Acrylic Painting in Layers and Thinking About a New Project for 2015

I recently got a great deal on some Golden acrylics, and I’ve been having fun trying them out.

I’d been working regularly with watercolor before getting these new paints, and switching between the two is always a bit of a challenge until I get the feel for it again.

When I got back into watercolor a few months ago, I found myself laying it on way too thick and wanting to layer it. Now that I’ve gotten used to watercolor, my initial acrylic efforts were getting kind of muddy until I “remembered” the magic of layering.

After a few layers of paint, I had a somewhat muddy dark gray surface with light speckles. I wasn’t too impressed at first, but coming back to my art table after a break and taking another look, the speckled surface reminded me of cactus prickles. I ran with the idea!

Close up of Cactus Painting

I drew the outline of the cactus shape (you can see pencil lines where the segments meet) on the page, and then painted around the edges with a layer of purple and then blue. For those two layers I thinned out the paint and painted it thickly in sections, then dabbed it off with a paper towel before it could completely dry. That technique allows you to see through to the speckled layer, as well as the lighter purple layer under the ultramarine blue. It also gives the piece the vibrant luminous color that it needed.

The final touch was adding red cactus blossoms here and there.

Not only was I trying out paint, but I was also trying out different sizes of paper. I’ve been contemplating another year-long daily project, and one of my thoughts was to work on a specific size of paper. This one is 5×7 which feels pretty good to me, but I’m also trying out 4×6 and 6×8.

Are you considering a year-long project for 2015? I’ve also been thinking about working with a time limit, or possibly working digitally, but I still haven’t decided. I would love to hear what you have planned for the new year!

Sharpie Drawings

The other day I found a book on Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs. A small hex sign hung on the wall of my room growing up, and it was one of my most favorite things. In the book, there was even a little “how to make your own” section, which involved lots of compass drawing. Inspired, I started doodling on a piece of grid paper.

marker sketch

I drew the center part first, and added the frame because it seemed to want some structure. When using the grid to add the lines of the frame, I realized how un-geometric the circular part was. Although I like the final sketch, it felt a little unsatisfying for it to not quite line up properly, so I decided to use a compass to draw one of the basic motifs used in hex signs.


I really liked the geometric feel of the frame from the first sketch and was particularly intrigued by the overlapping areas, so I had an idea to combine the compass work with an overlapping triangle texture.

round geometric

I like the result here, but the overlapping didn’t seem as clear as I wanted, so I tried a simpler style of two overlapping circles.

circles & triangles

I’m very happy with the way this one turned out. I love how the colors work together, and I achieved what I wanted in terms of overlap. I flipped the paper over to protect the surface, and I noticed the back of the paper. It’s very much the same, but the colors are a bit more subtle, and there’s a different feel to the piece.

circles & triangles back

For the next drawing, I wanted to eliminate the marker outline, and see if I could achieve a distinct edge by only filling in the parts of the grid that were within the circle.

overlapping geometry

I think it worked pretty well, especially for the edge of the circle. I’m not sure that the half-circle lines I drew within the circle are as distinct, but overall I like the colors & texture of the pattern.

overlapping geometry, back

If all goes well, I should get my shipment of colored pencils today. I have plans to continue this series with graphite & colored pencil. I think the sharpies look great, but sometimes an overlapping color would completely obscure the color behind it, so I’m thinking color pencils will be a great way to control the intensity.

Do you have a favorite image from the bunch?

Evolution of Swoops

In my last post about my recent gouache paintings, I mentioned that I painted the “swoops” painting after a sketch I’d recently drawn, but as I thought about it, I realized that the idea for the painting has evolved over time. I took a little walk down memory lane on my flickr stream, and I made connections that step back to a sketch I did back in early 2009.

I thought it might be fun to share the images that I keyed into to see if you can see the connection that became evident to me on my little journey.

Swirled Flowers

Flutter Bloom Clear

Violet & Transparent

For Cut Outs

Sprinkled on White

Hairband as a Compass

Heart Flowers with Clouds

Mesh Pattern, Original Drawing

Horizontal Pattern, Original Drawing





I took a renewed interest in this direction of overlapping, swooping lines during the Sketchbook Project, when I worked with Lines & Grids. I drew the above composition and the lines reminded me of loose threads. I really liked the delicate flowing quality of the lines, and wondered if I could continue exploring movement with thread-like lines, so I drew the following drawing, incorporating the swooping motif.


The next drawings unfolded less deliberately, but continued the overall trend.





ordered swoops


Tada! There you have it! I really enjoy the delicate thread-like quality of these recent drawings. In a round about way they remind me of tapestries and the fringe at the edge of carpets, which oddly enough fascinated me when I was little. In my mind there is a link through all these drawings/paintings, even if it’s not exactly a direct link in all instances. In any case it was fun to look through and find that common “thread” (hehe), if you will. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Also, I wrote a similar post on my old blog that you can check out if you are interested. It includes a few of the same images as this one, but also some different ones and has a different focus with more explanation and detail.