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Lesson 2
Acrylic Painting
Preparation / Brush Strokes

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Prairie Grass

brush strokes free painting lesson Creating sky, ground, flowers, shading, wood and other areas of a painting is not difficult once you understand brush strokes and paint use. Acrylic painting is done in layers. This gives depth to a painting. Layering, mixing paints and loading the brush all give depth and "realness" to the object you are painting.

Paintings do not have to be "real", however. Many painters use design, color, and texture to create beautiful works of abstract art. No matter what you plan to paint, it will still be helpful to understand how brushes, mediums and paints work together to achieve the desired result.

In this lesson, I will describe various techniques. Remember, you need to practice, practice, practice. Your goal should not be to copy others' work. Your work doesn't have to look like your teacher's, or anyone else's. Your work is your own, and you can express yourself any way you wish. Over time, you will develop your own techniques.

Watch UTube videos for live painting lessons. Read books. Take classes in person. I am always learning and practicing new techniques.

Gather Supplies

acrylic painting supplies When starting a new painting, I gather the following materials together:

canvas board - I recommend an 8" x 10" canvas board for this practice session
paints: Cerulean Blue, Titanium White, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Lamp Black, Payne's Gray, Hooker's Green
brushes: #4 and $2 Flat, #8 Flat (or Bright or Filbert)
paper towel or rag
coated paper plates (coated so paint doesn't absorb into plate)
cup of water
squirt bottle of water
any mediums you wish to use - I will demonstrate gesso (see Lesson 1)
drawing or photograph I will be working from (see Lesson 1)
freezer paper (I place it on my work table to protect it)
large ruler (if needed for straight lines, such as horizon)

I will use the canvas board I dabbed paint onto for lesson 1. You will, of course, start out with a new board.

This lesson is merely an exercise that will teach you brush strokes, color mixing, and adding special texture. It is not meant to create a spectacular painting. RELAX - HAVE FUN!

Prepare Canvas

prepare canvas for acrylic paint To prepare the canvas, spray a bit of water over it. This "wakes up" the gesso that has been applied as a primer. Applying a light mist over the canvas helps the paint spread. Use your fingers to wipe away drips and excess. NOTE: This step is not always necessary. You can work with a totally dry canvas. You will decide over time what you like best.

Add Horizon Line

horizon line for acrylic painting I do not sew much anymore, but I still get a lot of use out of my large sewing ruler. I use it for measuring and drawing straight lines for my paintings.

Paintings don't always require straight lines, but when painting buildings or landscapes with a horizon line, a straight line is necessary. That's where a large ruler comes in handy. You can use a pencil (pressed very lightly) or a bit of paint to paint in your line. Chalk also works well. The paint will cover up your line (keep the line light). I used a pencil for this demonstration.

Paint Background (Sky)

how to paint a sky acrylic painting I love to use a criss cross stroke for still life backgrounds. I tend to start with that for skies as well, but I vary it here and there.

Put a dab of titanium white paint on the paper plate. Put a dab of cerulean blue on the plate. These colors will be mixed somewhat - but not totally. When added to the brush only partly mixed, the brush strokes will create a nice sky. Dip a #8 Flat (flat, bright or filbert) brush into your cup of water; press out the excess water using a paper towel or rag. Use the brush to slightly mix the colors of paint.

how to paint a sky acrylic painting Start making criss crosses in the sky area of the painting.

how to paint a sky acrylic painting Continue making crosses all over the sky area. Vary the strokes, and mix the paints a bit differently as you go. This will create variations in the sky. Use short strokes, long strokes, some circular strokes, some horizontal strokes, and whatever you wish to try. Notice the difference that different strokes makes in the overall look. An actual sky has light and dark areas. It is rarely all one, solid color.

how to paint a sky acrylic painting Go over areas if you wish. I went back and added a bit more white here and there to give a bit stronger of a cloud effect. Thinning the white, and dabbing it in a circular motion can make a nice, soft cloud.


cover painting error acrylic painting Remember those blobs of paint I had on my canvas? Not to worry - these can be covered with heavy body Titanium White (or regular Titanium White). I let my brush dry until it was just slightly damp, then dipped it in the white and painted over the blobs of paint. Now, we can paint our tree line.

