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An Ode to Acrylics

Acrylic paint is close to my heart. 

Bright colours, endless possibilities, good value (most of the time) and ease of use, make it a very friendly and unassuming medium.  It’s not a highly strung, diva of a paint, it’s more cheerful, an everyman, happy to allow whatever you’re making to take centre stage.  

At college, studying A level art, I didn’t really give it the time of day. 

I’d used it in generic work at school and home, considered it little more than poster paint,  getting serious meant getting into oils.  Life drawing underpinned the course and traditionally, oils are king.  

It wasn’t until after I’d finished my exams and started a gap year working through several low paid jobs to earn my keep, when my time and space to make art began to shrink drastically, and I was forced to add acrylics to my limited art materials collection.   

Being able to work quickly, express myself in the moment and store the picture soon after painting it, proved too practical to resist. 

After a busy year working, I started in degree course in Psychology and moved in with my dad, step mum and crazy little brothers.  I began to play around with acrylics, use it’s texture to create effects and experiment with way too much bright, bald colour (what was I thinking?).   It gave me the hit of art I needed to get me through my student days, attending lectures, trying to write essays and working part-time.  I would hit The Works - an affordable stationary and crafting store and buy supplies that I could afford, with just enough to spare to allow me a few Bacardi breezers at the Student Union Bar.

Sky and Crow Limited Edition Print 

Fast forward a good few years of play and creation with the medium, and after trying different brands of paint, still experimenting in bursts of time that I had available whilst juggling a busy work life (improving services in the NHS) and raising a young family, and we come to a one day course, a few years ago now, run by artist Marie Antoniou, at the beautiful RHS Hyde Hall in Essex.  Marie’s approach to acrylics, was a revelation to me.  She told us to forget everything we thought we knew about it, and look in a different light.  

I was amazed.  She was accentuating all of the best parts of the medium and adapting her technique to take full advantage of them.  The paint was used with minimal water - dry as you can use, it was applied quickly with big brushes, distinctively, expressively.   Her beautiful, very vibrant artwork was of the moment and an exercise of trust in herself, she followed her vision with faith, only meaningful brushstrokes and originality, the outcome was stunning.  This opened my eyes in so many ways and it put me on a course to appreciate the sophistication and freshness that acrylics can offer, alongside the freedom to work more instinctively for unashamed impact, joy and self-expression.  You can check out Marie’s work here  or on Instagram @marieantoniouart.

If you’ve had a play with acrylics before and would like to give this approach a go, I’d really recommend one of Marie’s workshops (detailed on her website) or a book called ‘Vibrant Acrylics: A contemporary guide to capturing life with colour vitality’ by the fantastic Hashim Akib – another one of Essex’s finest.  

The beauty of acrylics is that they can be used any way you like, from watercolour style translucency to thick impasto, but understanding them a little better has definitely helped to inspire me and explore how I’d like to use them next.

Winter Scene Limited Edition Print

I have loved every minute of my journey with acrylics.  

Currently my preference is to work with strong texture, I mix colour, sometimes on the canvas to add vibrancy and nuance.  I go for intensity of colour and layers to give depth and interest to my work.  At times I am creating a quick, fresh, and entirely of-the-moment piece, and
others I am loading a canvas with ideas and colour over time, thinking about my
theme and seeing where that takes me. 

And the best bit of all…if you mess up and it’s gone wrong, in just a few short minutes, you can
paint over it and make something new.

See what I mean?  

Acrylics have your back.

Thanks so much for reading my blog.    

Check out my social media @LuciaHardyArt (IGFB) for notice of my next post or keep in touch with all my latest news, chat and blog posts via my bi-monthly Art Journal here.

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