Sunday, 30 December 2012

Alphabetica Y - layered paint tutorial

About 5 years ago I took a class 
with Ann Baldwin at Art & Soul, in Portland. Ann has been moving from painting to photography, and her photography is interesting but I prefer her paintings. Perhaps when she's been doing photography for as long as she's been painting, I'll like the photography as much as I like the painting!

Ann paints beautiful paintings by layering acrylics - sometimes 45 or more layers. She adds texture by adding papers and other media and textured elements between the layers. I decided on a simple version of what I learnt for Y.

I took some scrap cardboard, and painted in with a thin layer of gesso. 

I gave it a second thin coat.

I got out some gloss gel medium, and a palette knife

Once I'd coated the card with gel medium, I added texture with cookie cutters, a rubber stamp, the wrong end of a pencil and a mini mister cap.

I let it dry.  You can only tell if it's dry by touching it.

I got my paints out - these, and every yellow I have. I love these paints, the colour is still strong, even when thinned with water, or applied in thin layers.

Using my brightest yellow, I painted the hearts. This may look a bit like fried eggs at the moment but it will improve, honest!

I gave it a coat of Nickel Azo Yellow. Transparent colours are best for this technique, but you apply the paint so thinly that you can get away with less a transparent layer every now and then.

I gave it a coat of Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide..

I took my paintbrush and went around the hearts with a thin layer of Yellow Ochre. This was still a very thin layer of paint, but I added some uneven-ness by painting some areas more than once.

I added a touch of red for contrast - I made a mask then stamped each heart with a dotty stamp and red Stazon.

Doesn't look like fried eggs any more, I'm starting to like it now.

Next, I stamped some words over the spots - big improvement - and then painted some of the circles with Iridescent Bronze. This is very bright, but it will mellow when there are some layers of transparent paint on top.

I added a layer of Nickel Azo Yellow. See how those bronze circles have warmed up?

Another layer of Nickel Azo Yellow. I like this - it could get much richer with more layers and the introduction of other colours, but this peice has to be Y for Yellow, so I'd better stop. There are about 10 layers of paint here.

The back, though, well that's another matter.  I'd done everything so far (apart from the red spots)  to another piece of card to be the back of the piece.

I added layers of Nickel Azo Gold, Transparent Burnt Orange, and Transparent Iron Oxide Red.  I painted some of the gold hearts with Turquoise, very thinly. I layered in Iridescent bronze at different points so there would be different colours of gold in the piece. It looks like rich leather.

This is similar, but more deep colours added - about 17 layers of paint here.

You can make it brighter, depending on which colours you use.  Somewhere in the middle of this, there was a Turquoise layer, which turned the yellowy areas green, and the reddish areas slightly greeny browny.

This is a really easy technique which produces really rich surfaces with lots of depth and deep shine.  The trick is just to have patience, and take the time to paint many layers but keep the layers really thin, and to make sure each layer is completely dry before adding the next (use a heat gun if you're as impatient as me!).


  1. Gorgeous artwork, thanks for the step by step pictures and how to :)

  2. I love the way a piece evolves when using layers, although I have never tried useing that many layers before. You would never know that it was once a piece of cardboard packageing.

  3. This looks fabulous Adrienne, love the depth of the colours Hint Hint

  4. Beautiful. I, too, tend to add many layers of somewhat transparent paints and inks when building up colors. I love techniques that allow you to start with recycled substrates and still end up with something that looks very rich. :)




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