Modern Acrylic: A contemporary exploration of acrylic painting

Modern Acrylic: A contemporary exploration of acrylic painting

by Blakely Little


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633226180
Publisher: Foster, Walter Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Series: Modern Series
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 329,080
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 11.60(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Blakely Little is based in Charleston, South Carolina, where she uses a mixture of acrylic and oil paints as well as crayons to create colorful, modern, and bright artwork. Blakely enjoys playing with bright colors and patterns and has been featured by Glitter Guide, Country Living magazine, Coastal Style Magazine, and others. She's created art for businesses and organizations in South Carolina, including the American Heart Association. Learn more at

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Have you ever been in a moment and felt the desire to capture it? I don't mean just a quick photo to freeze what it looks like; I mean you want to capture the feeling of it all: the warmth of sand beneath your feet on your first trip to the beach after a long winter, the wind blowing through your car window as your drive through the mountains, the silence in a single, fragile flower. This is painting. Painting is about seeing and feeling, and pushing all those emotions onto a canvas.

Acrylic paints are versatile and can mimic other paints easily, without the hassle of special products. They are tough and permanent and will hold true to their color for years. They don't have any odor and are safe for all ages. You can water down acrylic paint and layer washes of color over and over to build up opaque shades to create new colors. You can lay acrylic paint thickly on a panel — it will dry quickly — and then paint on top of that color without the two mixing and getting muddy.

In this book, we'll explore everything you need to know to get started in acrylic painting, whether you're brand new to art or an experienced artist who just wants to explore a new medium. We'll go over the basic tools and materials, how to handle brushes to achieve certain strokes and textures, how to use color to express yourself, and so much more.

After you've learned these basics, dive into the easy-to-follow step-by-step tutorials, which cover a wide range of subject matter. You can follow along with my projects exactly, or you can put your own personal spin on things by choosing a different color palette, tweaking the subject matter, or simply painting it in your own style — there's no wrong way!

Acrylic paint is simple to work with and has a breadth of uses. Allow your creativity to flow, and keep an open mind while you let the paint do its thing!


It's important to prep your space and materials before you begin painting. This way, once you dive in, you can really get creative without trying to find all the things you might need. First clear the space where you will be painting. Put away anything that may get paint on it, and lay down a drop cloth to protect the area. You can work on an easel, a wall, or a flat surface. Think through the way you work best and set it all up. Do you need snacks? Ice water? Comfy clothes? Music? Set a great environment that enables you to be creative yet focused.


You'll want to grab a big cup of water for your dirty brushes, and then lay them out. Many types of brushes can be used for different paint strokes. Shown here are the brushes I use most. Synthetic-hair brushes are best for acrylics, because the strong filaments can withstand the caustic nature of the paint.


Paint varies in cost by grade and brand, but even reasonably priced paints offer sufficient quality — especially for beginners. Very inexpensive paint may lack consistency and affect your results, but buying the costliest paint may limit you. Find a happy medium. For the projects in this book, basic acrylic paints will be perfect, but you might want to explore some of these other options as well.


There are pros and cons to the different types of palettes available. I've tried them all, and sometimes I use different ones depending on the project I am working on!

GLASS I mainly use a glass palette because of its smooth surface for mixing colors, and it's easily cleaned by scraping o the paint with a razor. It's important that the surface beneath the glass be white, so you can accurately mix the colors. A dark or colored surface will cause the colors to look different on your palette than they do in your painting.

WOOD Wood is usually sturdy and light; if you like to hold your palette while painting, it is the perfect fit. A wood palette can be difficult to clean, however, if you let the colors dry on the palette over long periods of time. I usually prefer a glossy finish on the wood, rather than raw, as it provides a better surface for mixing.

PLASTIC Plastic is also smooth, like glass, but you can't clean it by scraping o the paint. This is another sturdy, but light, option for holding or setting on a table.


Most art-supply stores carry pads of disposable palettes. The thin paper has a wax finish on top for holding your paints and mixing. Once you are done, you rip it o-, throw it away, and use the next sheet. I use this type of palette when I am working on projects where the colors need to be very clean and separated. Sometimes I even cut it into pieces, so each color has its own palette.


A support is simply the surface on which you paint your artwork. Sometimes when I set up to paint, I have an idea of the direction I am going in. I might be working from a sketch and have colors in mind that I want to use. Other times, I get set up, and just begin to work and see where I end up!

Usually, when I have a specific outcome in mind, I consider the three surface options described here.

PAPER The best type of paper for painting is heavyweight watercolor paper, cold- or hot-pressed. This kind of paper works really well for mixed media projects, can handle a few of layers of paint, and is easy to frame under glass once dry.


HOT-PRESSED PAPER This paper has been pressed with heat, which creates a smooth surface. Hot-pressed paper is ideal for fine detail, even washes, and a controlled style. This paper is not especially absorbent, which results in bright colors.

COLD-PRESSED PAPER Also referred to as "not" or "medium" paper, cold-pressed sheets are not treated with heat, leaving an irregular surface. This versatile paper is ideal for granular textures and a more painterly style.

ROUGH PAPER This paper is even rougher than a cold-pressed surface. The deep tooth can leave quite a bit of the paper showing along the edges and within each stroke. It complements an expressive style and drybrushing techniques (see page 17).

CANVAS For an all-paint piece, canvas is a perfect surface. The cloth gives with the brush, so you get a nice, fluid look. Canvas is very sturdy, and you can apply layers and layers of heavy paint without warping. However, if you want to incorporate pencil, pastel, or crayon into your piece, I don't recommend canvas, as the cloth may break or pucker.

