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Acyrlics

For decades, my attitude towards acrylics, namely paint formulated with acrylic polymers as their medium and binder, was generally negative.


I certainly saw their advantages when used as surface primers and have used them as such all along. When I was a young painter exploring options for mediums, I gave them an extended try and decided I didn't like the way they handled, dried, and looked. They dried too fast to blend edges effectively, a very well known disadvantage. Some artists saw that as an advantage, if you worked with adding multiple sequential layers, but I didn't favor that approach.  Acrylics also "slumped", or were unable to maintain a crisp impasto edge as they dried. Oil impastos stay just as you leave them, like butter, no sagging or slumping. Acrylic emulsions, especially glossy ones, even had a annoying stickiness when they were completely dry, and if you weren't careful, would stick to other acrylic surfaces or protective wrappings. I decided they were not for me, and other than primers, I did not use them.  For decades... Thinking back, the main overall reason was they just didn't brush well, compared to oils. Blending an edge, I believed, was critical in painting. And acrylics dried too quickly to feather edges or lift excess paint from intersections as I learned to do with oil paints. In my early years I was painting more realistically and only using brushes. Consequently, I have made oil paint my main medium for decades. In the mid 1990's I experimented with enamels, really liked them and experienced their qualities and advantages, and incorporated them in my list of preferred materials. The fact that oil and enamel were chemically compatible made these the two main art materials in my painting for the last 30 years. The majority of my work has been created with oil and enamel paints on panels. Panels, because I like to build paint topographies, and my heavy surfaces are better supported on rigid panels than canvas. I did make some topographies using modeling paste, an acrylic binder made with marble dust and/or chalk.


Jump to about two/three years ago when I decided to give acrylics another try. I deduced that they might be quite adapted to pouring as I was seeing the pouring bottles in art supply stores and was intrigued by the acrylic poured paintings I was seeing in other artist's exhibitions and on-line. When I mentioned my embrace of enamels above, I forgot to mention I favored them because they were very liquid and could be poured easily.  Since 1995, as pouring became such a big part of my practice, I was thinking about color fields, geology, molten magma and so on. Recently as I was seeing all these bottles of acrylics formulated for pouring, I realized I should check them out. And yes, I am here to report they are very well adapted to pouring. But the even bigger surprise and delight was they came in these bottles, and the bottles themselves have become a new way to pour and manipulate paint. You can just let them drip from various sized nozzles, you can squeeze them, you can drag the nozzle on a panel and squeeze simultaneously to draw long mark extrusions across the surface. As the amount of paint runs low in the bottle, other handling maneuvers are possible. You can squeeze excessively and jerk the bottle so the liquid paint squirts and splatters. The techniques are surprisingly different from my enamel pours in which I employ wide brimmed cups and slow pouring of lots of paint, a considerable amount of which runs off the panels. So recently I have been discovering a host of new ways to work using the bottles.


As I have experimented, I have discovered thick pools of acrylic often crack as they dry. My enamel pours tend to wrinkle, although it takes considerable time and is helped by the high temperatures my desert studio experiences. I often want to depict earthquake faults and tectonics, therefore I have always been attracted to cracks, as I see them in the natural world all around, especially in the landscapes that are often my topic. I really enjoy the process of acrylic paint cracking out as it dries. It usually takes three to four days at the most.

Another group of materials has also contributed to the evolution of my style. Using glitter. Which is a whole other topic. I have mentioned it in certain past blogs. Suffice it to say here, that glitter has lead me to glitter glue. And glitter glue is some amazing stuff. It can be squeezed out of its small containers in undulating linear waves, blobbed on, dripped on, brushed on, etc. etc. All of these rather "snotty" forms and textures can then be combed, a favorite technique. I'm big on all kinds of combs. Combing creates parallel linear stripe patterns. Often the glitter glue stands up as a ridge when first applied that can hold back adjacent poured fields. Then, after the glue dries, it shrinks down and is finally a depression with the adjacent fields now higher around it. Thus miniature craters and canyons form by themselves as a result of the physical properties of the materials left alone to change as they cure. These glittery substances reference, for me, mineral deposits and additional tectonic upheavals. Glitter glue, I have discovered, also has a weird property of causing acrylics that end up on top to crack even more. These days I am using a combination of acrylic pouring paints, squeezed (thicker) acrylics from tubes, many metallic formulations, specialty craft paints, all mixed with glitter glues, many of which I now formulate myself, to create my very expressionist rhythmic landscape abstractions. My latest series, which I am calling Paint Planet, will be highlighted in my next blog. 



An assortment of recent acrylic and glitter glue paintings in the Paint Planet series, 2024


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