Six Acrylics and MIxed Media How-To inspiration books to discover

This week, instead of one of my current mentorship program students coming here to my studio, I went to his studio to change things up a bit for our session today. We had such a great time and both agreed it was great to mix things up by changing our location and usual routing that I thought I would share our afternoon with you…

We looked at an old series of work he'd done in '99 - some energetic gestural sketches inspired by Picasso in charcoal on paper and discussed turning these into a small show.

We looked at the newest additions to his recent work - amazing to see the link between all the 9 x12" pieces as the series grows and he continues to evolve and explore in textures and mediums.

Then with cups of tea we plunked down on the living room floor and looked at the extensive collection of art books on drawing, painting, acrylics, mixed media, collage and creating textures in Tim's collection…what fun! Here are my favorites from his dozens of books we looked through:

The Surface Treatment Workshop: Explore 45 Mixed-Media Techniques by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson.

And here is a peak of my favorite page inside the book:

I found this book overwhelming because there were so many projects and directions you could go with creating unique textural surfaces. It's the kind of book I would keep as a reference resource if I wanted to understand how to create a certain effect. But I wouldn't read through it all page by page because it's just too much information!

NEW ACRYLICS Essential Sourcebook: Materials, Techniques and contemporary Application for Today's Artist, by Rheni Tauchid. link to amazon information.

And here is a peak of my favorite page inside the book:

Pretty basic book from my standpoint but if you were looking for a getting started in acrylics book I would rather recommend Patti Brady's book over this one by a long shot. It didn't really pull me in.

The Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed Media Artists: Experimental Techniques for Composition, Layering, Texture, Imagery and Encaustic, by Ann Baldwin.

Link to amazon information.

And here is a peak of my favorite page inside the book:

(artwork by Ann Baldwin)

I love this book, especially because Ann goes the extra mile to show us how she creates the depth and layering in her painting by showing pictures of paintings in process. Most of the other books just show completed art or pieces of a project to outline a specific technique whereas in this book you get to see the entire painting evolve.

Abstracts: 50 Inspiration Projects, by Rolina Van Vliet.

And here is a peak of my favorite page inside the book:

(the base of this art piece is made with aluminum foil)

This would be fantastic book if you like structure and want a way to practice making abstract art with a lot of guidance for each project in terms of laying out the colour palette, composition and building on those fundamentals. I wouldn't buy this book personally and I found many of the paintings in the book to be very similar which was a bit boring - just my opinion.

A practical Guide to freeing the artist within: Expressive Drawing, by Steven Aimone.

And here is a peak of my favorite page inside the book:

This is by far one of the best books of the lot with amazing photographs, instructions, easy to follow, and totally inspirational. I absolutely want to play around with the exercise shown in the above page whereby you draw something for a set amount of time and then paint over it and then go back to drawing --- way cool! Apparently, this guy - Steve Aimone -- does workshops and now I'm curious to learn more about him and his extraordinary sounding workshops… :)

Art from Intuition: overcoming your fears and obstacle to making art, by Dean Nimmer.

And here is a peak of my favorite page inside the book:

Fantastic book - very inspirational with great to-do ideas. Love how the author put together all their small pieces into this installation (photo above) it totally reminds me of the small gems paintings we make in our energizing and experimental workshop and the potential these little gems have.

Love the top 10 list of obstacles to making art. Really enjoyed browsing this book. I would buy this book.

Isolation Coats and Varnishing on Mixed Media Paintings

This blog post is primarily for students of the past Concept to Completion workshop, and for

those who recently attended the May 14th, OPUS Granville Island demonstration in Mixed Media on Panel and for all those past students of my Energizing and Experimental Abstract Painting Workshop with Acrylics and Mixed Media. And, lastly, for any artist who is interested in varnishing their paintings that contain mixed media.

To start, when I write here "mixed media" I am referring to a mix acrylics paints in all their forms (liquid, heavy body, ink and spray acrylics) as well as mediums that are polymer based including but not limited to molding pastes, absorbent ground, gesso, GAC products, polymer mediums, clear tar gels and so on. And also including but not limited to pencil crayons, inks, spray paint, pastels, water soluble pencils, and collage.

