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Demonstrations by Dee Cowell

Flower Painting Aug 2008 Gels, Pastes etc. July 2010

Visit her gallery, www.3dddart.co.uk and her new "learning-art-on-line" website, VIR2L-artstudent.com.
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Acrylic Gels, Pastes etc. 23 July 2010
Before the demo, we could see examples of Dee's earlier work and an easel carrying an extremely detailed pastel of a lions head. It didn't take long for Dee to explain that this had taken an absolute age to do and that she didn't fancy having to do anything like it again. Painting should be fun.

This evening she was trying to enthuse us with the capabilities of water-based mixed media, including the use of various gels and pastes. She feels that since the same pigments colour all types of paint there is no reason not to mix them together.

Dee uses acrylic paper for acrylics but also recommends it for beginners in watercolour. It is not absorbent like normal watercolour paper - you can correct errors, and the timing of wet-into-wet is not as critical. However it does mean that it is more delicate (catastrophe follows a wipe with an even slightly damp cloth) so she recommends finishing such works with Schminke universal varnish.
She planned to use no brushes (although a rigger appeared later, for wetting some pastel etc.). Paint was to be knifed on or applied with a sponge. She put blobs of blue, yellow and red onto her disposable palette plus a separate blob of gel.

There are many types of texture gel, ranging from what is virtually a glazing medium to very heavy impasto gels. "Golden's" come in packs of 6 different types but Dee finds three is more than enough.

The gels all have one thing in common:- although they look white in the pot they dry completely clear, so that colours don't change by being mixed with them, except for being more transparent.

Retarding medium and texture gels both slow down the drying process.

Texture pastes look white in the pot, too, but they dry opaque white - colours applied over them look as they would on white paper but if you mix them in (which includes painting them on before the paste is really dry) they lose transparency and are diluted (so that red becomes pale pink).

Pastes and gels both remain flexible indefinitely (but not workable, of course, once they have dried). Polyfiller-like products will crack off if the support flexes.
Dee filled a sheet with small examples of different techniques:
Apply gel or paste and then scrape the knife through it.
Dab gel with the flat of the knife - "plonking" was the technical term!
Use a plastic doily to give paste a regular textured pattern.
A good sequence is to start with a sketch, add texture, add colours, finish with detail.
Play around with gel or paste until you get to a pattern you like (it dries slowly so you can scrape it off and try again)
Apply acrylic or watercolour very thinly over dried paste, but wet the dried paste first if you want the paint to follow the texture lines.
Some nice effects can be got by using pearlescent/interference/mica colours with textures.
Inktense soluble watercolour pencils and soft pastel are both excellent for putting in bright colour that is to be wetted to make it run into texture.

Dee then invited us to choose what we wanted her to paint. She guided our choice by offering three photos. It was not surprising that we chose the tiger's head.
Using an inktense watercolour pencil, in a colour compatible with the picture, she defined where she wanted the top and bottom of the head to be on the paper. After marking the curved centre line of the head she used the width between the eyes as a reference dimension for measuring the remaining features. All these marks were short straight lines, not curves. They are much easier to correct, if things don't at first look right.

Dee then added a little thin texture gel and rubbed on some candle wax as a resist (which could be scraped off afterwards). Once this was dry she washed some orange over much of the head with a sponge.
Before putting on texture paste she strengthened some of the lines with w/c pencil, introduced some brighter colour with soft pastel and sponged in a complementary blue background. Light touches with the (cleaned) sponge made the colours follow the contours of the texture gel.

The purpose of the texture paste was not just to give texture but also to prepare a white surface on which detail could be drawn without the underpainting showing through and dulling the new colour (we've all be told that if you put down the wrong colour acrylic the only solution is to paint the area over with white and start again).

Dee used a rigger or pencils for most of the detail. She came out with a stream of comments about such things as the shadow cast by eyelids on the eyeball or the frequent failures we all make but which can easily be overpainted entirely. Throughout the whole demo the stream of advice and comment was leavened with interesting and amusing anecdotes about her earlier life in Africa and Asia.

Having to wait for texture paste to dry meant that she couldn't finish - below left was what I got at the end. Below right is the final version, completed by Dee after she got home.
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Flower painting using textured pastes, 22 August 2008 
Dee discussed various Daler Rowney products including Derwent paper, texture paste, impasto gel (over which you can put watercolour) and acrylic gel (slower-drying).

Flow enhancer is sometimes useful and she likes to use watercolour varnish to make watercolours more tolerant of mistreatment.

Another product she was very taken with were "shimmer paints" or "interference colours". She advised trying all of these to see how you get on with them.

Dee uses plastic coated paper plates for a palette when using watercolours.
For her rose she started with an outline drawing in red Inktense watercolour pencil and some texture paste (from a pot). The texture was put on with a painting knife and she stressed the importance of painting "from the shoulder, not like a brush".

She painted the background around the drawn centre of the flower. Discontinuities can be avoided by painting four wet "dams" in pale watercolour, dividing the area into four and painting one quarter at a time, refreshing the dams several times to keep them wet.
For the flower she started with water, dropping in pink and gradually getting more brown across the petals, strong edges being softened into the paler pink.

Brown pencils, dipped in water, outlined the leaves and provided much of the paint needed to put shadows into the green.

She felt that the demo flower would be better if it were cropped so that the flower itself filled more of the visible area and the leaves disappeared out of the edges.

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