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Acrylic Mediums, Gels & Pastes. What are they?

Acrylic is an amazing medium for fine art painters. It’s not just paint! Acrylic research and development has taken acrylic far beyond what any other medium, like oil or watercolor, can do.

When we compare acrylic to all the other available mediums for painters, it is like comparing the computer application of Photoshop to an old fashioned typewriter. We can type something in Photoshop, but this program can do so much more. Imagine only using Photoshop to type a letter! We would be missing out on the vast possibilities that Photoshop has to offer. It’s the same with acrylic. To approach acrylic as if we are painting with oil or watercolor would limit the broad range of its painting potential.

The video excerpt below is about Acrylic Binders. It is from my course The Complete Guide to Acrylic Painting. It is the ultimate acrylic painting course, using self-guided video instruction.

The main difference between acrylic and the other painting mediums is its wide range of binder options. All paint is made of two basic components: pigment (color) and binder (turns the pigment into a paintable form).

Binders are also referred to as a “vehicle” or “medium”. They transform the pigment particles into a wet form creating a substance we can use as paint. Acrylic or polymer is the binder for acrylic paints.

Ever find yourself standing in awe (and confusion) at the long row of products in the acrylic section at the art store? It can be mind-boggling! Yet almost all of these products can be divided into two main types: paints or binders. As I mentioned before, acrylic paint combines color pigment with acrylic binder. These are called paints because they have color! Binders represent the rest of those products, usually without color, and can be divided into three main types; mediums, gels and pastes.

Let’s look into the three types of binders more closely. The differences between them are mainly about consistency, transparency and drying times.

Consistency
Mediums are thin and pourable, smoothing the paint or surface. Gels and pastes are thick, adding texture to the paint or surface.

Transparency
Gels and Mediums can be purchased in different sheen types, such as gloss, matte and sometimes semi-gloss. Gloss versions applied over a paint layer or color, will be transparent like the Regular Gloss Gel pictured on the left in the image below. You can still see the black lines underneath the gel very well. Matte and semi-gloss versions applied over a paint layer or color will look translucent or slightly milky, as seen in the middle image. Pastes are opaque, and will cover over paint layers like the Molding Paste on the right side of the image.

Each type of binder, as well as each paint color, has its own quality in terms of transparency versus opacity. You can change and customize the transparency or opacity of paints by mixing them with binders. The more transparent a layer or color is, the more “see-through” it is, allowing an underlying color, image or surface underneath to show through. The more opaque a layer or color is, the more it will cover up whatever is underneath. Adding gloss mediums or gels to a paint color increases its transparency, adding pastes to paint colors increases its opacity.

Adding matte mediums or matte gels to paint creates translucency offering opportunities to replicate wax and other veiling effects. Adding more or less of each of the above creates varying degrees of transparency, translucency or opacity.

Let’s look at glazes as an example. Glazes are made by mixing very small amounts of paint color into mediums. Substitute gels for mediums in this scenario to make contemporary textural glazes.

As you can see from the images below, when mediums and gels become dry, they clear up quite a bit, to something either transparent or translucent, while the paste still remains white and opaque. A small swatch of matte medium and matte gel are applied to the bottom of their gloss counterparts in the photo, to show the translucent quality of matte products.

Drying Times
Another consideration between mediums, gels and pastes are their different drying times. Adding gels to your paints will increase the open time, another way to say that it will slow down the drying time. Pastes dry quickly so adding these to your paints will allow for those paints to dry faster too. There are also some mediums that are meant to dry extra slow and are mentioned below.

Here is a list of my favorite painting products for each category. These are mainly Golden products as that’s what I use in my studio.

Mediums
Mediums are usually thin enough to pour easily out of their containers. The gloss versions are white when wet, but dry totally clear. The matte versions dry somewhat semi-transparent. Mediums are pure polymer binder. Here are several choices I like to have around my studio at arm’s reach, with a list of how I use them.


Gloss Medium
Mix into paints to make them more transparent and/or glossy
Apply to a surface to seal it or make it glossy
Apply over paint to enhance colors

Matte Medium
Mix into paints to make them more transparent and/or matte
Apply to a surface to make it more matte
Apply over paint to veil or mute colors

Acrylic Glazing Liquid
Use as a slow drying medium
Mix into paints up to 40% to slow down the drying to apply a color evenly
Apply to surfaces to work wet-in-wet
Mix into paints over 40% to make colors more transparent – into a glaze

OPEN Medium
Use as a very slow drying medium, same as other mediums.
Add to paint to make color more transparent.
Can be used with the matching slow drying paint line called OPEN. Can also be mixed with regular acrylic paint lines.

Golden has a line of 7 specialty purpose mediums, called GAC’s. I will write a separate blog article on these soon, and when posted will add a link here. In the meantime, click here to read more about them on Golden’s website.

Gels
In general, Gels start out in manufacturing as thin mediums, but are put through a thickening process to stiffen their consistency. They are usually packaged in jars or tubes, and can be handled with knives or brushes. Like unthickened mediums, the gloss versions are white when wet, but dry totally clear. The matte versions dry somewhat semi-transparent. Gels are pure polymer binder. Here are several choices I like to have around my studio at arm’s reach, with a list of how I use them.

Soft Gel Gloss
Use for same reasons as gloss mediums, but when texture is desired
Create textural glazes by adding color
Add transparency by mixing into color
Slow down drying by mixing into color
Use to make an Isolation Coat to protect one layer from the next, usually used directly under the final varnish layer. Mix 1:1 with water
Great glue for paper and objects
Apply over white grounds in places to act as a resist

Regular Gel Gloss and Heavy Gel Gloss
can be used same as Soft Gel Gloss but are thicker

Soft Gel Matte
Use for same reasons as matte mediums, but when texture is desired
Create textural glazes by adding color
Add transparency by mixing into color
Can use as glue for paper and objects where you don’t want gloss
Apply over paint for veiling or muting colors

Regular Gel Matte and Heavy Gel Matte
can be used same as Soft Gel Matte but are thicker

Clear Tar Gel
Use for pouring purposes in thin layers. Only dilute with water in dry climates and minimally. Avoid diluting to create marbleized color effects.

Pastes
Pastes are made with polymer binder, like mediums and gels, however they have other ingredients added to make them thick and opaque. They are usually packaged in jars or tubes, and can be handled with knives or brushes. Here are several choices I like to have around my studio at arm’s reach, with a list of how I use them.

Light Molding Paste
Use as a white paint in mixtures to make tints but keeping colors bright
Add to paint to create fluffy absorbent textures
Apply to surfaces to increase surface absorbency
Apply as a “white-out” over painted areas you want to change completely
Add to paint to quicken its drying time

Coarse Molding Paste
Same uses as Light Molding Paste except it dries more transparent
Apply over painted areas to veil or mute

Molding Paste
Use in stencils for relief texture
Add to paint to thicken and make more opaque
Apply over surface to create smooth slightly non-absorbent surfaces

Special note: Additives such as retarder and flow release are not acrylic binders. These need to be used in correct proportions as described on their product labels.

Summary
All binders can be mixed together with other binders, with or without colored paint. They can also be layered one over the other in any order. Binders can be added into paints to customize your paint. They can be applied by themselves on a surface to customize your surface prior to painting, during painting and after painting. Wow, right?

This article excerpted from The Complete Guide to Acrylic Painting. It is the ultimate acrylic painting course, by Nancy Reyner using self-guided video instruction.