WOOD PANEL Wood panels are my go-to for acrylic paintings. They can handle layers of paint, while the hard surface is great for mixing in sharp pencil lines and other materials. Wood panels tend to be on the heavier side, in terms of hanging on a wall, but they are very durable. Like canvases, you can purchase them with a deep or thin depth. You can often purchase them already prepped with a layer of gesso, or you can use them raw. Shown here are several popular types of wood panels that you can find at hardware and art-supply stores.


You'll want to have some drawing paper, pencils, and erasers on hand for making sketches before you start your paintings. I also like to incorporate pastels into my work sometimes, either in the sketch or on top of the dried paint. This is a fun way to combine media and experiment with mark-making and texture.


Because acrylic paint is water-based, it dries quickly. You can use this to your benefit by adding many layers to one piece in a short amount of time, without the colors mixing and getting muddy.

Another benefit of acrylic paint is that it doesn't require any chemical liquids to dilute — you just use water! You can take the thick paint that comes out of the tube and create any consistency between that and a watercolor-like paint, just based on the amount of water you add.

Here I've demonstrated a few different painting techniques that you can practice before you dive in!

WASHES Using a mop brush, water down some paint and practice creating washes of color. I usually dip the entire brush in my water glass first, and then mix that into the color. This will give you a watercolor-like consistency, with nice variation in color throughout the brushstroke, so you can see exactly how your brush moves. The faster you paint, the lighter the brushstroke; the slower, the more saturated the stroke will be.

STIPPLING Stippling is a creative painting technique for creating texture or shading, as well as giving your piece an impressionistic look. You'll want to use a round brush, but choose the size based on how big you want your dots to be. Moving rapidly, create a bunch of little dots with the tip of your paintbrush. Allow the paintbrush to create subtle differences in the dots' sizes.

DRYBRUSH I often use this technique with contrasting colors. First lay down a thin layer of paint, or a wash of color. Allow that to dry, and then grab your flat paintbrush. Use a rag or paper towel to dry the bristles, and then load up the paint. Slowly drag the brush on top of the thin layer of paint, allowing the color beneath to peek through.

PALETTE KNIVES Palette knives are fun tools to play with. They create a thick yet smooth texture, unlike any other painting tool. You can even create full artworks with a palette knife! This gives the piece a very loose look, because you generally have less control than with a paintbrush. Play with letting layers dry before adding more, or mixing colors on your canvas instead of your palette.

SCRATCHING Another technique I often use in my paintings is scratching. When layering colors, use the handle of your paintbrush to scratch into the wet paint, revealing the color beneath.


There are myriad ways you can work with this versatile medium! Here are several other techniques you might want to explore.

BLENDING To create a gradual blend of one color into another, stroke the two different colors onto the canvas horizontally, leaving a gap between them. Continue to stroke horizontally, moving down with each stroke to pull one color into the next. Retrace your strokes where necessary to create a smooth blend between colors.

DABBING Load your brush with thick paint, and then use press-and-lift motions to apply irregular dabs of paint to your surface. For more depth, apply several layers of dabbing, working from dark to light. Dabbing is great for suggesting foliage and flowers.

SCUMBLING This technique refers to a light, irregular layer of paint. Load a brush with a bit of slightly thinned paint, and use a scrubbing motion to push paint over your surface. When applying opaque pigments over transparents, this technique creates depth.

SPATTERING First cover any area that you don't want to spatter with a sheet of paper. Load your brush with thinned paint and tap it over a finger to fling droplets of paint onto the paper. You can also load your brush, and then run a fingertip over the bristles to create a spray.

SPONGING Applying paint by dabbing with a sponge can create interesting, spontaneous shapes. Layer multiple colors to suggest depth. Remember that you can also use sponges and thinned paint to apply flat washes.

WIPING AWAY Use a soft rag or paper towel to wipe away wet paint from your canvas. You can use this technique to remove mistakes or to create a design within your work. Remember that staining pigments, such as permanent rose (at right with Naples yellow), will leave behind more color than nonstaining pigments.


Excerpted from "Modern Acrylic"
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Copyright © 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, 8,
Supplies, 10,
Painting Basics, 16,
Exploring Brushstrokes & Mark-Making with Patterns, 20,
Cleaning Up, 28,
Color Theory Basics, 32,
Setting Up Your Palette, 36,
Sketching, 40,
Understanding Perspective, 42,
Atmospheric Perspective, 44,
Interior Scenes, 48,
Pickup Truck, 64,
Orange Still Life, 68,
Potted Fern, 74,
Vase of Flowers, 78,
Collaged Bouquet, 82,
Abstract Palm Tree, 88,
European Café, 94,
Coastal Scenes, 98,
Abstract Landscape, 106,
Garden, 110,
Mountain Road, 114,
City Street, 118,
Marsh, 122,

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Modern Acrylic: A contemporary exploration of acrylic painting 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
toReadistoEscape 12 months ago
This was not my favorite book on painting. Blakely did a good job explaining the basics of painting, color theory, and perspective. I wasn’t interested in duplicating the painting example she provided in the book. Some of her paintings were of bookshelves, inside of a kitchen and french doors. There was an overemphasis on perspective based on her painting selection. I did enjoy the section on flowers. This book was suitable for beginners, however, there are many painting books much more educational than this one. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If this review was helpful to you please click the link below.