What most acrylic plein air painters have in common:
- They do not work with a limited palette - as most oil plein air painters do and recommend. Most use a full palette of warm and cools and a good selection of convenience colours - those that are useful right out of the tube. It is difficult return to a mixed colour - because of the fast drying time and the fact that acrylics dry darker - so many keep a variety of colours that are part way along the mixing chain that they can just grab and use with confidence. I mix a lot of my own colours ( eg. common colours used for skys) and have them in convenient squeeze bottles.
- They use paint with a variety of viscosity- because acrylics dry through evaporation paints with high water content stay active longer
- most use a Sta Wet pallete and learn to control the water content of the paint
- many add a retarder to the paints
- all have a handy sprayer to keep the paint moist
- most use a good umbrella system that keeps the sun off the paint and palette
Two example of acrylic plein air painters that work in the hot southern US:
- Kathleen Elsey - took a workshop in Taos NM. She uses the large Shade Buddy umbrella and 12x16 Sta Wet palette. She squeezes out her paints then squeezes a retarder onto each pile of paint - in the heat it slowly softens to cover the paint. Too much retarder makes it " slippery" to work with (similar to the feeling I get working with Golden Open) but the right amount is not noticed. She is a Fauvist painter - lots of colours - but that is not the reason she puts out the selection she does - its how one works with acrylics in a dry and hot environment.
|Kathleen using a 12x16 StaWet on a Soltek easel and Shade Buddy umbrella|
|Each pile of colour has a retarder added at the beginning|
- Marcia Burtt in southern California uses a fishing tackle box with multiple "compartments" filled with paint - probably more than 20 colours. There is a lot of paint and she keeps it moist and just draws from the tackle box as needed. Like me she does not put out her palette - but picks up colours as needed. She is one of the few acrylic painters invited into the big plein air competitions in the US. Marcia has released a new DVD working with acrylic plein air.
|Marcia at the Laguna Beach Paint out 2007|
|Fishing tackle box - opens up with two layers of paint|
There are of course many other great acrylic plein air painters - each with their own systems. I use the two examples because they work in the "heat" successfully - demonstrating that the fast drying issue can be managed and used to advantage.
My guess is that there are more really good acrylic painters that also known for their acrylic plein air in British Columbia than any region of Canada or the US: Robert Genn, Mike Svob, Brent Heighton, Marilyn Timms, Mark Hobson - and many more. Each gives great workshops.
Next blog - working though some plein air acrylic examples.