New Respect

So, rather rashly, I’ve signed up to take part in ‘The Bigger Picture‘, a local collaborative art event. Local artists are each assigned a portion of an historic picture of a local scene. In September, all the squares are assembled to form a giant patchwork picture, and are then exhibited next to the original painting.

Anyway, the board and photocopied slice of picture for ‘The Bigger Picture’ are winging their way to me, and I thought I should get the paints out and have a go to make sure it was going to be ok (although now I’ve committed to the event, there’s no backing out).

Fig Jam AcrylicThe rub is that it has to be in acrylic. I haven’t painted using acrylic since I was at school. In my mind, it was rather an unsophisticated medium, a piece of cake to use; good for graphic design and flat colour, but not something I’d naturally use for ‘freer’ painting. Oh, how wrong could I be?

We have a few tubes of assorted acrylics which were given to my son some years ago for primary school projects. It turns out that the oldest tubes had dried out as their lids had cracked. That left me using the unopened ‘Rolf Harris’ set someone kindly gave him on a birthday (before the scandal hit – I don’t suppose they could give them away today) and the brushes which came with it. Well, the brushes were abominable. Some of my problems might have been due to the fact that I was wary of using too much water, but the round brush bristles just wouldn’t behave, and the paint stuck to them something rotten. New, decent acrylic paints and suitable brushes are definitely on my shopping list.

I scouted around for something to paint, and decided to try the fig jam I made yesterday (yes, more figs!). Now, there are lots of problems with this picture, but apart from feeling how the paint behaves, I found mixing the colours a real challenge, and getting the colour on before it dried. I and also struggled to know what to apply first – darks or lights. I went for darks, but the acrylic was slightly more transparent than I expected, which worked in my favour in some places, and against me in others. The shadow started off mostly greyish, and then the vibrant blue took over.

I really missed the moveability and transparency of watercolours. On the upside, it was fun to do a background colour and have it be fairly well behaved!

I came away from this picture with an entirely new respect for people who work in acrylics – I salute you! This little taster has left me rather anxious about the upcoming collaboration. I think I’d better do a few more acrylics before I dive in with the real thing. Maybe I’ll get given a dark corner square with no detail…

15 thoughts on “New Respect

  1. Hi Rebecca, first, that’s a pretty impressive jar, spoon and jam – nothing to be ashamed of there I’d say. Secondly, I think acrylics can be very expressive. I suppose we’re used to the rather flat planes of early Hockney paintings – all those sun-washed California buildings. A friend of ours uses them in a very loose and expressive way: look at the still lives here ( If I weren’t so bound up in my fight to the death with oils I’d spend a lot more time with acrylics – go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your encouragement. You’re right about the early Hockney influence on my thinking; I enjoyed the freedom of John’s pictures, so thanks for the link. I’ve been exploring WordPress a bit too for artists in acrylic, and happily the scales are falling from my eyes. I really like your oil paintings, so please keep sharing the good work (maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to put a toe over to the dark side). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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