Award Winner Linda Harbert

Linda Harbert, The School and It’s Environment, oil on canvas, 35.5″ x 47.25″

The journey an artist takes in creating their work has always interested me. From their first decision to create art to the point where they discover their work is uniquely theirs can take a long time. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, theorized it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any one particular activity. This includes painting, and therefore an artist’s journey will naturally meander through many phases. This is what intrigued me most during a recent conversation I had with Mexico artist Linda Harbert.

I first saw Harbert’s painting The School and It’s Environment in the online exhibition produced and curated by Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International. I visit this site often, as it is chock full of super helpful artist’s information, much of it free to the public. The show, entitled HerStory, was on view from June 20 – August 20, 2018. By the way, there is a video on view now, with some of the show’s work, along with the top 8 award-winners’ images and statements at https://manhattanarts.com/herstory-2018/.

Renee gave me the honor of selecting a Special Awards winner for this show. My criteria was to find a compelling image, one that invites me to enter another world, and be visually surprised by what I find there. The show was of very high quality and therefore gave me many choices. I ended up selecting Harbert’s entry because of its immediate visual appeal. The image feels engaging and original and drew me right into an unexpected space with a sweeping and compelling eye choreography.

Harbert started her journey painting outdoors (in plein air).  Madroño 5 is an example of her early work outdoors, where Harbert was interpreting directly from nature.

     Madroño 5, oil on canvas 5” x 4”

Once she was able to procure a studio her work shifted to more abstract, but still contained recognizable elements of landscape and nature .

  Red Leaves, oil on canvas, 35.5” x 23.5”

Gradually over time Harbert grew more interested in abstraction. She enjoys starting a painting with no preconceived idea but instead allows herself to move freely along with the process. Harbert says abstraction comes more from the gut and from feeling, as compared to her process with the outdoor landscapes. And she thinks it’s way more fun!

   Untitled, oil on canvas, 48” x 33.5”

In her statement on her website, Harbert writes “My paintings have developed through time, still surreal in many cases but I am headed more and more to the abstract.  I’ve become enchanted with the scraping and rubbing off of paint, the layers and the textures. I love making scratches and marks, wild and free.  I’m delighted by any accidents that happen.  I start with nothing in mind, just some wild strokes on the canvas.  As I continue it grows into a feeling or a story.  The painting tells me what to do and gives me the direction I should take.  This is a more abstract, unconscious way of painting that I have come to love.  It is challenging, exciting and best of all fun.”

Art has been a part of Linda Harbert’s life since she was a child.  After graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design, she worked in graphics, display design and then to her own business in commercial sculpting.  She made a two year trip to Ouito, Ecuador in her 20’s where she first painted watercolor landscapes and had two shows.  Her love for Latin America was established.  In 1997 she moved to Oaxaca, Mexico.   It is here in the mountains of Oaxaca where she has taken up oil painting and has made it her new professional career.

You can find out more about Linda on her webpage here: https://lindaharbert.artspan.com/

The Complete Guide to Acrylic Painting Techniques

The Ultimate Acrylic Painting Class · Self-Guided Video Instruction

From Your First Brushstroke to Your Ultimate Masterpiece – This Course Has It All!

Anyone can master acrylic painting with the right skills! With this all-inclusive acrylic painting course, learn to achieve a wide range of painting techniques in both Classic and Contemporary styles. Gain confidence to create any painting effect, style and image you desire! Learn from the nation’s foremost acrylic expert and international best-selling author of acrylic painting books, including Acrylic Revolution. Warning: Course side effects may include creative joy and a painting addiction!

Course Value is $685 for Only $217. Course includes 30 Videos & 4 ebooks, costing much more if purchased individually. You SAVE over $450!

TWO PURCHASE OPTIONS

Purchase Streaming
Price streaming is $217. Also includes do-it-yourself instructions to download the course onto your own device.

Purchase Already Downloaded
Have the convenience of receiving your course already downloaded onto a mini hard drive (this flash drive is compatible with any standard USB A port), and shipped to you. Price is $257 plus shipping: $6 in the US, $12 international.

See What’s Included! Scroll down for more course details.

Nancy’s professional and easy-to-follow videos show you all the ways to use acrylic – from traditional painting methods such as glazing, stippling, color mixing and dry brushing, as well as NEW contemporary methods such as flinging, pouring, sanding, layering, and hundreds more painting tips to get successful results.

Download/stream this course with over eleven hours of video instruction and four reference ebooks. Use this as a do-it-yourself course, and follow each video in order like a workshop. This unique course is also a professional reference guide to quickly access acrylic techniques whenever needed.

Nancy Reyner shares her 30 years as a professional painter and Certified Working Artist for Golden Artist Colors in creating this course.

Complimentary viewing of a course video below.

“Painters will master acrylic techniques in record time!”
– Rick Garcia, artist, PA, USA

Immediately upon purchasing the streaming version, you gain access to all materials. These can be streamed right away, or downloaded onto your computer for lifetime access. For your convenience you can also purchase the course already downloaded onto a hard drive, shipped to you, and accessible using any Standard USB (A) port.

What experience level can benefit?
Any level will benefit! All techniques are fully explained for a wide audience and range of techniques. If you are a beginner and serious about painting, this course will have you learning to paint with ease and confidence in no time! Perhaps you already have some painting experience in another medium – like oil or watercolor? Then this course will make it easy to transfer your process to acrylic. Even painters with years of acrylic experience will find new and exciting ideas, updated information, great tips to control results, and more expertise to resolve painting issues. Complete this course and get everything you need to paint successfully with acrylic.

Get quick answers to painting questions, such as
-How do I create interesting textures?
-What’s the difference between mediums, gels and pastes?
-How to create transparency in layers?
-What is pouring – and especially the new popular “cell” pouring?
-How do I make my work long lasting and archival?
-What are the best ways to imitate oil paint with acrylic?
-How to imitate watercolor effects with acrylic?
and much more……
As an extra bonus, Nancy reveals at last her secret techniques to create her popular waves and clouds.

Testimonials
“I learned so much. This course has it all!”
– Bonnie Teitelbaum, painter, NM, USA

“Nancy feels like my fairy godmother! I felt very insecure about my techniques. Now I know how to achieve any result I want.”
– Phyllis Jaffe, painter, former art professor, Maryland, USA

“As an oil painter, learning about acrylics in this course introduced me to a world of new possibilities. I am now using acrylics as a base for my oil paints, as underpaintings to quickly map out a composition, for unusual textural surfaces, and to create effects not possible with oil.”
– Rajul Shah, Painter, Japan/USA

“Nancy Reyner is an artistic genius. She has a vast knowledge of painting, materials and styles. With Nancy’s thorough instruction I resolved my painting obstacles and I’m more inventive.”
– Janice Patterson, painter, Shoreline, WA, USA

List of Videos and Their Contents:

