18 Aug Great Art Blog August 2015- Abstract Acrylics by Sennelier
Hello and welcome to this month’s blog: Abstract Acrylics by Sennelier.
This month I’ve been trying out a new and innovative range of acrylics by the established art materials manufacturer, Sennelier.
Packaging: The first thing you notice is the novel packaging which really is an exciting development. Abstract comes in an ultra strong and durable pouch with a special nozzle that allows fine control over how much paint you put out. The nozzles have been designed to prevent air getting in, which is great because the paint keeps better and without bubbles isn’t prone to spilling out when you don’t want it to! The manufacturers also reckon that the packaging allows you to use up every last drop of paint…I haven’t managed to get to the end of a pack quite yet, but can see that this should be the case.
The pouches feel really nice in the hand and they are very easy and comfortable to use…A really useful feature is the fact that each pouch has a transparent window, which allows you to see the actual colour of the paint inside., rather than a printed colour swatch. The ‘yellow’ pack below shows the wide transparent window which enables you to see a large amount of the paint colour inside.
They are also extremely tough. I’ve been deliberately rough with them in an attempt to find a flaw with the pack or make it leak. I’ve chucked them around the studio and left lids off carelessly, I have even tried laying them out on my gravel drive and walking all over them!!! Still, absolutely no leaks or damage to the packs.
Sennelier have definitely been very clever with this new pack design and I could really see pouches taking over from tubes in the longer term. Above all it makes it really practical to take acrylics out painting with you for plein air work, or just to take them with you when travelling. Leaking tubes, bottles etc…are the bane of my life. I’ve run hundreds of courses over the years and have often got back home to find leaky tubes seeping colour all over the boot of the car, which really is the last thing you need….with these Abstract pouches, I’m convinced this wouldn’t be a problem.
So the packaging is great, now lets look at the paint itself:
As usual I started by experimenting a little with some of the colours; just to get a feel for how the paint handles. The first thing to say is that it is relatively thick or heavy bodied, if used undiluted, and the pigment load-meaning strength of colour delivered- is pretty impressive, especially given the moderate price-point.
As you can see above, I tried a limited palette of 12 colours from the total range of 60 shades. (Abstract acrylics are available in satin finish, high gloss finish and also iridescent and fluorescent colours, the latter two were not tested for this blog)
The samples above show the acrylics used neat, taken down with a little water to create a glaze and also on black paper as a dark ground….the dark ground reveals the positive pigment load, as the colours hold up well on the dark base. Paler shades especially yellows can be weak, but hold their own here and demonstrate the quality of pigment used.
In the sketchbook pages above, you can see that I experimented further with the Abstract acrylics on both dark and conventional white grounds, and also using a range of blending and application techniques; including overlays, dry brush and textured layers.
I was very happy with the way they performed with brush application overall, but personally somewhat less so with a painting knife or blade. I think this was a personal taste thing, but although the Abstract acrylics have a fairly heavy body, I didn’t feel they worked quite as well as some others; Golden or Liquitex for instance, in terms of building rich impasto layers. However it must be said that these are both more expensive ranges, and Abstract would be a fantastic way of getting started with a good all-round acrylic, capable of brush and knife application and experimental work too, at a very competitive cost.
Abstract would certainly be great for experimental approaches, including working large scale and in combination with airbrush and spray paints and markers. Given the nozzle is so controllable, I experimented with painting direct from the pouch and therefore applying an exceptionally thick layer of paint, directly onto a board or acrylic paper. This is surprisingly easy to control and has real potential!
I really liked the thick layers and clean colours created in this way, but worried that there may be issues in the drying process. Sometimes paint applied this thickly does not dry out well, and can have air bubbles that can cause little ‘pits’ in the surface as the paint dries out….another reason for trying such a thick paint layer.
In fact, it did take a good few days to be completely dry, in what was admittedly not very warm weather, but the surface stayed as above, with no detrimental effect at all.
The sketchbook samples above show how well the ‘Abstract” handled a range of applications, including on acetate which is a great test stand-in for glass-this would definitely be a great paint for working on glass.
Above: Here I experimented first with soft blends using a flat brush-left hand side. The row along the top shows the Abstract acrylics applied onto a lightly primed linen canvas, and used s’grafitto (scratching through the paint layer) and with stippled blending. The large sample below shows a multi-layered sample worked in reds and browns and white, worked on unprimed cotton.
Further samples above-please see labels for detail.
