Acrylic Painting Demonstration : Still Life

I set up a very simple still life for this acrylic painting demonstration. I believe you can learn a lot about this medium using just a few basic techniques. My goal here is to achieve a painterly, oil-like look in this acrylic painting.


Here are the materials I used for the still life of some cheese and a cheese cutter.

  • Liquitex Soft Body Artist Acrylics(cadmium yellow medium, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue) and titanium white.
  • acrylic paint brushes-flats, filberts and a small round for details. All bristles.
  • Liquitex gloss medium

  • Gessoed matboard

    I used soft body acrylic paints instead of heavy body acrylic paints for this demo. Both types are good for creating oil-like paintings; I chose soft body acrylic paints just to push my limits. I wanted to try something new and see how far they can take me toward my goal.




    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 1:

    acrylic painting demo 1

    I sketch the still life with a charcoal pencil first. Then, I take a big flat brush to cover the major masses. I aim for shadows first and give them one or two coats. Then, I move on to the light side of the cheese. Notice that every color note is flat at this point. Since I'm using soft body acrylics, the paints are thin enough, and there is no need to add gloss medium.

    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 2:

    acrylic painting demo 2

    I add more colors into the light areas, painting wet into wet. I have to use several layers of thick dark paint for the background, because the soft body acrylics do not have much covering power. With each layer of shadow, I add a little gloss medium. The color of the background gets darker and richer as more layers are overlapped. I scumble a bit of chalky lighter color into the background, just as a test. It's too chalky, and too light (or opaque) for the background, too. I will wait to fix it later.

    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 3:

    acrylic painting demo 3

    I model the various tones by adding different shades into each plane, applying it, wet into wet, in a painterly fashion. To keep the edges soft, I use my finger to rub where the fresh paint and the old paint meet.

    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 4:

    acrylic painting demo 4

    I glaze additional darker tones over the all the shadows using the gloss glazing medium. I also add a darker and less chalky layer over the section to the right of the cheese chunk to correct its value and also the color. I immediately rub my finger over the edges so I won't leave the edges sharp.

    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 5:

    acrylic painting demo 5

    I modify the tones on the side plane of the cheese. Because the colors contain more titanium white and are naturally more opaque, I use the glazing medium in them to dilute them a bit.

    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 6:

    acrylic painting demo

    I continue to vary the tones in different planes to heighten interest. The necessary details show up naturally once the tones are correct on the cheese cutter and the cheese. I add more glazes into the background using plenty of glazing medium for subtle and smooth transitions.

    Acrylic painting demonstration Step 7:

    acrylic painting demo



    When the painting has set for another 24 hours, I will varnish it with gloss varnish medium. It will look more like an oil painting once the varnish is applied.

    For this demonstration, I used basic acrylic painting techniques: wet into wet, dry brushing, glazes, and rubbing. I use a gloss glazing medium to dilute the dark colors, or make chalky color look less opaque.

    I refrained from diluting the paint with water after the first stage. Thinning acrylic paints with water tends to weaken the intensity of the color.

    The drying time of acrylics can be maddeningly short, when you want a smooth blending.

    Fortunately I own a Masterson Sta-Wet Palette which keeps my paint moist for extended periods.

    The gloss glazing medium also slows down the drying and gives me more time to blend.

    I also clean my brushes immediately after each use. I don't like it when I forget and end up ruining a good brush.

    Working with acrylics is definitely less relaxing than painting with oils because of the rapid drying time, but with practice, it is manageable. If you want to have more flexibility, then you can use a retarder medium which slows the drying process.

    One last thing – always clean your brushes immediately, and have fun playing with acrylics!



    Mastering Color - click here for more info.

    > > Acrylics Demonstration



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