  • 1. Introduction (23 min)
    About the course, best ways to approach learning, supplies
  • 2. Acrylic Paint: A Whole New World (16 min)
    Acrylic properties, definitions, advantages, range of effects
  • 3. Paint Viscosities (10 min)
    Viscosity comparisons: Heavy Body, Fluid, High Flow
  • 4. Exploring Acrylic Binders (15 min)
    Mediums, gels, pastes, matte vs gloss, specialty mediums
  • 5. Acrylic is the Inventor’s Toolbox (22.5 min)
    Use binders to customize paint & surfaces, creative paint combinations & effects
  • 6. Classic-Style Painting with Acrylic (17 min)
    Use acrylic in a classic style painting technique, similar to oil painting
  • 7. Oil Effects with Acrylic (19.5 min)
    Intensify refraction, color enhancement, tips to imitate oil paint effects
  • 8. Perfect Color Mixing (101 min)
    Mix colors perfectly, optimal color palettes, color theory
  • 9. Surface Appeal (27.5 min)
    Custom painting surfaces for absorbency and texture
  • 10. Pigment & Paints (9.5 min)
    Organic & inorganic pigments, modern vs mineral colors
  • 11. Amazing Watercolor Effects with Acrylic (11 min)
    Imitate watercolor effects with acrylic, wash pouring
  • 12. The Truth About Over-Watered Acrylics (6.5 min)
    Tips on diluting acrylic with water
  • 13. How to Make Acrylic Dry Slower (28.5 min)
    Methods to slow down acrylic drying times
  • 14. Blending & Soft Edges (8.5 min)
    Easy color blending for soft edges
  • 15. Transparency & Glazing (27.5 min)
    Achieve glaze applications, special section for painting waves & clouds
  • 16. Layering (8.5 min)
    Wet-in-wet, texture layers, overlay pastes to rework, sheens to enhance spatial depth
  • 17. How to Make Acrylic Dry Faster (5 min)
    Customize paints & surfaces for fast working process
  • 18. Acrylic Painting Made Easier (6.5 min)
    Overall tips for working easily with acrylic
  • 19. Pouring Acrylic – Part I (15 min)
    Overview of pouring techniques, cell pouring, pigment weights
  • 20. Pouring Acrylic – Part II (71 min)
    More pouring ideas, marbleized effects, choosing pouring mediums
  • 21. Translucency & Atmospheric Veiling (9 min)
    Imitate wax encaustic effects, enhance spatial depth, sanding
  • 22. Reflective Paints (36 min)
    Interference vs Iridescent paints, metallic drawing surfaces
  • 23. How to Save Money (6 min)
    Buying choices, maintaining supplies, reviving dried paint
  • 24. Mixed Media & Collage (12 min)
    Gluing paper & objects; Digital Mixed Media to combine photography, drawing, printing & paint; acrylic skins, collage, hard edge taping
  • 25. Acrylic & Gold Leaf (104 min)
    Apply gold leaf to a painting surface, overpaint leaf with acrylic
  • 26. Important Preparation Steps (12.5 min)
    Archival beginnings: stain sealing, primers, gesso, lightfast color choices
  • 27. Important Finishing Steps(11 min)
    Archival finish coats, isolation coats, varnishing, UV protection, storage, shipping
  • 28. Care & Cleaning of Your Brushes (6 min)
    Wash & store brushes properly to keep them looking their best
  • 29. Pulling it All Together (48 min)
    Create a painting from start to finish using ten different layers of techniques
  • 30. Conclusion (2.5 min)

Refund Policy
If you are dissatisfied with the course for any reason, you can request a refund by emailing nancy@nancyreyner.com. All refund requests MUST be made within 48 hours after receiving your streaming course by email, or downloaded hard drive by mail. No refunds will be issued after that time. If you purchased the downloaded course, you will be responsible for return shipment of the mini hard drive prior to receiving your refund.


About Nancy
Nancy Reyner believes art is a rewarding pursuit and a powerful tool for transformation. She loves painting and assisting other artists. Nancy has over 30 years painting experience, authored four top selling painting books with North Light Books, received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Columbia University. She has appeared on television for HGTV’s “That’s Clever”, and worked as a Certified Working Artist for Golden Artist Colors for 16 years. Nancy currently lives and paints in Santa Fe, NM.

Sheri Rush – Impressive Paintings

Artist: Sheri Rush, Progress of the Opus, 84” x 116.5”, spray paint, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017

The image above, by Chicago artist Sheri Rush, received my artist award in excellence, through her inclusion in the online exhibition “New Beginnings”, on view from January 20 – March 20, 2018, and curated by Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International. See Renee’s article here.

For this award, I was looking for a compelling image, one that invited me in, to enter another world, and be visually surprised by what I find there. Technical competence is important, but even more so was the work’s ability to reveal the artist’s personality, point of view, and inventive bravery.

The image of Rush’s entry, Progress of the Opus, had an immediate appeal for me, encouraging an impromptu visit to her website to better understand her intent and technique, and view more of her paintings. This side trip was not disappointing, offering a clear view of her mature and exquisite body of work.

I was impressed with her highly original technical process, in large scale no less, reminding me somewhat of Gerhard Richter’s early abstracts and overpainted photographs. Yet Rush has genuinely invented her own process utilizing childhood experiences, a strong artistic intent and philosophy with results that are quite extraordinary. Here is another example from her current series entitled Portals of Discovery.

Sheri Rush, Operative Forces, 81” x 114”, spray paint, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2016.

I was also impressed by how quickly Rush moves through ideas, creating large scale series for each of these ideas she calls “projects”, each one catapulting her to the next. Here below are two examples from her previous project entitled Permutations, using shredded photographs along with a gray toned palette.


Even though each project results in artwork that shifts dramatically from the last, Rush maintains her voice and her intentions throughout, to express psychological landscapes that focus on the sublime, and act symbolically as states of emotion. She refers to her paintings as portals, through which the viewer can have a contemplative moment to connect with nature, as a way to cope with a generally fast-paced life, that normally limits time for this connection. Rush has a strong interest in alchemy, and this plays out in her experimental process and techniques. She uses many graffiti style tools, rich layering and photography, as well as alchemical icons and symbols.

Above: Ineradicable, graphite, charcoal, acrylic paint, spray paint and shredded photos on linen, 78” x 60”, 2015. Below: Liminal, 65” x 50”. graphite, charcoal, pastel, acrylic, and shredded photos on paper, 2014.


Rush attributes much of her artistic success, to several professional development opportunities, one of which was sponsored by the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. Twenty-four artists met every week over a lengthy period of time. Rush participated in this while also attending the Visual Arts Certificate Program at the University of Chicago Graham School Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. Another opportunity presented itself for Rush at the new Guida Family Creative Wing at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. In 2017 Rush was given her first solo show at the Hyde Park Art Center by curator Allison Peters Quinn. In addition to the obvious artistic camaraderie and network advantage from these programs, they were also put in touch with curators and other art professionals.

An important skill she acquired from these studies and opportunities was a sharpened ability to articulate and write about her ideas and work, which she has come to realize is extremely important for artists who wish to be part of the art world in general, and get their work seen.

I look forward to following this energetic, savvy, creatively skilled painter and her impressive works of art.
www.sherirush.com

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

What is Layering for Painting?

Layering for painting is a simple concept yet is thrown around a lot in the painting world, and can get very confusing. It is used to refer to multiple concepts and can have different meanings depending on which medium you are using to paint. Here’s my take on layering for painting.

To make this really simple, let’s start with the idea of an open faced sandwich.


Starting at the sandwich bottom with the slice of bread, in painting this would be our canvas, or whatever substrate we decide to paint on – cardboard, wood, silk, etc. This bread, or substrate, does not count as a layer. It is our base or starting surface. From here as we add each item separately, like the mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and then sprouts, each of these items is a separate layer because each is separate from each other. So we could say this sandwich has four layers.  If we took all those four ingredients (except the bread) and put them in a blender we would have some type of tapenade or pesto. If we spread that on the bread this would all count as one layer.

