So I decided to try my hand at acrylics. Why? Because there are a number of things about oil paints I don’t like. Maybe it’s because I learned how to oil paint using the Bill Alexander/Bob Ross wet-on-wet technique. It’s great for simple landscape paintings but doesn’t work too well with more detailed compositions. And the longer I paint, the more I find myself drawn to details and realism.
I thought it would be an easy transition from oils to acrylics. I was wrong. There are two things about acrylics that really threw me for a loop: they are far more transparent than oils, and they dry darker than oils.
After a month of struggling, I decided it was time to humble myself and get back to basics. After all, that how I learned how to oil paint — by painting the simplest paintings I could find and slowly working my way up to more complicated ones. After looking at various books, I decided on Mark Daniel Nelson’s Learn to Paint Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings. Again, taking a cue from oil painting, it’s easier to learn on a small canvas than a large one.
Today, I finally got around to painting the first three compositions. I not only had a blast, but I was also surprised at how much I learned. With this first simple painting, which I’m calling “Moonglow,” I got a feel for just how transparent Titanium White really is. I also realized that the super fast drying time of acrylics allowed me to use both painter’s tape to create that nice line between mountain and water as well as a quarter to trace a circle in the sky. I also learned that Titanium White and Carbon Black spread very nicely.
The second painting was also rather simple: A sunset with a dark, silhouetted horizon and ultra bright sun. The sky was painted using Cad Yellow, Cad Orange, and Cad Red. I was surprised at the velocity of both yellow and red, especially compared to the orange. Also very interesting was how both the yellow and red blended so well with orange, but that orange didn’t blend too well with either yellow or red. Could that be because Cad Yellow and Red are more transparent than Cad Orange? I think so. Also, I realized it was very important to paint and repaint the sun in order to get it extra bright. In the end, I used some medium gesso, which really made it pop.
Finally, there’s this simple landscape. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the composition. However, it’s not about the painting itself, but what the painting can teach me. So: what did I learn? First, that Yellow Ochre is really transparent and requires a second application in order to darken it. I also learned that ochre mixed with white creates a very nice flesh color. But perhaps the most important lesson was that, with landscapes, I need to come from the back to the front — which is a strange lesson to learn since that’s, like, the first thing you learn when watching Bob Ross! But I was following the method in the book.
I’m happy with what I learned so far and I’m eager to continue with the book. I’m also surprised at how effective the first two compositions really are. (Like I said, I’m not a fan of the third.) That’s a lesson in itself: sometimes, small and simple can get the job done.