'As a professional artist I’m always exploring new media and ways to use it for creative expression,' says Robert Dutton.

'Fundamentally the approach to trying out new and different media is to enhance and enrich my creative approach in a new and exciting way. With this open-minded ethos, several years ago, I began experimenting with metallic paints right across the board – with acrylic inks, acrylic paints, oil pastels and soft pastels – and was really captivated by the results. The more I used them, the more I liked them.

'Metallic colours offer me something quite dynamic and assist my creative vision to express what I witness first-hand within landscape. Let me give you an example. Have you ever stood on a cliff top overlooking the sea as it sparkles and shimmers in your direction, or turned to face the light after rain in the mountains and seen the light reflected off rock that looks like silver? I bet you’ve said ‘Oh! If only I could capture that effect’. Well, you can. Metallic colours are not the answer, but they help!'

Bright Spring Light – Wastewater, The Lake District, mixed media and metallic inks on 300lb (640gsm) (300lb) Not 100-per-cent rag content watercolour paper, (56x76cm)

The predominant colours in this en-plein-air drawing are the cool blues and rich browns with the deep shadows and the bright highlights contrasting with one another.

Daler-Rowney sun-up blue, indigo, cerulean blue with Liquitex transparent burnt sienna and light copper metallic acrylic inks were used together as glazes and washes to create many of the underlying effects in the painting.

Soft Unison Colour pastels and Nitram charcoal were also used to enrich surface textures, draw with and to express topographical landmass and distant mountain shapes.

Extra special expression

I have already mentioned extra depth in my painting when using metallic inks but what does that really mean?

Walk around the painting in different light conditions and the surface almost moves with you. It’s like the landscape painting becomes alive.

With a landscape that’s constantly changing as the light moves, so do these paintings as you see them from different angles in the room and at different times of the day. It’s really exciting to see!

Working on a coloured ground

Metallic paints and colours work on all sorts of different supports. On black or very dark backgrounds they really do stand out. I work on dark papers and pastel supports frequently.

The supports must be robust enough to withstand lots of reworking and multiple layering of media one over and into the other. To this avail 300lb (640gsm) 100-per-cent cotton rag watercolour papers and heavier weight pastel papers that accept water without disintegrating and without cockling, are essential.

I will often apply gesso to a thinner paper surface to make them stronger after stretching them.

PanPastel metallic colours – first directly on 140lb (300gsm) Not 100-per-cent cotton rich watercolour paper, which has a very light tooth and then onto a wash of black acrylic ink to show how different the metallic pastels respond on a dark background.

Note: all pastels do the same, regardless of brand.

Robert's pick of metallic acrylic inks

1. Daler-Rowney shimmering colours

Daler-Rowney has created an amazing range of shimmering colours. Shimmering blue 711, shimmering red 713, and shimmering gold 709 add a lustrous depth to colours mixed with them – even black and white inks. The shimmering colours reflect surface light from the support and work brilliantly alongside other metallic inks and in harmony to further assist expressive interpretations of subjects in really exciting ways.


2. Daler-Rowney gold and silver

Daler-Rowney’s 701 gold and 702 silver acrylic inks are useful colours to add to a myriad different surfaces and other inks too. The addition of metallic colours and shimmer colours ‘lift’ colour mixes and look especially attractive when glazed.

3. Daler-Rowney - pearlescent colours

Daler-Rowney’s 122 sun-up pearlescent blue, is in fact just one of 22 pearlescent liquid acrylic colours in the Daler-Rowney FW range. There are great names to some of them too: Mazuma gold, birdwing copper, silver moss, genesis green, and so on. Each will add unique qualities to your painting approaches.


4. Liquitex

Liquitex Iridescent bright silver, Iridescent bright gold, Iridescent rich bronze and Iridescent rich copper are very useful metallic colours. They are lovely and smooth and opaque and a little goes a long way in terms of glazing, especially when creating light tints.

5. Royal Talens

Royal Talens has also created three great metallic lightfast acrylic inks – silver, light gold and deep gold – and I use them as often as I can. These three colours can be used opaque or translucently without colour loss.

The component parts within the inks act like reflective particles across the painted surface when applied and are exciting to use.

Robert's pick of metallic and iridescent soft pastels

Several manufacturers create soft pastels that incorporate metallic and iridescent colours in their ranges now. My personal favourites are those created by:

1. Sennelier

Sennelier due to their extra softness and ease of use without any grittiness. Available in 24 colours, including iridescent black, grey and white (which allow mixed-media drawings to become even more exciting), these pastels add enormous potential to your creative repertoire.

In storage and use, however, I’m cautious using them as the particles in these colours stick, so easily transfer and stick to other soft pastels. When I’m creating dedicated soft pastel paintings that will not have metallic or iridescent colours included, I will use a separate set entirely. This means doubling up of my favourite colours and keeping them entirely separate but it’s worth the effort and added expense as the results are fabulous.

The Sennelier iridescent soft pastels are really opaque – almost like an oil pastel in many respects.

2. PanPastel

PanPastel soft iridescent and metallic soft pastels are another firm favourite. The smooth, soft effects that you can create with these highly pigmented pastels are unprecedented.

There are special ‘soft’ tools that are used to apply the pastels to different surfaces ranging from various shaped synthetic micropore art sponges, which fit in the hand easily, to plastic-handled knives with different shaped sponge covers in oval, flat and round shapes, and small applicators often used to create details.

I frequently use the PanPastel six metallic colours and six pearlescent colours with tools as described to give special effects to my mixed-media drawings and paintings.

3. Karl Kelly

Karl Kelly is another American manufacturer creating iridescent soft pastels with the Mount Vision range.

There are 15 colourful, buttery colours and a set of five great darks. Chunky pastels, which are handmade, are lovely to use on all sorts of different surfaces – especially worked one into the other.


4. Diane Townsend

Diane Townsend has created another range of chunky handmade metallic, iridescent and pearlescent colours which I like.

There are 16 metallic, 12 pearlescent, and ten iridescent, which work well together and with other ranges to create some lovely effects. From the lightest applications with glorious scumbling effects right through to buttery, heavier applications where the pastels create lovely opaque areas, these are exhilarating and exciting to use in combination with mixed media.

Demonstration: Winter’s Flow Gordale Scar, Malhamdale

Winter’s Flow – Gordale Scar, Malhamdale, mixed media with metallic inks and metallic Sennelier pastels on 140lb (300gsm) hot-pressed 100-per-cent cotton rich watercolour paper, (51x56cm)