5.2.2 mixing materials into paint

This was a great technical exercise in which I started to experience the potential outcomes of adding various materials to my paint.  They’re described below, with my observations.  

I can see great potential for developing these ideas to use in real paintings.  Many of the textures would readily lend themselves to describing natural subjects such as elements of the landscape – trees, rough ground, grass and scrub.  They’d also enhance the interest in abstract paintings, adding a further dimension of interest and variety of surface.  

But the real advantage of these techniques and those in the previous exercises in part 5 (creating textured surfaces) is their potential to become a powerful expressive tool.  My mind keeps coming back to one in particular of my paintings – Man and Boy, which although a powerful subject competently painted, disappointingly lacked painterly expression.  I handled it then in the way of ‘painting in an illustration’, without feeling the connection between subject and use of materials.  If I were doing that painting now I’d approach it very differently, developing the techniques learned so far in part 5 to express and communicate my ideas more effectively.

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Mixing materials into paint…what I did

Collected some materials, mixed them with cheap acrylic paint and did some tryouts on scraps of paper, using a palette knife to apply the mixes.

 

The texture varied according to the relative proportions of paint and added materials; if I added a lot it became more solid, or mortar-like and harde to manipulate; less material added meant the paint was more spreadable. 

 

Looking at the textured effects, from top left to bottom right :-

  • Chilli pepper seeds and stalks.  Gives a natural look, could be used for texture in the foreground of a landscape to suggest eg leaf litter, soil etc.  Interesting using two different materials in one mix.
  • Coarse sea salt also gave a natural looking texture, clumping together in the fairly solid mixture I made
  • Loose tea leaves makes an even, rough texture with low relief compared to the previous two
  • Vermicelli is unusual – could be ordered to resemble grass.  An interesting one.
  • Little round pieces of soup pasta make a nice bubbly, high relief texture
  • Cloves are very big for this work, but could be used to good effect in a large scale painting with a thick, crusty surface
  • Granite flakes make a crackled texture
  • Black lava texture gel may be more noticeable in a more transparent colour – this opaque blue swallows it up, but leaves a gritty surface
  • Same gel plus chilli seeds mixed –  it could be interesting to mix materials of different sizes in one paint application, it gives more variety to the texture
  • Glass powder taken from a bag and of builders materials, also gives a nice gritty texture without the black of the lava get.  I made a lot of this mix so painted it on thickly and created further texture by pushing it around and scratching into it with my palette knife
 
Painting other colours over the textured areas, in patches and in washes.
 
Using a flat brush, held at a shallow angle to the support, paint adheres to the raised areas and skips over the valleys, accentuating the texture. (Pools of paint created by this technique need longer to dry, as I found by trial and error…I need to be aware of this if I want to keep layers of different colours from mixing.)
Using a palette knife to scrape the second layer across the textured area accentuates the texture even more.  This is the way to go if I want to paint my raised areas a different colour to the flatter areas.
 
I found I’d mixed in too much salt for the quantity of paint, and brushing loosened it – a lesson learned.
 
I painted both a solid patch and a loose wash over the tea leaves.  Because of the lower relief, the base coat was thoroughly dry before I applied the loose wash, and I got a good, distinct separation of turquoise over pink. 
 
I squeezed paint from the tube along the short edges of the glass powder tryout, and scraped them down the length of the paper towards the middle with a palette knife.  
 
 
Adding highlights
 
Now my textures started to really come alive with the simple addition of highlights in contrasting colours on the raised surfaces.
 
Yellow acrylic ink collected in the valleys between the granite flakes, while the flakes themselves were a yellow-pink blend.
 
I brushed a very dilute wash of yellow over the lava, holding the brush almost flat…yellow pigment collected around the small grits, creating an overall green textured area.  
 
The two different types of pasta took highlights very well with a palette knife, giving useful textures.   The cloves are really too big.
 
After the photo below I varnished a couple of the tryouts with dilute pva, and brushed another with iridescent copper paint to help highlight the relief.  I particularly like the copper paint; when I move around, looking at the surface from different angles, and lighting from the side, the image changes.
 
 
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