Lately I've been using quite a bit of chalk pastel to finish off my abstract paintings. In particular

I love the Senelier chalk pastels and after my demonstration at OPUS Granville Island last Saturday I purchased a whole bunch of Panpastel(TM) which I've never used before but am super excited to try on my on the dry textured areas of my mixed media paintings using my flat Robert Simmons 'Decorator' brushes. Whoohoo I'm excited!

This blog pertains to a question has come up in all these above mentioned products during demonstrations and workshops and that is, how do you final varnish a painting with a lot of mixed media, such as pastel, on it? The challenge is that usually you would lay down an *isolation coat (defined below) on top of your painting prior to putting a final coat of either polymer varnish or MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) varnish. However, once you've added pastel if you like where it's located on your piece and you don't want it to smudge, you'd be leery to apply an isolation coat. So what do you do? I sent an Email to the technical team at GOLDEN paints and here's what they said.

Please note prior to reading this understand that trying the advice below which solves our/my

challenge of finishing off a mixed media painting was advice tailored to my needs and that each piece and each artist will present other needs and potential problems and for anyone interested in pursuing this approach should contact Golden Technical Support and always TEST before applying anything to a final, valuable piece as these steps are irreversible.

If you are first spray applying an Isolation Coat, of the GAC 500 and Transparent Airbrush Extender, then applying the Polymer Varnish should not be an issue since the dry media has been consolidated. The logic for this recommendation is in essence we are happy to offer Polymer varnish as a removable water-based varnish, however it is slightly more prone to color shift or slight ambering in time; so we are only comfortable recommending it for applications where full removal and re-application are a possibility.

For direct application to dry media such as pastel the MSA would a be a better option. Also, you are correct in the assumption that Polymer Varnish does not come in an aerosol can.

Isolation Coats are very useful for a standard acrylic painting as they allow greater options for future conservation. However once an art piece moves into mixed media or other unique process many considerations need to be weighed. These may include the look of a surface, or sensitivity of materials to various solvents.

Regarding the pieces you described water sensitivity and fragility of the media are the main concerns. Brush applying any coating over powder pastel, or charcoal has a risk of smearing or blurring the media. Thus, we typically suggest only spray applications directly to these surfaces. Take into consideration that applying any coating to a dry media will deepen and darken colors, a good analogy for this is how a river stone looks dark and glossy when we and grey and frosty when dry.

One option is to not apply an Isolation Coat and simply spray apply MSA Varnish (Gloss) in thin layers until the powdered media is fully sealed with an even gloss finish. Then the final sheen could be adjusted as needed with a reduced sheen varnish. This process would begin to mimic our recommendation for varnishing a watercolor which can be found here at

Another possibility is to use an Airbrush to spray apply GAC 500 mixed with Airbrush Transparent Extender at a ratio of 2:1. This mixture is our standard recommendation for a sprayable Isolation Coat, however since this is a water borne care must be taken in application to avoid runs and blurring the underlying media. Once the pastel is sealed then MSA or Polymer varnish could be applied as desired.

Finally there is an option of sealing the pastel with a few spray applications of MSA Varnish (Gloss,) allowing the piece to cure until the solvent odor had completely dissipated , then applying an Isolation Coat, and finally applying a final coating of MSA Varnish. The logic here is that having a full layer of an Isolation coat will hopefully protect the underlying media if a conservator ever needed to remove the top varnish. But it is a complex composite of coatings and you would want to leave documentation with the piece about the process you settled on.

As always please make some test panels before experimenting on a finished work. Once last point of information is that the processes mentioned above do no relate to the use of Oil Pastel which being a non curing media has its own set of concerns, and limitation for varnishing.

* isolation coat - An isolation coat is a clear, non-removable coating that serves to physically separate the paint surface from the removable varnish. The isolation coat serves two purposes: 1. To protect the painting if/or when the varnish is removed by separating the pigmented area of the painting from the solvents used in removal. 2. To seal any absorbent areas in order to create an even surface on which to apply the varnish.