Acrylic Zoom Demo of a Street Scene with Figures
Friday 5th November 2021
Joel Wareing is a practicing artist and teacher who lives in Surrey. He was born in South Africa and moved to England in 2001. His work focuses mainly on people in urban environments and he likes to pay particular attention to dramatic sunlight. Joel has demonstrated to the FCSA before in oils but the technique he uses is equally good to use with acrylics.
To begin Joel had mapped out the cafe scene he is going to paint in pencil on canvas. He has a colour and black & white photo of the scene for reference but he tends to work from the black & white one for the tonal values. The first thing he is going to do is fix the pencil with a light hairspray. It is important to ensure this fixative is dry before adding any paint to the canvas.
The first colour he uses is Cadmium Yellow. He wants to put in his light areas; anywhere that has direct sunlight. This is essentially an underpainting so the paint is being mixed with water and quite a lot of pigment. Then he takes Raw Sienna (or Yellow Ochre if preferred) which is a darker tone of yellow but still very warm. He uses a fairly big brush to block in the light parts of the painting.
The next stage is to look at the dark tones. He switches to a clean pot of water. It is very important to use clean water so that the yellows do not muddy the transparent colours he is going to use now. Ultra Marine Blue and Alizarin Crimson to produce the nice purple shadows. He points out that he has gone from yellow to purple, its opposite colour on the colour wheel.
After painting the red purple colour on the top left he mixes Ultra Marine Blue and Burnt Sienna to produce a darker shadow colour. He likes to vary the colours in the shadows. Ultra Marine Blue and Cadmium Yellow produces a deep green which he also puts into the dark areas of the painting.
Joel is working on cotton canvas that has been primed with Gesso. The additional coat of Gesso makes a good surface to work on especially for this next stage when Joel uses Willow Charcoal to re-capture some of the drawing and to make the figures stand out more. The charcoal drawing will be visible in the finished painting. This is an element of his work that he likes as he thinks it gives structure to the work. Originally he used this technique in his oils and has found it works equally well with acrylics. Joel was influenced by Richard Smits, an American artist, who also uses charcoal in a similar way.
The next stage is when Joel puts a large amount of gloss varnish on his palette to mix it into the additional washes he is going to put on now. Once again it is very important to use the hairspray fixative again at this stage to stop the charcoal from mixing with the paint. He is essentially using transparent glazes to build up his darks. He was asked if you can use gloss medium for this. Yes, gloss medium would work too but Joel likes this particular gloss varnish by Pebeo.
The benefit of using this gloss varnish is that the paint dries and the colours look as fresh and good as they did when they were being painted. Acrylics without varnish tend to dry to look a bit flat. Joel was asked which paints he uses and he said he uses both Winsor & Newton and Daler-Rowney but he does not find brands a big issue. Joel likes to keep to a limited colour palette. He uses Daler-Rowley for the dark areas with the varnish. Colour transparency is very important. Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Ultra Marine Blue and Alizarin Crimson are transparent colours. The unvarnished light areas are Winsor & Newton Cadmiums. He was asked if he would eventually varnish the whole painting and he said he does not do this. He likes to separate the lights and darks, it makes the painting more 3D to his mind.
At the break Joel was asked to give the audience a close up of the two photographs he was working from. The photo was taken at a cafe near Sloane Square just outside the Saatchi Gallery. Joel is a teacher and he likes to go to London in the summer holidays to get his reference material. He usually works on series of paintings. There is an advantage in working on several paintings at the same time especially when working in oils as he can let the layers dry properly on one painting as he works on the next. The brushes he is using are Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts No 4 and No 6. He finds synthetic brushes keep their shape better.
Up to this point Joel has not used any white paint but he is going to use quite a lot of white now to mix his mid-tones. He changes his water once again and uses Crimson, Raw Sienna and Ultra Marine Blue to make a variety of different types of grey. He puts it down freshly, he does not blend the paint at all. He wants to ensure that the original Raw Sienna is still going to show through.
The composition of this painting is in line with the rule of thirds. The main figure lies on one of the thirds as does his leg across a third of the painting; the two panels of dark colours divide the painting along those lines too. Joel now uses Titanium White with a touch of Cadmium Yellow to put in the highlights on the man’s back, the legs of the chairs, his shoes, and items on the tables. The good thing about painting in acrylics is that it is possible to return to areas such as the mid-tones or to the darks with the glazing technique to deepen the colours.
When it comes to framing, Joel likes a simple white frame such as the one on this painting. Some will recognise this painting from the demonstration in oils that Joel gave FCSA when we were able to meet at the Adult Education studio instead of watching on Zoom.
Joel was asked again whether the charcoal lines would still be visible in the finished painting and he said that they would. He likes this effect and it certainly gives this painting a distinctive look.
The time had come for the Zoom Demonstration to come to an end. From reference material that was frankly mono-tonal Joel had produced a warm, interesting, pavement cafe scene full of urban life. The heightened sense of sunlight and the blues and purples in the shadows seemed reminiscent of French impressionist paintings and the subject matter, being a cafe scene, perhaps works to reinforce this effect.
Screen grabs and write up by Carole Head