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Acrylic Painting

Reasons for using acrylics: 
  • Acrylic paint dries fast and that has always been it’s primary advantage.
  • Acrylics stick to a wide variety of surfaces.
  • Acrylic paints are odorless and art teachers love this quality.
  • Acrylics may be thinned with water just like watercolors.
Reasons I usually don’t choose to purchase large quantities of acrylic paints to use in the classroom or my own studio:
  • Acrylic paints can be very expensive.
  • Additional additive mediums must be mixed into acrylics to give them the beneficial qualities that other paints already have. This adds to the expense of the paint.
  • Acrylics can dry faster than students can manipulate them for particular effects.
  • Brushes used for acrylics must be cleaned quickly after their use.
How art teachers may extend the shelf life of acrylic paint: 
  • Store acrylics in a dry, cool location.
  • Keep the lids clean both inside and out.
  • Tightly screw the lids down to prevent the paint from drying out
  • If the paint takes on an unusual odor, trash them.
  • The “official shelf life” for acrylic paints is 3-5 years. I have acrylic paints that are over 20 years old.

Art projects typically assigned to secondary students when using acrylic paints:
  •  Acrylic Painting Using a Color Scheme 
  • This project, Abstract Nature/Complementary Colors, is often taught in a typical high school Design I course. This primary difference being that in high school students are expected to repeat the design with variations in color concepts such as: primary color swatch, secondary color swatch, tertiary color swatch, complimentary color swatch, and neutral color swatch
  • Painting a color wheel with acrylics is fairly common practice for those high school students attending a painting one course. This is very simple assignment but then, most art teachers feel that it is necessary to cover it in some respect.
  • Painting a grayscale pattern with acrylics in high school design is a traditional project as well. This project was done on a mat board and this is a superior surface compared to all other affordable alternatives. Never require art students to paint even, smooth strokes with acrylic on top of drawing paper. They will never get this right without a medium Flow Enhancer. Acrylics are not intended to be used in this manner with cheap papers. Cheap papers also must be stretched with water, tape on a good stiff particle board in order for them to be used in this way, and you don’t want to go through all that trouble for this kind of exercise. Save the paper stretching lesson for a final watercolor painting project instead.
Art project suggestions for the use of acrylic medium that I recommend: 
  • I use acrylics primarily for painting paper mache sculptures and masks. In these instances the rapid drying characteristic of the medium is highly beneficial.
  • I also like to use acrylics for painting some abstract techniques associated with modern painting movements
Famous artists who used acrylic prolifically:
  • Mark Rothko
  • Francis Tansey
  • Andy Warhol
  • Robert Motherwell
  • Bridget Riley
  • David Hockney
Basic techniques applied with the use of acrylic paint:
  • Use masking tape directly on the surface you are painting to create “hard edge.” Remove this only after the paint has dried and don’t use too much paint or the tape will be difficult to remove.
  • Blend colors on the surface of the painting while you are painting. This creates an entirely different look from those mixed colors from your palette. 
  • Use thickening agents like acrylic gel, sand, saw dust, etc… to enhance the surface of your painting.
  • Use a flow medium so that when you paint with less medium, your colors will still have the intensity you desire.
  • Layering with transparent glazes will produce a color field of greater depth and sophistication. This involves lots of experimentation so be patient with this discovery process.
  • Acrylics may also be used in airbrushing if diluted properly.
How to store acrylic paints:
  • If your acrylic paint comes in a tube with a wide plastic cap at one end, store this tube cap down.
  • If your acrylic paint comes in a standard “aluminum” style tube with a very narrow opening, role the end of the tube as you use the product eliminating air pockets.
  • Keep acrylic tubes in their own separate box on a high shelf, well out of a young student’s reach.
  • If you can, it is best to store any and all paints in a locked cabinet.
Additional supplies used along with acrylics:
  • A Slow Drying Fluid Retarder – This medium keeps paint fluid longer and increases blending time up to 40%.
  • A Slow Drying Gel Retarder – If the environment of your classroom is very dry, low humidity, this medium will keep the acrylic paint from drying too rapidly.
  • Flow-Aid Flow Enhancer – This medium helps to break down water tension inside the paint so that it will flow and blend with greater absorbency. It can also be used with any water-based paint, dye or ink.
  • Gel Acrylic Thickener – This medium thickens paint to a “cake” so that they can be used to create textured surfaces.
  • Pouring Medium – The medium reduces crazing in poured applications.
  • Fabric Medium – This keeps paints from bleeding and also helps maintain a smooth even surface when working on top of fabric.

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