Colour Theory with Acrylic Paint

I am now attending a weekly art class on Tuesday evenings nearby, and last night was the first.  It’s hosted by an artist and instructor called Dieter who runs his own shop selling art supplies and frames for one’s artwork.  In fact I initially discovered his place when I happened to drop by to get some of my work framed.  That was in January or so.  When I noticed he offers classes and was starting a new session in May, I jumped at the opportunity!  His lessons cover a range of exciting stuff starting from theory to producing your own work with emphasis on abstract and mixed media.  Although my main style is anime illustration, I am keen to learn more and incorporate the ideas into my work whilst discovering new techniques and products.  I immediately signed up!

I have to admit I was rather nervous because the classes are in Dutch.    Once I entered the classroom, though, I immediately felt at ease.  Dieter is so laid back and very easy-going.  The other 8 students or so ranging from college-age to pensioners were also warm and friendly.   Anyhow, I’ve been to day workshops in the past where Dutch only was spoken.  So I guess I had nothing to be scared about!


Dieter began the course with colour theory.  It’s a great start.  “To create a beautiful painting, it is important to learn about the basics”, he told us.  Totally agree, and even if I have some understanding of the colour wheel, it’s always good to review it and fun to practice the techniques of blending colours together.   We were each given a big piece of paper and shared the paints, brushes and supplies Dieter provides for us.  With different sized plates, we traced three circles inside each other to draw the wheel.  “Aww no need to have perfect circles,” he mused, “the point here is to practice mixing colours”

So we spent the lesson filling in the colour wheel with acrylic paint.  Started firstly with the primary colours of blue, yellow and red.  It was quite interesting to find out from Dieter that acrylic paint (though water-based) should not be mixed with water to dilute or blend.  I always used water which was always the case even in art classes back in high school.  Instead of water, one uses acrylic medium in gel or matte.  This is because the polymers in the paint may break down if there is too much water which would reduce its adhesive qualities hence resulting in the paint peeling or flaking.  Doing my own research, though, some artists argue that it’s ok to use water but not more than 30%.  Most of my acrylic paint I like using (from Dylusions for instance) are reasonably “spreadable” so I don’t need to dilute it much anyhow.


Once we were through with the primary colours, we mixed them to create secondary shades of orange, green and purple.  Then experimenting with the variations of these secondary colours, we eventually developed tertiary colours by mixing the secondary colours with the primary colours from which they were originally blended, ie.  adding more red or more blue to create different kinds of purple.  And how about adding some white too to make some pale pastel shades of these secondary and tertiary colours?

Once we finished our colour wheel, Dieter showed us some very interesting blending techniques like pouring gel medium over the colours and blending them with a palette knife.  And what beautiful mixtures did we come up with!  Here I used just the primary colours around the wheel.  They look like flowers don’t they?  It was further interesting to observe how each student had different results.  Some were darker and more somber, others more expressive and bold.  I myself chose to keep it bright and vivid to make it all cute and sweet.  That’s the great thing about art.  No right or wrong.  It’s about the person and one’s own interpretation of colours!


After we were all done, we showed our work to the class and shared our experiences, assessing what we had found difficult and what we had enjoyed most.  In my case, I was a bit hung up about being perfect so a bit critical about the paint going over the outline and the circle not being precisely round as I had wanted.   It is definitely the “Japanese” in me!  But this class is more about freely expressing yourself and being yourself, something that is reinforced not only in this class but also in the West.  I told them that I felt so free when I was blending my colours with the medium and palette knife.  All in Dutch too of course!

It is further interesting to note that in my Friday afternoon art class with Sugawara-sensei, more focus is made on “realistic” drawing techniques such as observing perspective, proportion and proper light and shade.  In Dieter classes, on the other hand, focus is made on creative expression and being free handed with techniques because it’s abstract art.  Neither is better than the other of course.  They are just different styles which is worth grasping and developing to incorporate in my own art work.  Sometimes it’s good to sit down and sketch something that’s there “as it is,” and other times it’s nice to “go crazy” and splash out whatever comes to mind.

Meanwhile, I would also like to share a close up of an area of my work in which I experimented with gel medium and palette knife.  How cool is that!  Definitely be using this technique in my work and making something kawaii out it!


For some information about Dieter and his classes and shop, please click here.


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