A painter emailed me about his recent acrylic landscape. He said it looked realistic but did not have the uplifting feeling that says “buy me”. He wrote, “I then applied a mat glaze of yellow to warm it up, but it looked like a boring painting with a yellow mat glaze. I then gave it a yellow gloss glaze hoping for a beautiful day, the sun’s out feeling, but it looked like a dull painting with two glazes! Please help!”
First I would like to suggest to add more faith in your process, reducing the amount of energy that goes into frustration when the painting doesn’t look INCREDIBLE every time you do one layer, one brush stroke, one thing. Doubting, frustration and critical judging at each step is usually a waste of time and energy. It also puts you in a place of indecision.
So that said, now a few tips on glazing techniques.
(A glaze is a transparent mixture made with about 50-70% medium and the remaining amount with paint color. For more information on this please see the several previous blog entries I’ve made on this site on glazing).
With acrylic I noticed that it takes 3 or 4 layers of a glaze to equal the refraction that oil offers in 1 layer. So when you decide to add a yellow glaze over your painting to warm it up, first apply one layer of a glaze made with a warm yellow like Cadmium Medium or Hansa Yellow Medium. Then when that dries, apply another layer of a cool yellow glaze like Green Gold or Hansa Yellow Light. When that dries add yet another layer of a high powered modern color glaze like Nickel Azo Gold.
As you apply each layer try to apply it unevenly, so that you have more of the color on one side or one area then the other. (I like to accomplish this not by using more quantity of glaze – I like THIN glazes – but by applying pure medium in some areas first, then when the glaze goes over that area it becomes more transparent.) Then when you apply the next layer change the way this next color is applied (more color – less transparent on a different side or area than the last layer). This way you are adding a yellow tone to the painting, but you are also creating a richer quality by using multiple layers. And working with it unevenly adds to the illusion of depth much more than when you apply equal layers that change the whole surface of the painting the same.
Another tip: To get an antique effect, or add a warm feeling to a painting (especially great with landscapes or portraits) I like to use a glaze of Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold. These paint colors are incredibly rich, so use extremely small amounts of the color in larger quantities of medium. Test a glaze prior to use for strength of color before applying it directly to your painting by applying it over an unused surface or piece of paper, then blow dry it for fast results.