View Full Version : Acrylics problem 'seeing' and knowing your painting

09-15-2005, 09:55 AM
Hello. I have a problem. In '04 sometime I painted a cat as a sample to show people to show how I do pet portraits from photographs. I really, really loved it and thought I did a good job. And I am not one to like my art or anyone else's unless it is really really professional-NOT that mine was at this or that point-
My problem is, why now am I seeing all the mistakes? How can I avoid this? I had had the painting at a store with some cards for several months and even when I saw the painting again after these months I still liked it. But NOW, just last night, I got the painting from the shelf where it was stored and thought, man, that really is crappy.

How do I avoid this when doing other samples or actual commissions? I do allow the painting to sit for hours or days and not look at it to try to 'see' it fresh, but in this case that did not work.

Am I doomed to hate everything I paint just so that I will worry myself sick over it until I finish it and in exasperation show it to the client appologetically only to see she or he loves it and then I think oh, I am not so bad and then I start to like my art but the stuff I like ends up being crappy...don't make sense. Am I doomed to be unhappy? It seems as if everything is backwards. The more I practiced the guitar the worse I got...what is up with this? Is this normal?

Also, what bothers me about the painting is that it was done in acrylics which means that there are several very stiff layers and it all looks very craggy and very paint by numberish. Acrylic paint for me dries the instant I paint it on the canvas. NO TIME TO BLEND. I have to water the paint to an ink and paint in thin layers because it flows better and I don't get those ANNOYING brush marks and bumps and rolls. I have tried Golden's glaze medium, and two brands of slow drying medium...one may have been flow medium and not slow dry I can't remember that exactly but the stuff I have now is Liquitex's slow drying medium and that DOES NOT WORK for the thin layers I use. The paint still dries instantly and stays tacky and shiny.

Another thing I have ALWAYS hated about my art is that the canvas board I paint on. The thin paint doesn't get into the weave of the canvas and I always have 'pin holes' everywhere. That really looks gross when you are trying to paint a light area over a dark patch.

So, any help at all?? Any ideas about paint and about how to 'see' my artwork better?

I did think about doing a layer or two of thin oils over the work because the same amount of oil stays wet and blendable for two days, but I am afraid that what I am doing to the paint is wrong and that it will cause problems being on acrylic...


09-15-2005, 10:01 AM
RELAX, and enjoy yourself...............................

09-15-2005, 10:10 AM
It's standard experience, looking at one's old paintings and finding they make you cringe (I get that all the time! ) - it means you're getting better and more discerning - a lot of improvement with experience in representational art is about improving observational skills, not dexterity.

Best way to improve is to paint lots.

Oils on top of acrylic underpainting is a topic discussed frequently in the oils forum - it can be done, but it's less than ideal, archivally - however, it sounds like you're not that bothered about the painting lasting 300 years at this point :)

If you don't like canvas texture, why paint on it? Use acrylic-primed board instead. See Einion's excellent thread on support preparation here: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=227402


09-15-2005, 11:20 AM
Hey, like Borum said. Relax. What you are feeling is common to us artists. I never think anything I do is worth a plugged nickle. However I keep drawing and painting, and every time they look worse than the last. I know that's not true, but I always feel that way.

I know of no cure this syndrome, except to keep producing art.


Lady Carol
09-15-2005, 11:25 AM
Dave (dcorc) has said some good stuff.

To me being able to see mistakes means that you are learning and able to discern all the "correct" things that should be in the painting. Congratulations. Many don't arrive at this point for a long time. Simply put seeing = experience with how you paint. Actually one good way to see a painting is to look at it in a mirror. This gives you a new perspective and angle and often errors are seen. And you can put it away for a few days and then look at it with fresh eyes. This helps sometimes too.

If you hate the weave of the canvas and I do as well, I usually apply 2-3 layers of gesso to fill in the holes. My clients usually want the painting on stretched canvas so board is not an option in these cases.

I have not done the oil over acrylic thing but my art teacher does it all the time her. I suspect it can't be that bad......?

09-15-2005, 11:29 AM
We all see these things after time, when we've learned more. :)

One trick is to use a mirror - often seeing it backwards (and upside down) helps you see technical errors you might otherwise miss. I highly recommend a convex mirror, which also gives the illusion of distance from the painting (I have a shop security mirror, the kind to see shoplifters, most shopfitting places sell them for pretty cheap.)

In a desperate moment I once looked at a painting reflected in a dark nighttime window. ;)


09-15-2005, 01:17 PM
Thank You all for your replies. I'll read that thread carefully, though I am not sure if the 'hardboard' he/she talks about is available to me...the stuff at the hardware store is 'masonite' and according to what I quickly read over, I have the link open in another window for printing, masonite and hardboard are not the same.

I paint on canvas panel because it is cheap, I am not rich, and also readily available in my art stores. 'Artbord', I can't recall the way that company spells it, is TOO EXPENSIVE though they have a pre made gessoed hardboard, or masonite?, panel.

Dick Blick has several unprimed masonite panels in all sorts of sizes but I am scared to try them.

I tried gessoing illustration board as Boris Vallejo does, but I hate the way acrylics work on that and I don't like the way they work on those artboard panels either.

I have not done the oil over acrylic thing but my art teacher does it all the time her. I suspect it can't be that bad......?

