Philip Tyler is a British artist who focuses upon the materiality of paint and its potential to create illusionary spaces on the canvas – this is easy to see from the thick, sweeping, textured brush strokes which feature in his paintings. The artist explores themes of loss in his work which often features landscapes and nude bodies as its subject, and the result is hauntingly beautiful, yet deeply melancholic.
Another of our artists whose acrylic paintings should not be missed is Bea Garding Schubert whose fascinating pieces seem to reveal more and more about themselves the longer you look at them. Her works inspire hope and happiness and her distinctive colour palette adds a refreshing burst of pastel-toned joy to any room.
Acrylic painting is a relatively recent phenomenon compared to the use of oil and watercolour paints, having only been first commercially promoted in 1955. Many artists are attracted to it due to its dominant bright colours and the sharp brushstrokes and lines that it can achieve, as well as its capacity to be used on a variety of surfaces and mixed with a multitude of other media. Furthermore, it is exceptionally versatile and resilient compared to other forms: it dries rapidly and is capable of giving both the transparent brilliance of watercolour and the density of oil paint as well as being less affected by heat and other destructive forces than oil paint is. Additionally, it has proven popular among artists who were concerned about the health risks posed by handling and inhaling the fumes of oil paints. It is clear to see why this relatively modern invention has proven so popular and is still used by artists the world over today.
Acrylic paints first began to be synthesized in the mid-nineteenth century but it was German chemist Otto Röhm that actually brought its practical potential to light. In their early years, acrylic resins were intended primarily for industrial use and it was not until the first half of the twentieth century that artists began to experiment with it. This began in Mexico where muralists began to use it in their work. Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros held a workshop in New York City to explore the medium and its uses and this was attended by Jackson Pollock who went on to use it in his world-famous drip paintings.
By the late 1940s, acrylic paint was offered as an early version under the name ‘Magna’ and many well-known artists such as Mark Rothko began to experiment with it. A decade later, Röhm and his business partner Otto Haas introduced the first acrylic emulsion designed specifically for paint which has gone on to become the cornerstone for all contemporary artists’ acrylic emulsions. By 1955 the first commercially available water-based acrylic paints entered the market.
Acrylics made their way onto the artistic scene at a time when artists were beginning to explore movements such as pop culture, photorealism, abstract expressionism and pop art. Their properties made them ideal for such forms which featured hard-edged flat images and a distinct use of line.
Artists such as Andy Warhol were attracted to it for its unparalleled versatility and durability but also for the flexibility it offered – media could be mixed and through combining it with other elements such as sand and water, different textures and consistencies could be achieved.
The introduction of acrylic paint to the art world offered a whole new wave of creativity and possibility in the field of modern art and its influence in artistic forms and trends is still going strong today. Its flexibility and versality offers the artist endless creative freedom which had never been experienced before and is still being explored today.
There are various techniques which can be applied in acrylic painting to produce a number of creative effects. Firstly, drybrush is a technique which can be useful in landscape painting to create blades of grass or fluffy clouds as well as being useful for adding highlights and dimension to an underpainting. Acrylic wash is another useful technique which allows the painter to build up translucent layers of colour to produce a watercolour appearance with great control. Another popular technique is the use of stippling which involves using stiff brushes to paint small dots of paint across the surface. Layering colours together in this way allows subtle colour blends, leading to dimension and texture on the canvas. Pouring acrylic paint is a fun and creative technique which can be used to produce abstract art and, similarly, paint may be dripped from above or flicked from a wet brush à la Pollock in order to produce interesting splatters of colour.
Many famous artists use acrylic paints as their preferred medium. Notably pop artist Andy Warhol who was an infamous, leading figure in the Pop Art movement, best known for his silkscreen paintings including Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Diptych. Roy Lichtenstein also used acrylic paints in his works and was a pioneer of the New Art movement. His work defined the premise of pop art through parody and was influenced by popular advertising and the comic book style. London-born optical artist Bridget Riley also used the medium in her work. She began painting in a semi-impressionist manner before moving on to pointillism in around 1958 and eventually evolving the Op Art style in 1960 which explored the dynamic potentials of optical phenomena in order to produce a disorienting physical effect on the eye.