Building layers

Artists & Illustrators|April 2020

Building layers
Subtle glazes of pure colours can turn a simple paint-by-numbers into a photorealist masterpiece as LORENA KLOOSTERBOER reveals

As a teenager, I began painting in oils and got used to unhurried blending. Fifteen years ago, however, I switched to painting in fast-drying acrylics and had to formulate new ways to tackle subtle gradations and colour mixing. In this step-by-step masterclass, I want to show you several of the techniques I use to overcome the frustrations of fast-drying acrylics and employ their attributes to my advantage.

Instead of using retarders or open acrylics, I prefer to work with a minimum of mediums to dilute the acrylics to a soft, almost fluid consistency. I don’t blend colours but prefer to use pure or premixed colours right out of the tube and layer them in translucent or transparent glazes to create optical mixes – for example, I might use a vivid red and then tone it down with a brown glaze.

I keep a small spray bottle of water mixed with Flow Improver next to my palette, using that and a bit of Gloss Medium to dilute the acrylic to a runny, transparent consistency that spreads easily. Diluting the acrylics with only water will weaken the integrity of the paint surface. The Gloss Medium is an acrylic polymer (basically acrylic paint without colour), however, so it holds the pigments better. It looks milky when wet but dries completely clear.

The transparency of the paint allows light to filter through each layer, making the end result richer, deeper and more intense. This is a deliberate process of building the painting slowly and adjusting it with each subsequent layer – a push and pull that allows me to change colour and value without haste, knowing I can continue to fine-tune things as many times as needed. Lorena’s latest book, Complete Guide to Acrylics, is published by Search Press.

1. Trace your image

After sketching out my composition, I diluted a bit of gesso with water to a milky consistency, then applied it swiftly over the pencil lines using the 1.5” flat brush. This not only fixes the graphite, but also lightens the drawing so the lines are less stark.

I began to build the background colour solidly using Diarylide Yellow and the filbert size 4 brush. Once dry, I added Titanium White to one side and used drybrush strokes (soft scrubs with minimal paint) to achieve a smooth gradation into the Diarylide Yellow.

2. Colour by numbers


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April 2020