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Acrylic Painting Techniques: Pouring Paints

Pouring paint across a canvas instead of applying it with a brush.

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Jessica, red wine and the L word
SLR Jester/10627862834/Flickr

Pouring, puddling, dripping... the defining characteristic of this acrylic painting technique is that you don't apply the paint with a brush or palette knife, but rather use gravity to move the paint across a canvas. The results are unlike anything you can get with a brush: fluid flows of paint without any brushmarks or texture.

After I saw her striking poured painting Iris Abstract, I asked Keri Ippolito about how she'd painted it. This is what she had to say:

Q: Where did you first try this painting-by-pouring technique?
I did the painting in a classroom setting at the Fine Line Fine Line Creative Arts Center in Illinois, USA, with teacher Alyce Van Acker. I had also come across the work of other artists who use pouring techniques: Bette Ridgeway and Paul Jenkins.

Q: What did you use to create this painting?
The painting was done by pouring fluid acrylic paint onto double-primed, linen canvas. The canvas had has been stapled onto various height stools and encouraged to dip down in one spot, where the paint ran off the canvas into a basin. The method requires some reaching out to pour and a love of pure color, but is a lot of fun! I used Golden fluid acrylics, and it was done in one session.

Q: What did you do with the paint that poured off the canvas into the basin?
Most people just pour it out and consider it part of the cost of the painting. I am a little more practical and if I have someone with me to grab a clean container for each color I will reuse the paint.

Q: Did you let the paint dry between pourings, or between colors?
No, I really only paused to decide where I wanted to start the pour. Even the decision of color was made before I began and my initial color poured was white. Depending on the angle downwards to the basin you have very little time before pouring the next color (that is if you hope to see them mix) on the canvas. Also, pouring clear water to change the color and soften edges is a must.

Q: Did you pour the paint straight from the container you'd bought it in, or from something else?
I used Golden Fluid Acrylics but watered down, and had it in a disposable plastic cup. Keep in mind never water over 50 percent or the paint won't stick, so I also added some gloss acrylic medium. You pre-mix all your colors and hopefully you have mixed enough. If you mix too much, just put it in a clean container with a lid and save it.

Another thing about pre-mixing: if you use less water the weight of the fluid is heavier and will move slower which could alter everything and not in a bad way.

Q: Is there a significance to your choice of a double-primed canvas, was it so the white, unpainted areas were well covered, or just because it was what you had to hand?
Yes it is significant, the choice is made because of the tight weave which helps the paint to flow freely. Double primed again cuts resistance and the white is really a great background color for all this wonderful color! If you look really closely at my painting you will see the white paint I poured first. but only slightly.

Thank for sharing all this Keri! I look forward to trying this pouring technique myself, and seeing what other painting you create using it.

Read more on pouring paint: Part 2: Answers to More Questions on Pouring Paint

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