Same as in painting. Whatever we put onto our substrate counts as a layer. And each separate product, material and process counts as a new layer. For example, I apply a  primer or gesso over my substrate before I paint. So that means before I even start painting I have one layer already applied to my substrate. From this point, if I use oil paint, and create a painting all in one day with the oil paint, that is my second layer because oil paint stays wet all day, so anything I do that day will all be mixed up into that one wet layer.

If I paint with acrylic, however, I usually use multiple layers in a day.

First Layer – Background colors                                Second Layer – adding white

Third Layer – adding yellow                                          Fourth Layer – varying color ranges

Final Layer – blending hard edges

Using this simple painting of a lemon as an example, my first layer is the background using green and purple colors. I let that layer dry, and next applied white paint in the shape of the lemon so that when I apply yellow over it the yellow will be bright and the background colors won’t affect the yellow or show through it.

My third layer added the yellow over the white. The fourth layer I applied a variety of each of the three colors, green, purple and yellow to create a strategy for creating volume and space from the flat even colors. The fifth layer I reapplied those same variety colors but this time blended them more carefully for a more realistic appearance.

By working in layers using acrylic paint, I was able to focus on one thing for each layer, instead of trying to accomplish a full painting all at once in one wet layer.

For example, I could pour an acrylic color out onto a canvas, then while it is still wet pour another color over it so they merge and puddle up together. I could keep adding colors, mediums, and anything else I want to until I decide to stop for the day, and call the whole thing one layer. In this case my one layer is defined as my process for that day – pouring altogether. This is similar to the pesto mixture I mentioned previously for our open faced sandwich.

From these examples, the lemon and the pouring process, it looks like a layer can be defined as something I paint, that then is allowed to dry before I apply something wet over it. But that isn’t always true. Sometimes I can apply a background color and while it is still wet, I apply another color over it. That is called working wet-in-wet. If the second application of wet paint over the first application of wet paint is substantial enough, or thick enough, to still be visible as a separate color, I could call these two wet layers. Uh oh, I’m starting to get complicated…

No problem. We can still make this easy and simple, because hey, art term definitions are never universally agreed upon. This means we get to use the terms any way we want! Yay! Just use my definition as a back up in case you are reading some art recipe somewhere and they start to use the layer word in a confusing manner.

Another reason the term gets confusing is that just about every technique, process and medium I can think of deals in some way with layers. A layer can be broadly defined as something wet or dry that you are then applying over something else that is wet or dry. Wow is that a general statement or what?

Layering techniques will differ depending on whether you are using oil paint, watercolor, encaustic or acrylic. When you paint with oil paints, due to the long drying time of oils, you need to make sure you are always applying a layer of paint that is more flexible than the one below it. This means that you can start off with a first base layer using oil paint mixed with solvent like a wash. Then over that layer (wet or dry) you can apply oil paint without any solvent. Proceeding with overlayering, you can then apply oil paint mixed with mediums (oil mediums are fatty and therefore more flexible).

With acrylic you do not need to be as planned and as careful as in the case with oil paint layering. Any acrylic medium or paint, can be mixed into each other to make wet mixtures, and can be applied over or under any other layer, whether still wet or already dry. This means you can start with a wash or anything else, add products while wet or wait until dry, apply very thickly over very thin and vice versa, pour over a layer, anything! Acrylic loves to stick to itself, so as long as each layer is acrylic, then you can layer it on, over, under. When you start using mixed media (paper, ink, objects, etc – any non-acrylic material) along with layers of acrylic, you want to consider the material you are using and whether it will adhere to acrylic or not, and some other concerns (ie. is it waterproof, or will it smear when coming into contact with the acrylic, etc).

In summary, here’s my basic idea on layering in a nutshell. Strive to have each layer you use in a painting (not including primers and gessoes) to be visible in some way all the way through other overlying layers so that they all appear in the final image. In other words, each layer is applied with a sensitivity about letting the underlying layer show through. You can do this in two ways. Either make each subsequent layer more transparent, by adding more mediums to the paint, or if using an opaque paint, leave some areas uncovered with the opaque paint revealing parts of the underlying layer.

For more great tips on layering using acrylic see Nancy’s video Acrylic Revolution: Watercolor & Oil Effects with Acrylic Paint.

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

Oil Pastel – A Great Medium for Painters!

Oil pastels are still my number one favorite medium, even though I also paint with acrylic and oil. When working with oil pastels I feel as if I am able to combine both painting and drawing qualities using just this one medium.

First let’s make sure we don’t get confused between oil pastels and the other type of pastel –chalk pastel. Both oil and chalk pastels are small size chunks about 1 to 2″ long and about 1/2″ thick. Chalk pastels are mostly pigment loosely held together with a small amount of binder. They are fragile when you use them, and fragile once applied to a surface. These need toothy surfaces to grab the chalky particles, and will not work at all on smooth glossy surfaces.

Oil pastels have a lovely creamy quality when applied to a surface, feeling (and looking) somewhere between lipstick and crayon. They are made with wax and oil, so they always stay workable, but do dry enough to be stable, and stay on the surface fairly well. Since they are always workable it is recommended to either frame them behind glass or spray fix them with any clear fixative when your image is finished. Oil pastels can be applied on just about any surface, whether absorbent or non-absorbent, matte or glossy, smooth or textured, painted or unpainted.

My favorite surface for using oil pastels is a smooth Bristol cardstock. Oil pastels are fairly small in size, and are best for small size applications. There are ways to make your own oil pastels in larger sizes, but I found that I liked using them as drawing materials in the small size they come in, which fit my hand better, and are easily portable. I like to use them for outdoor landscape work, creating a small (8” x 10”) painting, then using that small size painting as a model to later enlarge in my studio to an acrylic or oil paint work on canvas.

Above is a 24″ x 30″ painting I made using acrylic on canvas, based on the 8″ x 10″ oil pastel model below.

Working on a smooth surface means I can use one of my favorite techniques; scraping back the oil pastel to reveal the original surface or underlying layers of oil pastel. I like to build up layers of colors, one on top of the other, then using a slanted blade x-acto knife, I carefully scrape off one color after another until I like the way it looks. The knife can scratch in white lines if you scratch deep enough to the original surface. You can also blend them with a small amount of solvent on a brush and work into them like oil paints. I like the fact that oil pastels are non-toxic, so prefer to blend with my finger and skip the solvent. You can also purchase blending sticks, but fingers are warm and can blend easier. If you do use solvent you may want to work on a surface that is sealed by priming with gesso.

There are different brands of oil pastels, and each one has a different quality of creaminess. Since I like to build up layers, I avoid using Neopastels, which are gooey as lipstick, and don’t tack up quickly enough to allow multiple layers. My favorite brand is Holbein and they make a super wide range of colors.

The oil pastels can make a mess on your hands, but are easily cleaned off using a baby-wipe. You can also use baby oil and a paper towel, but baby-wipes are super convenience especially if painting outdoors.

Avoid leaving oil pastels out in hot sun for long periods of time, or stored where they will be exposed to very hot temperatures. I left mine in the back of a car for three days while living in Phoenix in the summer where temperatures outside get to 120 degrees. This meant that temperatures were even hotter inside the car. The oil in the pastels bled out leaving a pile of chalk dust, that could not be used anymore.

Try them! Happy painting with pastels!

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

How to Create a Mixed Absorbency Surface for Painting

What’s a mixed absorbency surface?
It’s a great surface you can easily make yourself, to get interesting painting effects and texture right away, regardless of which painting medium you use! Read on to find out how to use this with your creative work!

