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Extreme Contrast with Acrylics

A step-by-step demonstration by Rock Newcomb showing the many advantages of working with Daniel Smith Ultimate Acrylics on Ampersand Claybord

Extreme Contrast with Acrylics

"Prehistoric Legacy"
by Rock Newcomb
Acrylic on Claybord
20" x 30"

In this step-by-step demonstration, you will be shown the many advantages of working with Daniel Smith Ultimate™ Acrylics on Ampersand Claybord™. I will create a still life painting using prehistoric Anasazi Pottery as the subjects. I've developed my own glazing formula. I mix Daniel Smith Mars Black, Burnt Umber and a touch of Yellow Ochre thinned with equal parts of Daniel Smith Matte Medium and water. (Dilute this mixture 200% to 300% with equal parts medium and water.) I advise my students to NEVER sacrifice the integrity of acrylic paint by thinning it too much with water; use your acrylic medium!

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Composition
Having selected a composition, 1 begin with separate drawings of the items. The individual pieces can then be arranged into a number of different compositions.
I do a single drawing of my final composition on a piece of vellum and then coat the back with gray Nupastel, which is cleaner and more easily erased than charcoal. I smooth the Nupastel with my finger and blow off the excess. I tape the drawing to my Claybord$#151; and trace the design using a sharp 6H graphite pencil.

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Pattern and Form
During the initial painting of these prehistoric Indian ceramics, I do the bold patterns, and then the subtle beginning washes with sepia (a mixture of Burnt Umber and Mars Black) in the shaded areas on the ceramics. This begins to develop form and space.
Many of my paintings are based on actual Native American artifacts and petroglyphs found in the American Southwest.

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Creating Value Contrast
Now I establish and enhance the light and dark contrasts of the foreground and background. Since my light source will come from the left of the composition, I begin to transition the background from darker to the left to lighter on the right. The warm earth tones (Sepia, Quinacridone Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre) are repeated throughout the process and strongly suggest the colors found in the earth of the American Southwest.

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Definition of Form and Casting Shadows
At this stage, I have further developed the form of each object through the use of many layers of my sepia wash and very diluted Raw Umber, which warms the objects and gives the whites a warm earthtone.
The cast shadows are now painted with the thinned sepia in a series of washes. Be careful to note that shadows are more intense at the base of the object and lighter as they cast outward. Pay close attention fo the play of light cast and reflected by each object.

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Warm-up, Whiten, Distress
I warm up the tan colors on the ceramics by using a glaze of Raw Umber and Titanium White diluted about 70% with water and Acrylic Matte Medium, equal parts of each.
Now one of the advantages of Claybord™ becomes apparent as I carve, sand and erase through the acrylic paints in a sgraffito manner which causes the ceramics to look very, very old. I continue painting areas and highlighting them with sgraffito, until you would swear there are pits and holes in the ceramics. Finally I use a wash of Titanium White on the ceramics that are in direct light and redefine any worn spots.

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Background Additions
I now sketch the images of four quail and a vortex onto vellum and lay it over the actual painting. 1 transferred these images directly onto the painting in the same manner as in Step #1.
I brush art masking fluid onto these drawings using a small, stiff brush with a pointillist technique allowing some of the underpainting to show through. The aim here is to make the quail and vortex appear to be picked into the stone background, I allow the mask to dry thoroughly before painting over it with a wash of Quinacridone Burnt Orange. I peel off the mask to reveal the petroglyphs.

Finishing Touches
In the final painting stages, I darken the ground with Quinacridone Burnt Orange, giving it a stone textured appearance. I add diagonal mortar stripes that impart energy and movement to the painting. Finally I decide the three largest ceramics need cracks for visual interest. I add dark lines and then etch highlights into the Claybord™. I complete the painting with 2 to 3 airbrushed coats of Polymer Varnish. (A mixture of 70% Gloss, 30% Matte diluted with 100% water and strained each time through a doubled paper towel.)

Rock Newcomb

About the Author
Working as a fine artist from a studio in Payson, Arizona, Rock Newcomb does highly realistic Native American pottery still lifes and wildlife subjects, a unique combination and even more so because he has won awards in both categories.


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