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.

Demo Notes: Basics in Acrylics

Thank you for every one that came to the demonstration Sunday March 28th. There were a few requests for a hand out so I thought I'd post the notes for those that want all the details! I left out the section on varnishes. This deserves its own blog. Stay tuned. Best, Deb

I Introduction: What is acrylic paint

Acrylics paint is made with synthetic resin (poymer) as the medium (liquid) to bind the pigment (colour), rather than natural oils such as linseed used in oil paints.


  • dries quickly
  • water soluble


  • versatile - can be used to emulate oil, watercolors or encaustics
  • milky when wet (slightly opaque) but dries clear as opposed to oil paint which keeps the same colour wet and dry. à dry colour is always different than wet colour.
  • shrink considerably (approximately 25-40%) upon drying.

Student vs Artist Grade acrylics:

Student grade acrylics

  • less expensive pigments (or mixtures of pigments) so the
    range of colors is limited.
  • In the cheapest brands, they've lots of filler (chalk and kaolin or China clay.) .
  • As with so many things, you get what you pay for.
  • Don't mix together as successfully (in terms of color produced, not consistency),
  • results as vibrant as artist's quality paints.

Professional Grade Acrylics:
What we have at OPUS, categorized in terms of consistency/thickness.

1. heavy body

heavy body acrylics:
smooth, rich, buttery consistency.
ability to "stand up" and retain brush strokes or palette knife marks
excellent flexibility when dry, greatly diminishing the possibility of cracking

- Liquitex (heavy)
- Stevenson (heavy)
- TriArt (heavy)
- Golden (heavy body)
- Open acrylics: Ideal for portraiture and landscape painting
Remain wet on the palette for prolonged periods without skinning over.

2. Medium body

Medium body/soft:
(includes airbrush and ink)
consistency of pudding,
level out and don’t hold peaks.
Blend really nicely.

- Holbein acrylic gouache (medium body)
- Liquitex (medium/soft body)

3. Liquid /airbrush/acrylic inks

high pigment load or color strength
level out
great for staining and washes
Great for fine line and details
illustrators loves them!

- Chromacolour (fluid)
- Golden fluids (fluids)
-Golden airbrush paints (very fluid)
- Liquitex and ---- acrylic inks (extremely fluid)

Gessos & Grounds

PVA size
-GAC 100

- Stevenson
- Liquitex

Other Grounds
-absorbent ground
-pastel ground
-light moulding paste

DEMO: liquid acrylics on absorbent ground and light moulding paste ground.

Safety concerns:

  • Many pigments that are known to be toxic – cadmium & cobalt
  • Acrylic paints contain additives such as thickeners, levelers, defoamers and surfactants to stabilize, prevent moulding and prevent them from drying too quickly. Your Skin my react to these.
  • Acrylics de-gas when they dry. This gas can be toxic.

Reduce the chance of ingestion/absorption/inhalation by:

  1. Wear gloves or barrier cream
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly when you’ve finished painting.
  3. Don’t eat while you’re painting or have food in the studio
  4. Ensure there’s decent ventilation in your studio
  5. Keep your art materials out of the reach of kids.

II Mediums and Additives:

Fluid Mediums

Gloss & Matte polymer medium

Colorless paint, as they are composed of 100% acrylic polymers similar to acrylic paint. A general purpose liquid medium useful for creating glazes, extending colors, enhancing gloss and translucency and increasing film integrity. Has a unique feel that is much more oil-like or resinous in nature and that promotes flow and leveling.

Show what we have





DEMO – using OPUS matte medium to seal a paper substrate surface. Using OPUS matte medium to extend paint

DEMO – using fluid medium to create glazing layers

Mediums for pouring layers –
GOLDEN Acrylic Glazing Liquid - is liquid medium designed to have longer working time than typical acrylic mediums.

Liquitex Glazing Medium - designed to dry quickly for rapid layering
Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish – not a true varnish, can be mixed well and easily with liquid paints to create layers of translucent glazes. Will crack if poured too thick.

GAC 800 - Adding small amounts of GAC-800 to the Fluids can reduce the crazing that occurs (that works especially well with the Fluids )

GAC 800 Sample to show - this medium can be poured thickly and used to embed objects without cracking.

The GAC’s liquid mediums defined:

- GOLDEN GAC - Golden Artist Colors
- Specialty Acrylic Polymers are based on 100% acrylic polymer emulsions.
- useful as mediums or modifiers of acrylic paints.
- can be blended with acrylics to extend the paint to:

1. regulate transparency,

2. create glazes,

3. increase gloss,

4. reduce viscosity

5. improve adhesion

6. Improve film integrity.

-have only a minimum amount of thickeners, levelers, defoamers and surfactants to ensure good film formation.
- very fluid and thinner than other GOLDEN Mediums.
- will reduce the thickness of most GOLDEN Acrylic Paints.

Gel Mediums

Gels can be thought of as colorless paint, as they are composed of 100% acrylic polymers similar to acrylic paint. They can also act as adhesives in collage and mixed media that dry to form continuous films with excellent flexibility with chemical, water and UV resistance.

Soft -> Regular -> Extra Heavy

Soft Gel Gloss

moderately pourable. Hold only slight peaks. The recommended acrylic to function as a glue for collaging. Soft Gel Gloss is ideal for glazing and other techniques where transparency is desired. Useful as a non-removable isolation coat, applied over the painting and before the varnish (must be thinned with water - 2 parts Soft Gel Gloss to 1 part water). Adding water and thining it prevents clouding.

DEMO – using Golden soft gel as an isolation coat.

Regular Gel - Same creamy consistency as GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylic colors. Ideal for extending paint and regulating translucency without changing the consistency of the Heavy Body and Matte colors. Hold moderate peaks and texture. The Regular Gel Gloss is ideal for glazing and other techniques where transparency is desired.

