I've been asked time & again by fellow artists and clients alike just how is it I am able to achieve the smoothness and vibrancy of oils, while using such an unforgiving medium as acrylics. To that end I've put together an overly simplified demonstration of my painting process.

The majority of my paintings employ a very time intensive layering process with as many as up to one hundred layers of very thin applications of pigment, even when a painting appears to be completed using a more direct or impasto approach, look closer & you'll see that there are countless layers underneath peeking through & creating an interesting overall effect.

Step One: I research & design a composition that pleases me, sometimes creating as many as 40 or more thumbnail  or notan sketches of the same composition with variations on a theme. 

StepTwo: I select & prepare surface that suits the desired end result with regard to texture considerations. 

Step Three:  I transfer a detailed sketch to whatever surface I've prepared. I generally use a grid method and eyeball it with no fewer than four quadrants, depending on the size of the canvas. 

Step Four: I start laying in some of the tonal variations using directional strokes with some burnt umber on a very dry brush.

Step Five: I begin laying in multiple washes of cadmium orange as an under painting & pulling out the dedicated highlight areas with a damp rag. 

Step Six: Reinforcing the major shapes with the same dry brush techniques used in step four, however this time using  a vermilion hue & slightly heavier touch

Step Seven: Once the under painting has dried I begin to build up the shadow areas with multiple washes of transparent dioxazine violet. Once I'm satisfied that the under painting has achieved a comparative balance & is as close as possible to the notan or thumbnail reference, I step away for a while, giving myself a visual break so that when I return to it, I do so with fresh eyes & can make needed corrections at this important stage.

Step Eight: I begin carefully laying in layer after layer of the local color, but I'm always careful to leave some of the under painting peeking through. Throughout this stage I will make many decisions about  color corrections, temperature changes, focal tensions and so on. Some passages will be completely obliterated while others will not be disturbed at all & serve as a balance between opacity & translucence.

'Orange Bowl Parade' 

Acrylic 8x10" 

Reg Cantwell 2006

Demonstrated with permission from the collection of Kristy Searle Way

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