*It is worth mentioning that the ‘normal’ satin finish acrylics within this range actually dry to a very flat finish, as you can see above. They have much less sheen than usual with dried acrylic paints, but this can be corrected if a sheen is required by adding a coat of acrylic varnish in a satin finish after the work is completed…this is good practice anyway as it will protect the paint surface for the long term, and make it easy to clean if necessary.
In the sketchbook study on the right you can see how well abstract colours handle when blended wet into wet.
This study also uses a lot of the Magenta which I was using in High Gloss , so you can see the difference in the paint finish which has more sheen here.
A really noteworthy feature of these particular acrylics is that the are excellent for linear work. Acrylics typically are not necessarily brilliant for fine; especially linear detail. However, I found that the Abstract acrylics, used slightly diluted either with a little water or with some acrylic medium, work really fluently with a fine soft brush, and can be used to great effect creating fluid linear marks and details, as seen in the sample below:-
Here you can see the marks are fresh and ‘clean’ allowing for great control over thickness of line by varying pressure on the brush. Titanium White also worked well applied in a similar way onto a black heavy paper.
The rapid study shown above was painted using a very limited colour palette: Quinacidrone Rose, Deep Magenta in High Gloss finish, Cadmium Red Deep, Cobalt Blue Hue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White in both standard Satin and High Gloss finishes. I worked deliberately in one quick sitting, allowing the paint colours to blend and mix wet into wet to keep a fresh feel. I was very pleased with the colour mixes from this very limited palette; especially the greens.
Obviously as they are so tough, there are no real worries over storing Abstract acrylics in their pouches. I found that they tend to take up less space as they can be packed quite tightly, but personally I would group them in trays or boxes as they can tend to fall over if just stored on a shelf, which can be annoying.
Finally, I decided to do a loose still life study using Abstract, to see how they would handle on a more sustained piece of work. I used mainly a range of soft acrylic brushes, including System 3, which I found were very compatible with these paints. I worked on an acrylic board which had an additional coat of gesso for a really good smooth surface, and particularly liked the way the Abstract colours blended and also their ability to build overlaid translucent layers.
Vibrant colour allowing fresh colour blends and easy colour mixing
Lovely handling especially with a soft acrylic brush
Excellent for linear detail
Tough packaging means you really can travel with these acrylics or take them with you on outdoor painting trips.
Innovative pack also means you can see the actual colour through the transparent window, and also allows for every drop of paint to be used.
My Materials List:
Abstract Acrylics-choose own colours, http://www.greatart.co.uk/Magazine-8-Offers/Acrylic/Acrylic-paints/Sennelier-Abstract-Acrylic.html
Winsor and Newton Galeria Acrylic Pad, ideal for testing colours and making preliminary sketches. code: 18865
Range of brushes-I liked System 3 with Abstract- http://www.greatart.co.uk/index.phpcl=antidot_search&searchparam=system%203%20brushes&pgNr=1
Canvas Boards- I used Gerstaecker Universal artist boards. http://www.greatart.co.uk/Gerstaecker-Universal-Artist-Board.html
Plus small selection of Catalyst blades e.g. code: 31261006
Painting Knives eg set of 6 knives in range of sizes and shapes by Gerstaecker code: 23920
All available from: http://www.greatart.co.uk
I also used:
As usual with acrylics, paper plates to avoid washing up, or sheet of safety glass or acrylic sheet.
2 or 3 water pots on the go at once, including one with some hand wash for brush cleaning…For details and tips and tricks for how to choose and look after brushes, please see January 2015 blog.
Plenty of paper towel or kitchen roll for wiping brushes and cleaning up.
Offcuts of cotton and linen canvas for experimenting, plus an acetate sheet as a stand in for glass.
Use soft brushes rather than very stiff ones, and play with wet into wet colour blends.
Cover yourself and furniture well as the high pigment load, also means a great tendency to stain everything!
Ideally work with relatively limited colour palettes which will help keep the colour fresh. Similarly avoid altogether or at least limit the amount of black used for mixing. Experiment with making darks by mixing colours instead or making a mid grey and using that for darkening.
Experiment with working on lots of different surfaces; fabrics, leather, glass, wood etc…
Add a coat of Satin varnish to correct the slightly ‘flat’ appearance when dry- Lascaux Acrylic varnish is ideal, code: 23671….do make sure the work is totally dry before coating with varnish, and use an old brush!
and for inspiration try the following contemporary artists who use acrylics :
Barbara Sykes http://www.barbarasykes.com/
Mali Morris http://www.malimorris.co.uk
Gus Cummins http://www.guscummins.com/