their paint in jars, not tubes. Tubes are nice. You can squeeze just the amount of paint you need onto the palette. With jars, the only way to apply the paint onto your canvas is with a spoon. And that gets very, very messy. And you waste paint every time you load up your palette. And so preparing my palette is something I have grown to hate. I sometimes endure nearly dried gobs of paint rather than scoop fresh paint from the jar. The solution. Finally, after 15 years, I found a  a way to get rid of the mess and waste: refillable squeeze tubes. They weren’t easy to find, but I purchased some squeezable tubes online at REI.com that people use for camping and travel. They work perfect for paint.   You just...
How to Display and Care for an Acrylic Painting

How to Display and Care for an Acrylic Painting

I always smile a bit to myself when I have my artwork at a show, and a child reaches out to touch one of my paintings. “No! Don’t touch that!” the parent scolds. I don’t want to minimize the parent’s admonition, but I try to reassure them that the painting isn’t as delicate as they assume. In Western culture, from our experiences encountering centuries-old masterpieces in museums, we are conditioned to give artwork its distance, and treat it as an ancient archeological relic. Granted, I do try to show my artwork respect–because it is valuable–and not allow the surface to get scuffed or otherwise abused, but I know the medium I use, and it’s very resilient. So on the one side, I want clients that purchase my original paintings to treat it with care (and almost everyone instinctively does) but I also want them to feel comfortable knowing the painting can live in a house where people cook, children play, pets shed, and life happens. Ever since the Renaissance, oil paint was the standard medium for painting. It allowed for a long working time, brilliant color saturation and blending, but because it could get brittle over time, oil paintings had to be handled with great care. Then, in the 1930’s acrylic paint was invented and became available to artists in the 1950’s. Acrylics are great because of their versatility. High quality acrylics such as Liquitex, Windsor & Newton, and the kind I use–NovaColor– are extremely flexible, non-yellowing, water resistant, and highly resistant to scratches once dry. Although I have tried oils, acrylic is my medium of choice. Since I...
How to Paint a Realistic Acrylic Portrait in 5 Steps

How to Paint a Realistic Acrylic Portrait in 5 Steps

  I have been doing commissioned portraits for 24 years, since I was in high school. One of the questions I’m often asked is: “How do you create your art?”   I am going to show you a recent portrait I did, step by step, and my hope is that you may be able to learn a few tips that will help you in your own portrait painting. Although I paint in acrylic, some of this information may help you even if you paint in oils. If you are not a painter, I hope this post will still be interesting to you! Who knows? You could even start painting today!   For this particular example, my portrait was based off a great photo (which unfortunately I am unable to show since it was a professional photograph ) and it lent itself to a great painted portrait. Amateur snapshots can be used as a basis for a portrait, but unfortunately, the lighting and detail is usually lacking, so the image you create from them as an artist is similarly lacking in depth. Get the best photo you can, and your painting will be all the better for it.   Step 1: Start Right With a Sketch Without a good sketch, you’re just shooting in the dark. The sketch is where you will create your composition, ensure the likeness of your subject–that is, make sure the person you’re painting looks like them–and define specific details. Be sure to center your subject on the surface of the canvas and if it is a head and shoulders portrait, the face should fill about...
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