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Layered Acrylic Waterscape Painting

Learn how to layer acrylic paint to create this unique waterscape canvas.

Ever since she was a child, Nancy Reyner has been an artist. Nancy started out as a painter and illustrator — she even ran her own puppet theater in New York City. When her boyfriend (and future husband) moved to Santa Fe, she gave up puppeteering and her beloved city and followed him to New Mexico, where the exciting artist community inspired her to pick up her paintbrush again.

Materials and Tools:

credit card
plaster spatula
palette knife
putty knife
Golden crackle paste (art supply stores)
wood panel primed with white acrylic gesso
ice cube tray
fluid paints: Phthalo Blue (green shade), Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Phthalo Green (yellow shade), and Dioxizine Purple, red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, brown, white and black
flat wide paintbrush
spray bottle filled with water
paper towels
hair dryer
various painting tools: brush, sponge, eyedropper and toothbrush
16 oz. Golden self-leveling acrylic gel
3 to 4 drops of Fluid Acrylic Interference Blue (fine)
mixing container
paint stirrer

Figure A


1. Apply acrylic crackle paste to a sturdy wooden panel that has been pre-primed with white acrylic gesso. Apply the paste 1/4- to 1-inch thick in different directions across the panel surface to keep the cracks natural looking. Produce different textures in the paste with a variety of tools such as a palette knife, a putty knife or an old credit card. Let this dry 12 to 24 hours to fully crack.

2. Pour a half teaspoon of the following four fluid acrylic paint colors into separate compartments of an ice cube tray: Phthalo Blue (green shade), Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Phthalo Green (yellow shade) and Dioxizine Purple. Add a half-teaspoon of water to each color.

Figure C

3. Spray the entire cracked surface with a water sprayer. By wetting the surface before applying the washes the paint will seep into the cracks rather then settling on top. Liberally apply the different colored washes to the entire cracked surface using a wide brush in varying and random patches of color. Spray the surface with water once more and use paper towels to blot the excess paint on the top surface of the waterscape painting. Repeat spraying the waterscape painting surface with water and blotting the color with paper towels until the top surface is white and the cracks are colored.

4. Blow-dry the top surface of the acrylic waterscape painting with a hair dryer to quick dry the surface. The color in the cracks will continue to seep up onto the top surface if it isn't dried.

Figure E

5. Dispense a full palette of colors—red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, brown, white and black—mix each color with water as before in separate compartments in an ice cube tray. Paint the waterscape image onto the surface. Use a variety of painting tools such as brushes, sponges, toothbrushes and eyedroppers with the paint colors to get different effects. Sponges are great for dabbing color. Toothbrushes add a dotted or spritzing texture by dipping the bristles into the color and rubbing them with your fingertips.

Figure G

6. Use eyedroppers to drop color onto the surface from a distance or flowing onto the surface like a writing pen directly touching the surface with the dropper tip. Wash painting tools with water between color changes. Dab painting tools onto paper towels to keep excess water from turning the image into a puddle.

7. Paint the trees on the top part of the panel before painting the water. The water is reflective so paint a mirror image of the trees and add blue for the sky reflected there as well. Keep adding color until the image is completed as desired. Let this dry for 12 to 24 hours.

Figure H

8. Pour 16 oz. of self-leveling acrylic gel into a mixing container. Add about four to six ounces of water to the gel to make it thinner and to ensure that the gel seeps into the cracks. Add three or four drops of fluid interference blue paint. Hold the painting upright. Pour the mixture onto the top end of the painting. Continue to hold the painting upright and let gravity move the gel downward. When the gel gets to the bottom, rotate the painting in different directions to allow the gel to seep well into the cracks. Use a putty knife to help move the gel into places that were missed until the entire surface is covered. Place the panel flat.

Figure J

9. While the gel is still wet, add mixed media items like glitter, shells and gems in various places on top of the painting. When the gel dries the objects will be permanently glued or embedded into it. Let the layered acrylic waterscape painting rest flat to dry for 12 to 24 hours.


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