To start a painting, a painter will usually begin with some commercially prepared substrate; such as watercolor paper, cardboard, primed canvas or primed panel. From there you simply start applying paint. No problem with this process! It’s quick and easy. BUT you may be missing out on a fun and wonderful way to create interesting effects, and save money, all from adding one simple step before applying paint.

Compare this image, using diluted paint on board with gesso

with this image, using the same diluted paint but on a on mixed absorbency surface

Here is a photo of the mixed absorbency surface before applying paint

How to create a mixed absorbency surface.
1. Starting with any substrate, follow any necessary procedures required for painting. For example, watercolor paper needs no preparation but can be primed with gesso to add strength. Cardboard, canvas and wood panels do not need any preparation if they are already sealed and primed. If the substrates are raw with no sealer or primer they will need some preparation. Apply a stain sealer and primer if acrylic paint will be used for overpainting. Skip the stain sealer but still prime if oil paint or other mediums will be used. Let dry.

2. Apply acrylic binders (mediums, gels and pastes) onto your substrate to customize your surface absorbency.
Let’s look into this further. Every substrate has its own unique quality of absorbency. A high quality piece of watercolor paper is very absorbent. This means it has lots of tooth, or places where diluted paint can sink into which creates an even layer of color. Absorbent surfaces are always matte, which is one way you can tell if a surface is absorbent or not. Touch an absorbent surface and it will feel slightly rough because of its tooth. Something glossy, on the other hand, like Yupo paper, glass or metal, is non-absorbent. This means there isn’t much (if any) tooth. Diluted paint applied over a glossy surface will bead up and create an uneven layer of color, sometimes looking marbleized or puddled.

In the same way that substrates will each have a particular absorbency or non-absorbency, acrylic binders come in a wide variety of forms, also offering a variety of absorbent and non-absorbent qualities. Acrylic binders come in three different forms: mediums, gels and pastes. There are many choices in each of these three categories, and this can sometimes get confusing. Just remember that every product, when applied to your painting surface and left to dry, will create a unique surface quality and absorbency. And just about ANY acrylic product applied onto your substrate will present a more interesting surface to paint on then using the plain old substrate as is.

3. How to choose which binders to use.
Mediums are generally pourable and fluid, gels are thicker and create texture, pastes are also thick and create texture. So if you wanted texture you would choose gels or pastes, while mediums will offer a smoother layer. As I mentioned before, each product also creates a different absorbency. Gloss mediums and gloss gels create non-absorbent areas on a surface, matte mediums and matte gels create a semi-absorbent area, and most pastes (except for Molding Paste) create an absorbent surface area.

4. How to apply the binders.
To make your own custom surface, start by choosing one product. Apply it at least 1/4″ thick as acrylic will shrink down in volume while drying by about 30%. If you don’t apply enough of the product, by the time it dries you will not have a layer that is substantial enough to change the surface absorbency. I like to apply the products with a knife so I can apply enough product. You can add texture or keep it as smooth as your tool and product allow. Let this dry at least one day.

5. How to overpaint the custom surface.
Once your surface is dry, you can now overpaint it with paint. Appropriately dilute your paint (water for watercolor, water for acrylic, solvent for oil, etc) and apply these “washes” or diluted mixtures over the dry custom surface. You can spray water over the surface or apply water in areas to allow washes to “bleed” or run into each other. On absorbent surfaces, the washes stay wet for awhile due to the large amount of water in the mixtures. This means you can keep applying paint, as well as easily remove paint. On non-absorbent surfaces it is best to add lots of water to the surface to create a puddle, apply paint quickly leaving it alone to dry into interesting puddles.

Left: Washes on gessoed surface
Center: Washes on a mixed absorbency surface
Right: The mixed absorbency surface before paint was applied

6. Mixed absorbency surfaces.
Once you master making a custom surface using only one product, try making a mixed surface by using three or more products. Pick an absorbent, a non-absorbent and a product somewhere in the middle. Apply all over the substrate, overlapping if you wish, so that the end result is a surface with a variety of absorbencies. Once dry, apply diluted paint over the surface to see how quickly the surface encourages all kinds of effects.

You save money because with this process you use very little paint (since it is very diluted).

7. My favorite mixed surface.
My favorite combination of products to use for a mixed surface is as follows:
First I apply Light Molding Paste in a few areas. This is my favorite absorbent paste, note this is NOT Molding Paste, but is a very different product by Golden called LIGHT Molding Paste. Other absorbent pastes I like are Coarse Molding Paste and Pastel Ground. After applying one or more of these absorbent ones, I can continue to apply other products while still wet if I wish. So next I apply some mid-absorbency products, filling in whatever areas are still uncovered, using products such as Glass Bead Gel, Molding Paste and Heavy Gel Matte. As a last step I apply the non-absorbent products. Anything that dries glossy will work. Whereve I apply gloss, it will act as a resist. When I apply a wash of color of the entire surface, the paint will resist off the gloss, revealing the white surface underneath. I create gloss lines (which will end up being white lines after painting) using Gloss Medium squeezed out of bottles. I create gloss areas (which will result in white areas after painting) using Regular or Soft Gloss Gels, and apply them wet over the still wet mixed surface I am working on. In other words you can apply multiple products in one session while all are still wet. You do not need to wait for one product to dry to add another. But you do need to let the products all dry on the surface for at least one day before using it to overpaint with the diluted paint.

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

Our Innate Creativity

I love browsing Ted Talks online. It’s addictive! You can find an incredible range of topics, each limited to 15 minutes, offering the finest in the “Art of Persuasion”! One in particular, about our natural creative tendencies, caught my interest, presented by writer Young-ha Kim. I’d enjoy hearing what you think! Please write your comments below.

More suggestions on creativity:
Click Here for “Creative Empowerment for Painters” an online course
Click Here for video “Free Your Creativity”

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

About the writer and performer, Young-ha Kim:
One of the premiere writers of his generation, Korean novelist Young-ha Kim weaves tales that speak to the thrills and challenges of young Koreans in our increasingly globalized and ever-changing world.

Video Transcript

Translated by Clair Han
Reviewed by ChungHyun Lee

The theme of my talk today is, “Be an artist, right now.” Most people, when this subject is brought up, get tense and resist it: “Art doesn’t feed me, and right now I’m busy. I have to go to school, get a job, send my kids to lessons … ” You think, “I’m too busy. I don’t have time for art.” There are hundreds of reasons why we can’t be artists right now. Don’t they just pop into your head?

There are so many reasons why we can’t be, indeed, we’re not sure why we should be. We don’t know why we should be artists, but we have many reasons why we can’t be. Why do people instantly resist the idea of associating themselves with art? Perhaps you think art is for the greatly gifted or for the thoroughly and professionally trained. And some of you may think you’ve strayed too far from art. Well you might have, but I don’t think so. This is the theme of my talk today. We are all born artists.

If you have kids, you know what I mean. Almost everything kids do is art. They draw with crayons on the wall. They dance to Son Dam Bi’s dance on TV, but you can’t even call it Son Dam Bi’s dance — it becomes the kids’ own dance. So they dance a strange dance and inflict their singing on everyone. Perhaps their art is something only their parents can bear, and because they practice such art all day long, people honestly get a little tired around kids.

Kids will sometimes perform monodramas — playing house is indeed a monodrama or a play. And some kids, when they get a bit older, start to lie. Usually parents remember the very first time their kid lies. They’re shocked. “Now you’re showing your true colors,” Mom says. She thinks, “Why does he take after his dad?” She questions him, “What kind of a person are you going to be?”

