I’m prone to some of the oddest impulse buys. I’m not talking about the recent purchase at the Franklin Street Bakery of a “twinkette” (the cake of which was too dense, ditto the cream and chocolate covering, yeah, yeah, even the chocolate covering; but their croissant-dough cinnamon rolls were a little taste of near-Paris!), I’m talking about books. I can’t help myself when it comes to certain books, books on topics I think I should, or would someday need to know stuff about, which means basically everything.
Well the other day at Wet Paint I saw Rethinking Acrylic: Radical Solutions for Explaining the World’s most Versatile Medium, by Patti Brady, on the shelf across the counter and asked to see it. Once it was in my hands I just had to have it. (A friend alerted me to Brady's website after I mentioned my find. I still don't remember to look for these things!)
Now I'll just say, I rarely work in acrylics (see my bird-a-day project for an example of what I do with acrylics) but I do enjoy playing with it—they provide me a way of working loose. What I do is not, however, the extreme abstract type of work that is featured in much of this book. (I say “extreme” and give myself away as someone who loves representational art, and I will not apologize for this; but while it will be a long day coming before I turn to abstract work I do enjoy seeing what other folks are doing.)
What caught my attention about this book is that it really does what the title says, it shows you in a series of chapters the versatility of this medium while also showing the solutions people have come up with to use it.
Even more important, Brady, who is in charge of the Golden Artists Colors Working Artist Program (so she’s the person who gets the artists who can explain this product to would be users!) takes health concerns into consideration and mentions things like the need for ventilation (so the ammonia smells can dissipate) and the need for face masks when sanding back layers. So many books just gloss over that type of stuff.
So if acrylic paint is a medium you want to explore but the varieties available are just too overwhelming for you, I really recommend that you get this book. (You can also go to a helpful store where the employees are working artists and will tell you all this stuff too, but I know not all of you are close enough to such a paradise!)
Brady will talk you through the different gel and fluid mediums, the different types of acrylics (fluid, heavy body…), and she’ll show you how to use the odd-ball stuff like making acrylic skins and using them in your artwork. Mixed media artists will love this book too. I don’t like many of the art examples included (remember I announced I prefer representational art), but I sure am taken with the wealth of possibilities and clear explanations. There is even a chapter on acrylic encaustic! Making faux bees' wax. For the experimenter in me I might just have to try that.
I have only one other quibble with the book. There really isn’t any good discussion of how to manage a palette of these quick drying paints. In photos it looks like the artists are working out of the jars (something that makes me cringe because of the introduction of contaminants into the jars and the skins that can form in the jars and degrade the jar’s contents). I am one of those folks who portions out a small amount, uses it, and gets more as needed, not to be stingy and save materials but just so I am using the product at its peak. But that is probably a habit grown out of my use of PVA in bookbinding (some really interesting things can grow in contaminated glue!).
There’s a Watson Guptill book on acrylics that I can’t recall the title or author name for—I’ll try to find it. That book addresses some of these issues. Maybe it only matters to those of us that are working representationally? No, it matters to lots of people because it is the number one question I get asked by my students and friends who want to start working in acrylics.
I use a Masterson Stay-wet palette, thanks to a suggestion by a local children’s book illustrator who gave a demo at the Watercolor Society. Or I use a disposable paper palette. If one doesn’t mind smells one can also use mediums which retard the drying time, but those don’t work for my nose. Sadly, sometimes all I can say when all other suggestions have been offered is, “work faster.” But it is fun to work in acrylic and if you want to venture into this medium I recommend this book so that you can see what is possible, even if you choose not to go there!