Paint Tree Line

paint trees acrylic painting Start with the background for the trees. I use a variety of greens. You can put down the darkest layer first, then add lighter layers, or do the opposite. I like to lay down dark layers first.

My background layer is a dark green. I mixed Hooker's Green with a bit of Lamp Black. I also mixed in some Raw Umber and Raw Sienna. Like the sky, the paints were not toally mixed. I dipped my brush into one, then into another, then maybe into a third. I dipped different areas of the brush into different paints. This makes the paint go down in a varied pattern. Each tree is a mix of colors. I used a #2 Bright or Flat brush, and made small, varied vertical strokes. Experiment with your brushes - sizes and shapes - to learn what they can do. Don't let the brush or paints get too wet, or they will run and not mix well. If too wet, press out moisture onto the paper towel or rag. If the paints get dry, a quick squirt of mist from the squirt bottle will get them ready for use again.

Let the area dry.

paint trees acrylic painting When dry, go over it again with different green mixes. The base should be a bit darker, to create shadows on the forest floor. By changing the length of my brush strokes, I create trees of different heights.

Let the painting dry.

Foreground Texture

using gesso to create texture Pour some gesso onto your plate. The white blob on the plate is the gesso.

using gesso to create grass  texture Create texture by painting Gesso onto the foreground, using vertical strokes. I used #4 brush. The strokes should be larger and longer toward the bottom of the canvas board, because grasses in that area are closest. Texture is not really needed toward the horizon line, because that area is far away. I had gesso left on my brush, so dabbed a bit toward the horizon line. The trees are way off in the distance - the bottom of the painting is closest to the viewer in this scene.

This step can be omitted; I added it so you could play around with texture.Let the gesso dry.

Start Prairie Grass

prairie grass painting Using a #4 Bright brush, paint vertical dabs, using Payne's Gray. When finished, repeat with Raw Umber. This will be the background for the grasses, and will create shadows in the grass.

Toward the horizon line, the strokes should be much shorter, and some can even be horizontal.

Horizon Grass

prairie grass painting Using a smaller flat brush, and various mixes of Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and Titanium White, make horizontal dabs just under the horizontal line. The grass in near the horizon is far away, so not much detail is needed. Horizontal marks work well. If you were standing, looking toward the horizon, you would only see the tops of the grass at the horizon line. Once all of the grass is in, the eye will see this as grass gently blowing in the wind.

Horizon Grass

prairie grass painting As you move down toward the bottom of the painting, pull down slightly on the brush as it hits the canvas. This will make a visible vertical stroke, adding some length and detail to the grass.

As you approach the bottom of the painting, the strokes will continue to get longer and more visible. Detailed grasses can be added to the closest grass, using a fine, detail brush.

If dark areas are showing through in a way that you do not like, add Titanium White to the mix of grass colors. That will cover the dark spots.

It doesn't look like much now, but the eye will pick it up as grass. Remember to use a variety of colors on the brush, including a bit of Titanium White. The white will add detail, and sun reflection. Notice in my photo that there are horizontal dabs of color toward the horizon, and some more visible, vertical strokes further down.

Close Grass

prairie grass painting Flip your brush vertical, and flick upward to create strokes that look like long grass. Continue on toward the bottom of the painting. At this point, you can use a detail brush to add even finer grasses. I didn't feel it was needed in this painting.

Almost Done

prairie grass painting I could have ended here.

Finishing Touches

prairie clouds painting I decided to pull out the clouds a bit. I added a touch of white mixed with some of the light yellow mix, very watered down. The clouds were then a bit too noticeable. I went over them again with a mix of white and Cerulean Blue. That toned them back down, but they were still standing out a bit. I added a row of clouds near the horizon. They are flatter, because they are farther away, and closer to the horizon.

Click for larger image

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