But you shouldn’t worry. The moment kids start to lie is the moment storytelling begins. They are talking about things they didn’t see. It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful moment. Parents should celebrate. “Hurray! My boy finally started to lie!” All right! It calls for celebration. For example, a kid says, “Mom, guess what? I met an alien on my way home.” Then a typical mom responds, “Stop that nonsense.” Now, an ideal parent is someone who responds like this: “Really? An alien, huh? What did it look like? Did it say anything? Where did you meet it?” “Um, in front of the supermarket.”

When you have a conversation like this, the kid has to come up with the next thing to say to be responsible for what he started. Soon, a story develops. Of course this is an infantile story, but thinking up one sentence after the next is the same thing a professional writer like me does. In essence, they are not different. Roland Barthes once said of Flaubert’s novels, “Flaubert did not write a novel. He merely connected one sentence after another. The eros between sentences, that is the essence of Flaubert’s novel.” That’s right — a novel, basically, is writing one sentence, then, without violating the scope of the first one, writing the next sentence. And you continue to make connections.

Take a look at this sentence: “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.” Yes, it’s the first sentence of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” Writing such an unjustifiable sentence and continuing in order to justify it, Kafka’s work became the masterpiece of contemporary literature. Kafka did not show his work to his father. He was not on good terms with his father. On his own, he wrote these sentences. Had he shown his father, “My boy has finally lost it,” he would’ve thought.

And that’s right. Art is about going a little nuts and justifying the next sentence, which is not much different from what a kid does. A kid who has just started to lie is taking the first step as a storyteller. Kids do art. They don’t get tired and they have fun doing it. I was in Jeju Island a few days ago. When kids are on the beach, most of them love playing in the water. But some of them spend a lot of time in the sand, making mountains and seas — well, not seas, but different things — people and dogs, etc. But parents tell them, “It will all be washed away by the waves.” In other words, it’s useless. There’s no need. But kids don’t mind. They have fun in the moment and they keep playing in the sand. Kids don’t do it because someone told them to. They aren’t told by their boss or anyone, they just do it.

When you were little, I bet you spent time enjoying the pleasure of primitive art. When I ask my students to write about their happiest moment, many write about an early artistic experience they had as a kid. Learning to play piano for the first time and playing four hands with a friend, or performing a ridiculous skit with friends looking like idiots — things like that. Or the moment you developed the first film you shot with an old camera. They talk about these kinds of experiences. You must have had such a moment. In that moment, art makes you happy because it’s not work. Work doesn’t make you happy, does it? Mostly it’s tough.

The French writer Michel Tournier has a famous saying. It’s a bit mischievous, actually. “Work is against human nature. The proof is that it makes us tired.” Right? Why would work tire us if it’s in our nature? Playing doesn’t tire us. We can play all night long. If we work overnight, we should be paid for overtime. Why? Because it’s tiring and we feel fatigue. But kids, usually they do art for fun. It’s playing. They don’t draw to sell the work to a client or play the piano to earn money for the family. Of course, there were kids who had to. You know this gentleman, right? He had to tour around Europe to support his family — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — but that was centuries ago, so we can make him an exception. Unfortunately, at some point our art — such a joyful pastime — ends. Kids have to go to lessons, to school, do homework and of course they take piano or ballet lessons, but they aren’t fun anymore. You’re told to do it and there’s competition. How can it be fun? If you’re in elementary school and you still draw on the wall, you’ll surely get in trouble with your mom. Besides, if you continue to act like an artist as you get older, you’ll increasingly feel pressure — people will question your actions and ask you to act properly.

Here’s my story: I was an eighth grader and I entered a drawing contest at school in Gyeongbokgung. I was trying my best, and my teacher came around and asked me, “What are you doing?” “I’m drawing diligently,” I said. “Why are you using only black?” Indeed, I was eagerly coloring the sketchbook in black. And I explained, “It’s a dark night and a crow is perching on a branch.” Then my teacher said, “Really? Well, Young-ha, you may not be good at drawing but you have a talent for storytelling.” Or so I wished. “Now you’ll get it, you rascal!” was the response. (Laughter) “You’ll get it!” he said. You were supposed to draw the palace, the Gyeonghoeru, etc., but I was coloring everything in black, so he dragged me out of the group. There were a lot of girls there as well, so I was utterly mortified.

None of my explanations or excuses were heard, and I really got it big time. If he was an ideal teacher, he would have responded like I said before, “Young-ha may not have a talent for drawing, but he has a gift for making up stories,” and he would have encouraged me. But such a teacher is seldom found. Later, I grew up and went to Europe’s galleries — I was a university student — and I thought this was really unfair. Look what I found. (Laughter)

Works like this were hung in Basel while I was punished and stood in front of the palace with my drawing in my mouth. Look at this. Doesn’t it look just like wallpaper? Contemporary art, I later discovered, isn’t explained by a lame story like mine. No crows are brought up. Most of the works have no title, Untitled. Anyways, contemporary art in the 20th century is about doing something weird and filling the void with explanation and interpretation — essentially the same as I did. Of course, my work was very amateur, but let’s turn to more famous examples.

This is Picasso’s. He stuck handlebars into a bike seat and called it “Bull’s Head.” Sounds convincing, right? Next, a urinal was placed on its side and called “Fountain”. That was Duchamp. So filling the gap between explanation and a weird act with stories — that’s indeed what contemporary art is all about. Picasso even made the statement, “I draw not what I see but what I think.” Yes, it means I didn’t have to draw Gyeonghoeru. I wish I knew what Picasso said back then. I could have argued better with my teacher. Unfortunately, the little artists within us are choked to death before we get to fight against the oppressors of art. They get locked in. That’s our tragedy.

So what happens when little artists get locked in, banished or even killed? Our artistic desire doesn’t go away. We want to express, to reveal ourselves, but with the artist dead, the artistic desire reveals itself in dark form. In karaoke bars, there are always people who sing “She’s Gone” or “Hotel California,” miming the guitar riffs. Usually they sound awful. Awful indeed. Some people turn into rockers like this. Or some people dance in clubs. People who would have enjoyed telling stories end up trolling on the Internet all night long. That’s how a writing talent reveals itself on the dark side.

Sometimes we see dads get more excited than their kids playing with Legos or putting together plastic robots. They go, “Don’t touch it. Daddy will do it for you.” The kid has already lost interest and is doing something else, but the dad alone builds castles. This shows the artistic impulses inside us are suppressed, not gone. But they can often reveal themselves negatively, in the form of jealousy. You know the song “I would love to be on TV”? Why would we love it? TV is full of people who do what we wished to do, but never got to. They dance, they act — and the more they do, they are praised. So we start to envy them. We become dictators with a remote and start to criticize the people on TV. “He just can’t act.” “You call that singing? She can’t hit the notes.” We easily say these sorts of things. We get jealous, not because we’re evil, but because we have little artists pent up inside us. That’s what I think.

What should we do then? Yes, that’s right. Right now, we need to start our own art. Right this minute, we can turn off TV, log off the Internet, get up and start to do something. Where I teach students in drama school, there’s a course called Dramatics. In this course, all students must put on a play. However, acting majors are not supposed to act. They can write the play, for example, and the writers may work on stage art. Likewise, stage art majors may become actors, and in this way you put on a show. Students at first wonder whether they can actually do it, but later they have so much fun. I rarely see anyone who is miserable doing a play. In school, the military or even in a mental institution, once you make people do it, they enjoy it. I saw this happen in the army — many people had fun doing plays.

