When they first appeared, acrylics were going to be the answer to everything and no one was ever going to paint with anything else. For the professional artist, they offer the great attraction of fairly brilliant colours which immediately attract the eye, a variety of methods of application and quick drying times which means a “paint it today, sell it tomorrow” approach is possible.
After the initial rush of enthusiasm, the problems that these same qualities can cause for the amateur became apparent. That quick drying time became a millstone as paint literally dried in the brush and proved impossible to wash off. A lot of people lost a lot of brushes and acrylics became a dirty word. Fortunately, the manufacturers didn’t give up and modern slow-drying formulations and retarder mediums allow working practices which are similar to those familiar for oils and watercolour.
For the general painter, the main attraction of acrylics is their versatility. As happy in a thin wash as a thick impasto, they can be used on paper or canvas and, with wider colour ranges, can virtually supplant oils and gouache. In his introduction to this handy guide, Arnold Lowrey says that, having discovered the medium, he used nothing else for ten years.
With people coming back to acrylics, a number of painting guides have appeared in recent years and this is one of the best and most comprehensive. Its strength is that it’s not a guide to using acrylics, but to painting in acrylics – the medium itself is secondary to the creative process.
The book begins with the by-now familiar formula of a guide to materials and mixing and using colour. Just about every book does it and every author has, or believes they have, their own approach. A lot of people have said they really don’t need all this all over again and, if you leave it out, a lot more will complain that they can’t follow what the author is saying because they don’t know what brushes he uses. So, let’s just say that it’s done concisely here and that you can skip it if you want to. On the other hand, there might be something you hadn’t thought of before, so give it a glance, eh?
After a chapter on Getting Started, which deals with the business of acrylics, what they are and what you need to know that applies specifically to this medium, the book is made up of 6 demonstration paintings, each of which is fully explained and copiously illustrated with step-by-step photographs. Each one covers a different aspect of painting, from the watercolour techniques (thin washes) to impasto (the “oils” method) through to mixed techniques, glazing and the use of pastes and gels.
It’s in this approach that the book lives up to its title: it’s Painting with Acrylics, not Slapping Some Acrylics On a Bit Of Paper and Being Done With It. Good stuff.
Year published: 2006
List price: £9.99