DEMO – using regular gel to create underpainting texture – on its own or mix with paints.

DEMO – putting regular gel on top of your painting to add depth and texture and thick glazes on your paintings

Heavy & extra heavy gel - Thicker consistency than GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylic colors. Blend with colors to increase body. Good for holding peaks. * note that it dries translucent – not perfectly clear.

Clear tar gel - mixes with the Fluids for dripping purposes, and can yield lines that range from spider-web fine to brushstroke thick.

Sample Handout - using ALL various gels as glue to adhere and embed stuff into your painting

Self leveling clear tar gel - isolation coat that dries evenly
(GOLDEN medium that work especially well with the Fluids)

Impasto Gel Medium - (steveston) like regular gel but has marble dust so its opaque.

Modeling Paste - regular, light and coarse. Can be used as a ground and to build up texture into your painting.


Acrylic Flow Release - is a surfactant. A surfactant is a concentrated surface-active liquid which reduces surface tension, thus improving wetting and increasing the flow of acrylic waterborne paints.

Retarder – slows the drying time of paint. Allows greater time for blending, working outside.

IV Painting Substrates and Accessories

Paintings substrates

glass, board, canvas, linen, paper.... (display)



1. round – use to dab & make a line
2. flat head – landscape, horizons, washes/glazes
3. bright – less flexible than a flat, more control
4. Filbert – oval dabbing and filling in shapes, most versatile

What we carry:

Fortissimo – ($)
- natural hog hair
- oil brush works great for acrylic
-stiff and thick hair – good for dry brushing and brush stroke effects

Arietta’s ($)
- really soft
- great for the fluids/inks
- won’t work so well with the heavy body paints

Legato ($$)
- More firm

Mezzo ($$$)
- even firmer

Windsor and Newton water mixable brushes ($$$)
- have a fan brush, great for blending

Robert Simmons ($$$)
- synthetic
- hold a lot of water/paint
- very soft
- lots of selection of small sized brushes for detail

Other - palette knifes, rubber shapers are cool to use too!


Peel- away palette
Clear plastic Palette
Cansen disposable palette
Non-stick Palette
Stay Web Palette

Clean up:

Wipe acrylics off with a papertowel so you don't get it down the sink
Master's paint cleaner and brush conditioner
Glass jar with coil

Sunday March 28th 2-4 pm: free acrylics demo in Vancouver

Deb Chaney is mixing liquid Golden Acrylics with Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish and applying this
in many thin layers to create translucent glazing effects you see in many of her Emerging Series works.

On Sunday March 28th from 2-4 pm I will be doing a live in store demonstration on acrylics & acrylic mediums at OPUS Framing and Art Supply on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC. This demo is open to the public, first come for limited seating. Look for me at the back of the store in the paper room.

I will be discussing and demonstrating the following:

  • What are acrylics and how do they compare to watercolour paints and oil paints?
  • What different types of acrylics exist?
  • Health and safety concerns when using acrylics.
  • Making sense of the Medium aisle at the art supply store
  • Mediums and Additives used with acrylics - the fun begins!
  • Varnishing your painting - what to use and why.
  • Painting substrates and must have accessories
  • Cleaning up

Opus Framing & Art Supplies
1360 Johnston Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3S1(604) 736-7028

DATE & TIME: Sunday March 28th, 2010 2- 4 pm

it's free! first come first seating available.

Blending acrylics to create a smooth gradient look

This photo is a section of an in process 36 x 36 x 1 1/2" painting I'm currently working on in the studio. I liked the shot so I thought I'd share it. The Finished piece will be posted on this blog and at some unknown date in the future.
(c) Deb Chaney 2010.

I received an Email question from a fellow artist who wrote me wondering about creating smooth gradients using acrylics.

This question is definitely worthy of a short video. It is my hope that before the end of this year I will have the video camera set up on a tripod in the studio and be able to film a short on how to do this so you can see it for yourself. For now, here's her question and my answer....

"Hi Deb!

How are you? Hope you are having a great week.

I am currently working on an acrylic painting with a warm orange background. Starting with warm red from the top, fading down to a warm orange on the bottom, I am wanting to create a smooth gradient look.

I'm having a lot of trouble achieving this with acrylics. I'm getting many streaks and lines. The colours are not blending perfectly to a solid gradient look.

Would you be willing to offer any suggestions or any tips or tricks to achieve this look and combat the streaks? Perhaps the paint didn't stay wet enough for long to blend properly. I've painted many coats and nearly used up my entire orange tube ! LOL"

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for writing.

My first question for you would be - Are you using heavy body or liquid acryics?

You mentioned using a tube, so I'm guessing you're using the full body acrylics (toothpaste consistency).
If so, my recommendation is that you use a gel medium - like Golden soft or regular gel - in that area where the two colours merge. The medium could help to blend the two colours together seemlessly, like you desire, and could be used in lieu of water.

The next question I would ask you is what kind of brush you are using for blending the colours?

I have a lot of success using a very soft bristle flat head brush to blend colours. Back and forth, back and forth lots of times, more than would be intuitive, to blend the two colours with the medium and create that gradient you want without streaks or lines.

Lastly, I am wondering if your're working flat or if the substrate you're painting on is up on an easle? It's so much easier to blend gradients when you're working flat on a table. Then if you want to add water it's not going to drip down and disturb the layers below.

If I made the incorrect assumption
about the paint consistency you're using and you are using liquid acrylics (I love the Golden liquid acrylics myself), they blend beautifully and you can also uses a fluid medium in between two colours, same technique as described above.

Hope this helps. Comments are welcome.

Have another question?