I have another experience: In my writing class, I give students a special assignment. I have students like you in the class — many who don’t major in writing. Some major in art or music and think they can’t write. So I give them blank sheets of paper and a theme. It can be a simple theme: Write about the most unfortunate experience in your childhood. There’s one condition: You must write like crazy. Like crazy! I walk around and encourage them, “Come on, come on!” They have to write like crazy for an hour or two. They only get to think for the first five minutes.

The reason I make them write like crazy is because when you write slowly and lots of thoughts cross your mind, the artistic devil creeps in. This devil will tell you hundreds of reasons why you can’t write: “People will laugh at you. This is not good writing! What kind of sentence is this? Look at your handwriting!” It will say a lot of things. You have to run fast so the devil can’t catch up. The really good writing I’ve seen in my class was not from the assignments with a long deadline, but from the 40- to 60-minute crazy writing students did in front of me with a pencil. The students go into a kind of trance. After 30 or 40 minutes, they write without knowing what they’re writing. And in this moment, the nagging devil disappears.

So I can say this: It’s not the hundreds of reasons why one can’t be an artist, but rather, the one reason one must be that makes us artists. Why we cannot be something is not important. Most artists became artists because of the one reason. When we put the devil in our heart to sleep and start our own art, enemies appear on the outside. Mostly, they have the faces of our parents. (Laughter) Sometimes they look like our spouses, but they are not your parents or spouses. They are devils. Devils. They came to Earth briefly transformed to stop you from being artistic, from becoming artists. And they have a magic question. When we say, “I think I’ll try acting. There’s a drama school in the community center,” or “I’d like to learn Italian songs,” they ask, “Oh, yeah? A play? What for?” The magic question is, “What for?” But art is not for anything. Art is the ultimate goal. It saves our souls and makes us live happily. It helps us express ourselves and be happy without the help of alcohol or drugs. So in response to such a pragmatic question, we need to be bold. “Well, just for the fun of it. Sorry for having fun without you,” is what you should say. “I’ll just go ahead and do it anyway.” The ideal future I imagine is where we all have multiple identities, at least one of which is an artist.

Once I was in New York and got in a cab. I took the backseat, and in front of me I saw something related to a play. So I asked the driver, “What is this?” He said it was his profile. “Then what are you?” I asked. “An actor,” he said. He was a cabby and an actor. I asked, “What roles do you usually play?” He proudly said he played King Lear. King Lear. “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” — a great line from King Lear. That’s the world I dream of. Someone is a golfer by day and writer by night. Or a cabby and an actor, a banker and a painter, secretly or publicly performing their own arts.

In 1990, Martha Graham, the legend of modern dance, came to Korea. The great artist, then in her 90s, arrived at Gimpo Airport and a reporter asked her a typical question: “What do you have to do to become a great dancer? Any advice for aspiring Korean dancers?” Now, she was the master. This photo was taken in 1948 and she was already a celebrated artist. In 1990, she was asked this question. And here’s what she answered: “Just do it.” Wow. I was touched. Only those three words and she left the airport. That’s it. So what should we do now? Let’s be artists, right now. Right away. How? Just do it!

Thank you.

Painting Excellence Class

Add WOW to Your Paintings!

Learn to paint with confidence • Improve your paintings • Uplevel your art career

Join this interactive live online 6 week class. We will delve into numerous helpful topics for painters, in particular, how to see your art with keen eyes. This is THE most important tool for any artist at a crucial point — you are ready to take your work further, thinking of going “pro”, and want to increase sales and public visibility. Or perhaps you just want to understand your work better, get a clear vision, and learn to finish your paintings more quickly and with greater ease. This class will accomplish any of these goals, empowering you to take take bold steps and move your images from good to great. The class is made fun — no stress — for us creative types! All artists painting in any medium and style will benefit.

February 23 — April 4, 2020
Purchase now for Early Bird price of $720 (regularly priced $825)
Save $105!
Discount offer ends January 23, 2020

 

Learn to easily resolve issues, and move forward when you feel stuck. Achieve exciting images using Nancy’s distinctive method of eye choreography. Discover painting techniques rarely taught in art schools, to bring more attention to your work and expand your audience. Nancy Reyner is a professional painter, teacher and bestselling author. Nancy teaches with a variety of philosophies, methods and ideas for visual thinking, including those of Abraham-Hicks, Yogananda and others to inspire conscious painting. Please contact Nancy with any questions.


“This exceptional teacher puts even the most challenging concepts into accessible bite-size pieces.” – Rick Garcia, fine artist, PA, USA

How does the online course work?

Each week begins with a live two hour online presentation, Sunday evenings 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm Eastern Time Zone.  Attendance to weekly meetings is NOT mandatory. Meetings are recorded to hear later at your convenience. Between meetings classmates post assignments and questions for feedback from Nancy.

What’s included in the class?

    • Six live online classes
    • 30 minute private consult with Nancy
    • Support from a like-minded group of artists
    • Lifetime access to online alumni community

Testimonials

“This course has exciting content I’ve never heard before, which has greatly improved my work!” -Colleen OHair, painter, Washington, USA

“Most instructors teach you to paint like them, while Nancy Reyner expertly instructs how to push YOUR work to the next level.” -Tavo Holloway, NM, USA

“Nancy’s inspirational class took my work to the next level. Getting to know painters from all over the world added to this stimulating experience. I especially liked how unintimidating the class felt.” – Rajul Shah, painter, Japan & USA

“Nancy is the best painting instructor I have ever encountered. Any artist can benefit greatly, perhaps beyond their expectations, from this class. It expands painter’s confidence and vigor for their art. I’m thankful for a great and supportive group of brilliant artists from around the world!” – Barry Lubbe, Painter, Virginia, USA

“This course gave me a great leap forward. Working with interesting artists in an uncompetitive and supportive environment got my creative juices flowing! Nancy’s knowledge of materials, techniques and teaching is unparalleled. I knew that if anyone could get me out of my creative slump it would be her. The results from her course are amazing.” – Mary Manning, painter, Utah, USA

How much time will this course require?

Do you have 20 minutes a day or a couple of hours a week? Great! That’s ample time to transform your creative work with this class. Or go the extra mile. Dedicate more time and turn this class into a full-time painting residency…You decide!

What results will you see after taking this course?

Creative confidence! Clear artistic vision and braver expression. Lifetime access to an artist community. Drive more attention to your work.


About Nancy

Nancy Reyner believes art is a rewarding pursuit and a powerful tool for transformation. She loves painting and assisting other artists. Nancy has over 30 years painting experience, authored four top selling painting books with North Light Books, received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Columbia University. Nancy has expertise in a variety of mediums, including oil, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media. She has appeared on television for HGTV’s “That’s Clever”, and worked as a Certified Working Artist for Golden Artist Colors for 16 years. Nancy currently lives and paints in Santa Fe, NM.


Have questions? Just email Nancy here.

How to Oil Paint using Gold Leaf

I thought I had covered it all with my video on how to apply gold leaf. You know that old expression “everything but the kitchen sink”? Well that definitely applies to my  gold leaf video (see it for free here) which gives all the tips and tricks for creating a gold leaf surface to paint on, and then how to prepare the leafed surface for overpainting with acrylic paint. HOWEVER, it appears I was amiss to include instructions on how to use oil paint on a leafed surface as well as how to leaf over oil paint! How silly of me. So here I go with additional information on using gold leaf with oil paint.

