For most artists the problems usually encountered when painting on location with acrylics are the drying time and the colour shifts. However, acrylics are versatile and easy to use, provided you have the right gear to make the process comfortable and easy going. I visited Cromer in the height of summer to capture the buzz of life around the pier and beach – I hope you enjoy following me through my process and that you too can go out there with your acrylics and express yourself. It’s an adventure!
Demonstration: Pavilion Theatre
This scene was full of people walking along the pier, to and from the Pavilion Theatre. I intended to capture the movement of those figures.
I made a clear sketch of where I wanted the pavilion to be in relation to the sky and ground. I wanted more sky and less ground.
I refined the sketch with darker tones and then went for the sky with thick paint. I used the heavy structure gel with the slow-drying medium to keep the surface wet and thick for later re-modelling. For the sky I used white and all my blues (mostly cobalt), depending on where I wanted the sky to be warm or cool. For atmospheric perspective on the horizon, I used some orange, raw umber and white to grey that area of the sky and create distance.
In the foreground I made the tones that are closer warmer with burnt sienna, yellow ochre and white and then the middle ground and distance were cooled off with raw umber and white. Horizontal sweeping strokes give a sense of distance and balance so that when the figures are placed on it, it will read as a proper surface to step on.
I painted the colours of the pavilion with as much accuracy as I could, focusing on the effect of sunlight. I made a few spontaneous marks for the figures, making sure they were proportional to the area where they are placed. For this I was constantly measuring and relating each mark to the other. One thing that has to be mastered is the ability to sketch quickly, observe human movement and possibly memorise the impressions they make
Pavilion Theatre, acrylic, 14x18in (35.5x45.5cm).
This is where your personality as a painter comes in – if you are an energetic person like me, it will show in these areas. I had 15–25 minutes to complete this painting and it could have been the death or life of it. I thought deeply about the scene before me. It was buzzing with life, and I wanted to capture that, so a combination of accuracy, freedom and speed was required. I stabbed colours as I saw them pass by – I don’t think people when I paint the figures. I think shapes and marks of colour as they fit into human movement and anatomy. That’s why the understanding of the human figure and the ability to sketch it quickly is important. So when you are not painting, sketch, sketch and sketch. This will help you to train your eye and hand co-ordination, which is essential for representational painters. Lastly I refined a few drawing marks, making them lighter or darker.
The full article can be found in the February 2011 issue of The Artist, and includes several demonstrations as well as practical hints and tips on equipment and techniques for painting outside.