Wokingham Art Society
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Demonstration by Gary Miller
Still Life, Acrylic, 15 Sept 2015
Visit him at www.southernpaintersuk.co.uk
Gary is self-taught but now works full-time as artist and demonstrator. He started in watercolour but has used most other media.

Tonight's demo was in acrylic. "The best thing about acrylic is that it dries so fast - it's the worst thing about it, too!". You don't need a lot of equipment. He has no time for stay-wet palettes. "A few tubes of paint, throw-away plastic-coated paper plates and about three flat brushes are all you need. A water-mister and an upside-down plate cover will keep paint fresh overnight". Canvas is good for large paintings - otherwise he goes for MDF, cut to size, for free, by Homebase (or was it Hobbycraft?). He uses cheap, soft but firm "Graduate" brushes from Hobbycraft.
Careful composition of a still life is essential and can be very time-consuming. He will work from life in his studio but prefers a photo for demonstrations. Sadly we were told little about what makes a good composition: it had all been done earlier - a shiny tin holding three round brushes bracketed by a couple of red apples.

Tonight's painting, about 16" x 12", was on triple gessoed 3mm MDF, not sanded down between coats (he likes some tooth).

Gary told us that he had killed the white with a coat of light golden raw sienna, then drawn outlines with raw umber and finally hinted at the tonal values with more raw umber.
So the demo proper started with a first blocking in of colour. All this, right through to the end, was done with just three flat brushes: 1", 1/2" and a No.6. He expects to need about three coats of paint before he is satisfied with the colour.

The apples and their reflections in the tin came first: a mixture of cadmium red and cadmium yellow with a touch of french ultramarine. More french ultra went into the mix for the shadowed areas. He softens the edges of reflections and shadows by touching an almost dry clean brush along the edge, very gently at first and more firmly later.
Gary used unmixed paint for paintbrush handles, raw sienna, yellow and white for bristles and Paynes grey and white for the ferrules.

Then came the later coats:
lightening the apple red a little with yellow (not white)
darkening the background
re-painting the brushes
adding highlights (using white with a touch of yellow)
repainting the dark bits of the tin with raw umber and Paynes grey (and the light areas with white and blue)
adjusting the tablecloth with raw umber and white
darkening the background yet again,
creating folds with dark and light vertical strokes;
missing bits of shadow to get the effect of hairs.

The changes were very subtle but gradually brought real life to the image. Gary said he would probably spend a little more time on it before he would feel it was really finished.

Thank you, Gary, for a most enjoyable evening - despite the short notice. Well done.
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