Real Gold Leaf vs Imitation Gold Leaf
First I want to repeat some info from that video to mention the difference between using real gold leaf and imitation (or composite) gold leaf (made with copper and zinc). In the video I explain why I choose to use the imitation gold leaf and not the real gold leaf for my painting purposes. In summary, these two types of metal leaf look exactly the same when using size (glue or adhesive) to adhere the leaf. Using real gold (involving extra expense) is worth the expense (in my opinion) when you will be showing it off uncovered and unpainted, like applying it to a picture frame, AND using a more complex application method. So instead of using adhesive you would apply the real gold leaf to your surface using a process called water gilding. In my paintings,  I cover a good portion of the leaf by overpainting it with paint. So it doesn’t make sense for me to go to the expense of using a process involving water gilding with real gold, as most of the leaf will be covered when the painting is complete. I know there are some good reasons some of you may have for using real gold, and that’s fine. I just wanted to share my opinion.


On left is real gold leaf; On right is imitation gold leaf

Does Real Gold Leaf Need to be Sealed?
Real Gold Leaf does NOT tarnish. So you do NOT have to seal it, once applied to a surface, to protect it from tarnishing, regardless of whether you will be overpainting it or not. HOWEVER, the real gold leaf is so thin (like the imitation leaf only even more delicate) that once it is applied onto your painting, and not sealed, it can be easily damaged or marred if mishandled. So even though you do not need to seal real gold leaf, you may still want to seal it to add some protection from getting scratched or damaged. In other words sealing is optional but recommended over real gold leaf.

How to Apply Gold Leaf – over a primed or acrylic painted surface
Whether you are using real gold leaf or imitation gold leaf, the techniques for application using size adhesive are the same. So for this process, please watch my video (link here) to get all the information on how to apply real or imitation leaf with the process using sizing adhesive. That process of leaf application, is the same whether you plan to later overpaint the leaf with oil or acrylic paint. However, once you apply the leaf as per my video, then read below for changes in instructions, depending on whether you plan to overpaint the leaf with oil instead of acrylic paint. These changes are regarding sealing OVER the leaf prior to painting, and then a final seal over your completed painting (including both leaf and paint).

How to apply Gold Leaf OVER a surface already painted with Oil Paint
1. If you are applying gold leaf OVER oil paint, make sure the oil paint is fully dry before applying the adhesive and leaf. Drying times for oil paint depend on how thick the paint is applied, which paint colors are used, and your climate conditions.

2. Once your oil paint is dry, follow my video instructions (link previously mentioned) to apply the leaf using adhesive, BUT with one exception – use a solvent based size adhesive, NOT a water based size adhesive. In other words, don’t use water based products OVER oil paint. Instead use solvent based products over oil paint. Note: as mentioned above, if you are applying leaf to an unpainted surface (or already primed or painted with acrylic) you can use the water based size to apply the leaf, even if using oil paint later OVER the leaf.

Best way to tell if the size is solvent based or water based? The solvent based size will say on its container label to clean brushes with solvents, while the water based size will instruct you to clean brushes with water.

Are Sealing Requirements the Same for Oil Paint vs Acrylic Paint?
NO! There are two different sealing processes we need to consider. One is to seal over the leaf prior to painting. The other is to seal over your final painting including both leaf and paint. If you plan to overpaint the leaf with oil paint, you have a choice to skip the first sealing process that goes over the leaf, prior to overpainting. Instead you can opt to only seal once at the very end, over both leaf and oil paint when dry.

If, however, you are planning on overpainting the leaf with acrylic paint, then stop reading this article and just follow my free video (link here) because acrylic paint when applied, while wet, can tarnish unsealed imitation leaf, so you do not have the choice to only seal once at the painting’s completion. You must seal both prior to painting over the leaf, and also after your painting is complete.

SEALING OVER IMITATION LEAF PRIOR TO PAINTING WITH OIL
As mentioned above this is an optional step for oil painters. If you want to seal the leaf anyway, to keep the leaf from being accidentally damaged while painting and handling, watch my video and follow the sealing instructions with the following changes; make sure to use a permanent sealer or water based sealer (such as Golden’s GAC200 or GAC500), as opposed to any solvent based sealers (such as Golden’s MSA Varnish or Archival Varnish Gloss spray). You don’t want to use a removable solvent based varnish, because as you apply your oil paints the solvent in your paint mixtures may dissolve this varnish layer. One coat of a sealer is sufficient to protect the leaf while you overpaint with oils.

I repeat, DO NOT use Golden’s MSA Varnish (that I recommend for use as a sealer over the leaf when planning to overpaint with acrylic paint) if you plan to overpaint with oil. This varnish has UV protection in it, and one of the essential resins used in the varnish can interfere with the drying process of any oil paint applied over it. Instead, to seal the imitation gold leaf prior to applying oil paint, brush apply a mixture of Goldens’ GAC200 with GAC500 in an approximately 1:1 ratio.

SEALING OVER FINAL PAINTING – including both leaf and paint.
As a final varnish, over the leaf overpainted with oil paint, you can use Goldens Archival Varnish Gloss spray, Golden’s MSA Varnish or other archival removable solvent based varnishes as a final finishing coat. Here it is OK to use the MSA Varnish OVER the oil paint, but as I cautioned above, do not use it UNDER oil paint.

Important note: When using imitation gold leaf you must seal at some point within 6 months after application, so it will not tarnish from exposure to air.

Important Reminders for Acrylic Painters
Imitation leaf will tarnish TWO ways. It will tarnish when exposed to air, and also when exposed to the ammonia in acrylic products while the acrylic is still wet. Once the acrylic dries the ammonia has dissipated and will not tarnish your leaf. SO, if you are applying acrylic paint over REAL gold leaf you can opt to wait to seal at the very end when your painting is complete. If you are using imitation gold leaf along with acrylic paint, you MUST seal the leaf BEFORE you apply any acrylic paint or acrylic products over the leaf.

Seal imitation leaf using a water based acrylic sealer or water based acrylic varnish IF AND ONLY IF that product is applied very thinly or is super fast drying – so fast the ammonia will dissipate before it can tarnish the leaf. Do NOT use Golden’s Polymer Varnish over unsealed imitation leaf. It does not dry fast enough and will tarnish imitation leaf. As I mentioned before, Golden’s Archival Varnish Gloss spray or Golden’s MSA Varnish are solvent based and therefore perfect for sealing leaf because they will not tarnish the imitation leaf. These are both toxic and you will need protective gear and safety precautions. If you want to use a non-toxic alternative such as brush applying Golden’s GAC200 or GAC500 (I use a 1:1 mixture combining both) be very careful to apply your first coat thinly so it dries fast. Also, you must apply several coats, letting each dry prior to applying the next, if these are your only sealers over the leaf before painting with acrylic.

In Summary

Apply oil paint directly over real or imitation leaf without any need to seal the leaf before painting. Apply acrylic paint directly over real gold leaf without any need to seal the leaf prior to painting. Sealing any leaf, real or imitation, prior to painting will protect the leaf from damage while handling.

Do not apply water based adhesives OVER oil paint to adhere your leaf. Instead use solvent based adhesives.Do not apply oil paint OVER removable solvent based varnishes and sealers. But these same sealers can be applied over the oil paint and leaf at the very end as a final coat.

When applying acrylic paint over imitation leaf, the leaf MUST be sealed before painting to avoid tarnishing.

It’s a good idea to varnish paintings at the very end when your painting is complete, even if you already sealed the leaf prior to painting. Sealing with an archival varnish over leaf and paint, is a recommended archival process that enables the painting to be cleaned, and adds UV protection.

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.