Paint pouring

One day while looking at alcohol ink videos I came upon a video (by accident, of course) that just fascinated me.  The artist poured some small puddles of paint in different colors  on a canvas, pulled out a small blow dryer, blew the paint around, and….HOLY COW!  A flower appeared, all lacy and rippled and….gorgeous!

Well, I saw a flower, and I think the artist did, but someone else may have seen fan coral from a tropical underground scene.  And that is just one of the things that drew me into this particular technique, the individual interpretation of a piece of abstract art.  You and I may see entirely different things going on and have very different reactions to a piece of abstract art.

Cool beans!

Of course, it looked so easy in her 7-minute video.  As I was engaged in the effort to gain some control over alcohol inks at the time, and had been for a few months, I should have known better.  These days I surely do.

There was a YouTube artist who did me a huge favor when she told me that she was happy with about one in five of her paintings.  Of course, she doesn’t post videos of the four that missed the mark, where she had to go through the very messy process of scraping all the paint off the canvas so she could try again.  All you see online are her successes.

When it comes to art videos, YouTube is a wonderful resource while at the same time being a place where a budding artist can get hung up comparing their efforts and feeling like a failure.  A slippery slope of sorts.

Anyway, I was ready for a break from the inks and so I jumped into paint pouring.  Started out with some cheap craft paints from the dollar store and pouring on plywood cutouts.  

Paint pouring is mostly one chemistry experiment after another.  I never moved beyond basic biology in school as chemistry would have sunk my GPA the same way algebra did.  And it’s not uncommon for my brain to freeze when math is introduced.  But from the first time that cells appeared in one of my early pours, I was hooked.   I didn’t understand how or why it was happening (and sometimes still don’t!), but I loved the outcome. 

Here are the basics of most paint pours.  You buy or create a pouring medium.  Most ready-made pouring mediums are rather spendy, but you can create your own out of things like Elmer’s glue or a paint additive you can buy at Home Depot.  Some artists just thin their acrylic paint with water instead, though in that case ratios need to be quite accurate or there can be problems.

So you create or buy a medium which you then mix with your acrylic paint.  Again, ratios need to be noted so that when all your colors are mixed they are the same consistency.   Paint consistency can be critical in some techniques…mix too thin or too thick and you won’t get the desired outcome.

You might add other ingredients to your paint to get different effects, like silicone for cells.  Lots of potential chemistry experiments here!

Now your paint is ready and you’ve chosen a substrate — lots of options for that such as canvas, wood, ceramic tile, glass, on and on.   Vinyl albums, that’s the newest substrate I’m pouring on.   Who knew?!

At some point, probably before mixing your paint, you’ve chosen a technique.  There are many ways that you can get the paint down on your substrate, and many things you can do to manipulate it once it is poured. 

A simple example is to pour your paint colors into one cup in layers; then you pour this directly onto your surface, and you tilt it to create a composition.  You can blow it around with air, you can pull a comb through it to create lines, you can use your fingers to manipulate it or even a water balloon.  The options for composition seem endless at times.

Beyond the most basic techniques there are what I would call post graduate choices, more challenging ways to manipulate and create with paint pouring.

Hopefully, at some point you look at it and say, I love it!  It’s done!  Though realistically, at times one says, what in the world happened here??  Ugh.  Scrape, scrape, the paint comes off the surface and into the waste pail.  Back to the drawing board.

When it’s done it needs to dry for 2-3 days and then cure for a few more days.  How long depends on who you ask.  Once you are sure it is cured then you seal it with a varnish, resin, or other finish.  Let it dry a bit longer, and it’s ready to hang on your wall or give as a gift or maybe even sell to someone who loves it as much as you do. 

The subtitle for pouring acrylic paints could well be “Your results may vary.”  There are never two pieces exactly alike, even if every step is perfectly duplicated.   That’s the beauty and the chemistry of it.

One of the more advanced paint pouring techniques is known as a bloom, and I’ve been vigorously pursuing that for a while now…but will leave it for another post.  Thanks for dropping in, and do come back again.

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.

Twyla Tharp

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