Could you ask her about her experiences with doing this? I am not concerned with my paintings being archival for 300 or 500 years but I would like them to at least last 80 to 100 :) I know I might sound a bit crazy or whatever for saying this, but I don't want the painting to start showing signs of cracking, or fading or anything until me or the client is dead :wink2: I just don't want to have any ill feelings between me and my clients. If the painting starts to get gross after only a few years I don't want it to hurt future sales, you know? I want to improve constantly not be set back by some dumb experiment like Leonardo and his last supper funky painting. No offense to Leo :)

Yes! The mirror! I forgot that. Will most certainly start using that.

Now, I just have to get a method to stay motivated!

EDIT: I don't remember, but is this Einon's supports thread at the top of this acrylics forum? If not then it should be. I am still reading through it, but it should really be at the top of the acrylics forum because I had no idea it had been made and it seems to have a lot of valuable information in it.

Also, I learned from this thread that Dick Blick has gessoed HARDBOARD, but the text says it is 'tempered' rather than 'untempered' and E recommends against this yet he posts this link...these boards are cheap enough for me to try, yet still a bit 'scared.'

Link: http://www.dickblick.com/zz070/03/

Still jazzed about trying the oil over acrylics thingy though.


09-15-2005, 01:53 PM
I paint on canvas board and if you dont want those 'pinholes' you have to gesso or apply the paint thick. It helps to cover the canvas first with a coat of paint - an underpainting.

As far as drying time, you can spray the paint with water from a spray bottle, or try a Sta-Wet Palette. I use this, but I also paint VERY fast so I havent had a problem on canvas board.
I did have an issue with this while painting on masonite. The masonite has to be gessoed. The plus side of masonite is - its inexpensive. It's about $18 for a 4'x6' sheet (and the nice folks at Home Depot cut a whole sheet up for me into 16x20 and 11x14 panels). Its so thin its easy to find frames for it (no worries about the rabat being too small) You can also cut it into non-standard shapes (i.e. you find a wonderful frame and want to paint something just for it.)

I didnt find any of your paintings on WC (except the cp cat, which looked lovely!) but all this Monday morning quarterbacking is not good. You grow, your ability and your eye develops. Dont be so hard on yourself!

Charlie's Mum
09-15-2005, 03:38 PM
Einion's thread is in the Acrylics classrooms and Projects - here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=233952) and it is at the top of the forum page!

You might also find the Tips thread useful - that link is in my signature.

Why not paint on paper? You can get just about any surface in that - and many acrylic painters use it .

I also use mountboard - matboard - it has a nice surface, with or without gesso (when your first coat of acrylic will seal the surface).

Hardboard - masonite (I thought they were the same) has a smooth side which can be gessoed and sanded to a smooth finish.

09-15-2005, 11:02 PM
"Also, what bothers me about the painting is that it was done in acrylics which means that there are several very stiff layers and it all looks very craggy and very paint by numberish."

It doesn't have to be that way. But - I remember feeling the same way about acrylics myself, years ago. What has worked for me? - I studied the oil techniques of the old masters - Vermeer, Rembrandt, Titian so far - and applied them to acrylics - I'm very content with the direction I'm going now. Look into grisaille and other underpainting methods.

"Acrylic paint for me dries the instant I paint it on the canvas. NO TIME TO BLEND."

Do you live somewhere really, really dry, or is the surface of your supports very absorbent and chalky? How about running a humidifier in your workspace - and turn it on an hour or so before you paint. Coating your support with medium with reduce the surface's absorbency.

"I have to water the paint to an ink and paint in thin layers because it flows better and I don't get those ANNOYING brush marks and bumps and rolls."

It is a matter of taste - but keep in mind that brush strokes can be extremely useful. Look at Rembrandt's work, for example.

Heck - it might even be that acrylics just are not the right medium for you right now. That would be ok. Some people seem to have a natural affinity for a particular medium, and others who are extraordinarily skilled with one, struggle fruitlessly with another.

Now - regarding canvas/canvas board and pinholes/thread texture. Keep in mind that to many people - evidence of canvas means 'real' art to them. So the canvas grain is not entirely a bad thing. But to minimize, or eliminate it - you can take a page from the master's again.

Try a colored mid-range ground - i.e., before painting, cover the entire surface with a couple of coats of an appropriate medium value - lots of room to experiment there. That trick will also help unify the resulting painting.

One I've been playing with is a double ground - first, an opaque layer of a rich reddish brown, two or three coats usually - with a thin neutral gray on top of that applied evenly, but not opaquely - so that the red-brown still impacts the grey - you can control temperature by the thickness of the gray layer - the contrast between the coolish grey and the underlying reddish brown creates a vibrant midtone to develop on. This gives me a surface with no white specks or pinholes - any that do happen - are that nice vibrant ground color.

09-15-2005, 11:10 PM
I feel your pain, lol! I have the same problem. My mom told me years ago that artists are generally perfectionists and that I shouldn't be so hard on myself when I don't like something I've done. I'd start a picture (generally a horse) and get frustrated with it because it wasn't quite right. As a consequence, my poor mother had stacks of sketchpads with headless horses (or vice-versa) in her house for years until she finally donated them to me when I got married. :o As I was packing/unpacking these old sketches, it was interesting to go through them and see the constant improvement (from pre-school through college). As a result I've become resigned to the fact that I will always be improving in my art (hopefully) and will just have to appreciate each work for what it is and learn from each experience. :wave: