Wokingham Art Society
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Demonstration by Carole Massey
Ballet Dancers, Acrylic and Pastel, 16 Oct 2012
Visit her at www.carolemassey.com - and she's closely involved with the new www.ArtTutor.com
Carole is an active painter, demonstrator and tutor in pastels, acrylics, watercolours and water-soluble pencils. She writes books on painting and organizes workshops and painting holidays (see her website and the new ArtTutor initiative). In 2013, as well as giving demonstrations she will be teaching at Flatford Mill, the Watershed Studio in St.Osyth, Beth Chatto Gardens near Colchester, in Brittany and in Manzac d'en Bas (Ariege).

Like Degas, she uses photographs to help with her ballet dancer painting. Tonight she was working with a photocopy of a photo, enlarged to the final size.

Tonight's photocopy and similar examples
Carole's stay-wet palette had a limited range of Liquitex and System 3 acrylics (2 yellows, cobalt blue, a mixed purple and burnt and raw sienna).

She uses both synthetic and bristle brushes but warned that you can spoil your best watercolour brushes if you use them with acrylics.

She prefers the surface texture of "NOT" watercolour paper to that of acrylic paper for her style of painting, although canvas is even better. She stretches the paper by putting wet paper onto a wet board, applying brown adhesive tape (not masking tape) and allowing it to dry.

To encourage spontaneity and improve composition she goes through a sequence of tracing: from the photocopy to tracing paper, inking over the tracing (see left), transferring to the watercolour paper using tracedown paper and then drawing over the traced lines with a small brush (Rosemary No.2, round) and very thin browny-grey acrylic (cobalt and burnt sienna).
At each step she makes adjustments, sometimes quite major ones such as changing sizes or moving one layer relative to the other during the tracing process.

In the photo on the right she has just started the acrylic drawing. Note how she has marked the important guidelines on the faces. This drawing took quite some time and finished (see below) as she used a straight edge to get the floorboard perspective right.

Then the next very thin coats were applied, completely covering the white of the paper: yellow everywhere except the blue-purple figures. these were not flat washes: the yellow was darker towards the bottom and the nearer figures warmer (more purple).

This underpainting is very thin, so as not to fill the texture of the paper and compromise the adhesion of the subsequent pastel. With such thin paint it is not necessary to worry too much about the transparency of the paint itself, but the need for transparency led to a short digression.

Finished acrylic drawing
(tones exaggerated)
Paint "thin" to "thick"
If a painting is to be entirely in acrylic she would use multiple thin glazes
Transparent paint doesn't hide the drawing
Paint tubes show the transparency with an empty or black square
Thin your acrylic with a medium, not water - it may crack
Mediums range from simple ones, including maybe PVA glue, to fancy gels, flow enhancers and retarders.

She then started to add more shadows, to darken the skin even more and to stroke the brush in the direction of the folds of the skirts. The floor, too, was darkened.

Finished acrylic underpainting

"One I did before" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .The end of the demo
After the interval Carole started in with soft pastels (note the rubber gloves). She seemed almost to be playing with them: adding blues, whites, and greys and letting the original yellow break through "for interest". Darks and lights were repeatedly touched in. A torchon lets you push pastel into awkward corners and pastel pencils are ideal for detail.

The side of a dark blue stick gave texture to the skirt and pink touches brought it to life. She reinforced all the shadows and finally added highlights with white soft pastel (not pencil - too hard).

The version on the left here is an earlier one, to show how you can improve on what is possible in a short demo.
This is where Carole had got to when time ran out.
I was most surprised at how realistic and pleasing such unreal colour could look.
It was a most interesting evening. Thank you Carole
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