I have recently had the pleasure of running acrylic painting workshops for small groups and individuals who have visited my studio. While I am happy enough to share the techniques I use, the best thing is when people completely ignore me because they have discovered the joy of experimenting, taking risks and exploring this wonderful medium for themselves. If I can encourage people to do that, then I think I have really shared something useful.
These are some of my thoughts. They are aimed at people who are learning to paint or thinking about trying it. They are not instructions, merely suggestions. There are as many approaches to acrylic painting as there are artists. Thankfully, I don't think anyone has ever written any rules for acrylics, there is no prohibition on using white or black or green from the tube, there is no law which says you shouldn't 'fiddle' if you want to or that you should if you don't. If you make a mistake you can correct it and since you don't need to use expensive canvases/paper you can just throw it away and start again if you feel like it.
One studio visitor who 'couldn't do colour' produced this in her first half hour:
Once freed from the misapprehension that there was a right and a wrong way to cover a sheet of paper with colour she was away. She's been producing amazing, colourful abstracts ever since.
I think it's really useful to look at other artists' work as much as you can. Think about why you like something or why you don't. Why it works... or why it doesn't work for you... what do you like? Be inspired... but don't try to copy. You will only end up frustrated. Art is not merely a technical process. It works when you put your soul into it. You can't do that by copying someone else's work.
Take risks, Allow yourself to make mistakes. It's ok. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's called learning. Why would you expect to run before you can walk?
Photographs are fantastic for reference, but I find it is better not to try to paint from a photograph. If my only reference is a photograph (and believe me the tops of Cumbrian Fells are not always comfortable places to sit and sketch!) then I draw from the photograph back in the studio and then paint from the drawings. This helps in several ways. The drawing helps me to understand the subject, identify my focus of attention, clarify what needs to be left out and what can stay in. Only when I have done this can I be confident about a composition. Using a reference drawing rather than a photograph also helps me to avoid the trap of concentrating on irrelevant and distracting detail which detracts from the overall painting.
Once you've established your composition and you're ready to start, transfer your drawing to your paper or canvas or board and start painting. Aim to work on the whole image to begin with. Detail can come later. If you concentrate too much on one area you may well find it is difficult to pull the whole thing together later. Edges and shapes can be refined later if need be. Acrylics are forgiving and allow corrections at a later stage. You don't have to get it right to begin with.
If you are struggling, leave the painting for a while and come back to it. 10 minutes may be enough or weeks or months if need be! When you come back you will see it with fresh eyes. Details you thought were important will have receded into the background and you will be able to judge the accuracy of your drawing and the wisdom of your composition with fresh eyes.
Remember that our brains want to make sense of the images we see, and all we have to do as painters is to give the viewer enough information to enable them to do that. More than that is unnecessary and may be superfluous.
If you are interested in a workshop for groups of up to 6 people in my studio, or individual lessons, please contact me.