Examples of Painting Techniques:

Acrylic: Artists’ acrylics are identical to acrylic paints used for industrial and domestic use. Developed after W.W.II, acrylics are readily available in thousands of premixed colors and are very quick drying. However, due to the quickness of time from pail to canvas, paints can rarely be mixed on the surface on the canvas resulting in a layering of these premixed colors. Only if acrylics are “watered down” will the artist be able to fully manipulate the color. Don Eddy’s Imminent Desire/Distant Longing II, 1993, illustrates these issues. Though the colors are true to life (local and perceptual), they are relatively flat and unblended. For example, look at the petunias in the bottom zone. The color is either a darker shade (where the flower has a cast shadow) or a lighter, higher value shade (where the sunlight brightly shines). There is no middle shade, no fuzzy transition or blur. Unlike in an oil painting where subtly in color transition is key, in an acrylic painting, we see a sharp boundary between the two shades of fuchsia. Throughout the composition, colors are separate and distinct. Additionally due to the industrial nature of the liquid and the fact that colors are premixed, acrylics tend to be brighter and, some may say, artificial looking.




The second image illustrates these issues and more. It is Helen Frankenthaler’s  Nature Abhors a Vacuum, 1973. This artist placed the canvas on the floor, placed masking tape in selected areas, picked up the paint can (one color at a time) and leaned over the canvas. Without the use of a brush, stir stick or any other implement, she literally poured her thinned acrylics down onto the canvas. The thinned painted created patterns and shapes simply due to gravity and the laws of physics. Once completed, she picked up the canvas and tilted it in all four directions, allowing the painting to run, flow, and mix upon the surface. Once dried, she removed the tape to reveal glimpses of the white canvas. The result is a balanced composition (good distribution of visual weight to the left and right) with a nice balance of hot and cool colors. Shapes are organic and suggest a soft flow. The composition displays movement even though it is totally abstract, void of any naturalism or disegno esterno. The question is: what about the title? Playing on the law of physics – that nature abhors a vacuum – particles will always rush into empty or negative spaces, as the watered acrylic flowed underneath the masking tape. All voids are being filled in. Paint has been allowed to create its own painting.

Frankenthaler’s painting brings us back to the uniqueness of painting. As a liquid, paint can flow, blend, and create patterns and designs dry media cannot. With gravitational influences, the artists need not even force the paint into recognizable forms, but can let the paint be itself - a liquid moving according to the laws of physics across the surface of the paper, wall, or canvas. Especially since W.W.II, artists have felt freer to experiment with “paint as liquid” and exhibit these abstract images. What the viewer perceives is raw paint untouched or corrupted by the artist’s manipulation. (But again, the artist determined where each color was to go in order to achieve compositional elements of design - so how random could it ever be?)