Tag: acrylics

Hints, of blue….. its ‘key’

Hints, of blue….. its ‘key’

Four acrylic mixed media abstracts; all with the power of blue.

Harnessed together with opposing forces of tonal values.

Discover how you can effectively use these intriguing differences: high key and low key.




Light and Shade

Light and shade, or as I term it, Tonal Values.



High Key

With a “high key” painting, the prevailing dominant ratio of tones will be on the Lighter end of the scale.

Perhaps, about   75% – 80% Light Tones.


Tips for  High Key Watercolor: you would use more water with your paints and, leave a lot more of your paper – White.

High Key Acrylics and Oils:  you would increase the amount of white to all the paints you use, and in many places use nearly straight White out of the tube.


Second Tip:

when we are trying to learn and cement a specific skill, we really will learn it faster, if we focus on that skill.

And lessen the pressure to ‘do well’  with the all  rest of the skills.


By limiting my colors ie to blue and focusing on the Key, I’ll increase my speed of learning and proficiency.

And thats what we all want to see.

Evidence… of Progress!




A High Key painting creates the feeling of space.

Of Freedom, movement, breath, light, air, action.


It is lighter, breezier, cheerier.

It uplifts, and is much more joyous.


hints of blue, high key painting, bleu ocean beach abstract acrylics, debiriley.com
High Key, hints of the blue



high key blue abstract painting, using texture tone and color in art, debiriley.com
High Key, in blue


In both of the above images, the Light and Mid tone percentages are greater than the much smaller percentage of Darker tones.

This is what gives the paintings the ‘airier’ lighter feel compared to the paintings below.







Low Key

These paintings below, have a higher percentage of darker and mid tones.

The mid tones and dark tones dominate the image.

Rough estimate 75% or so.   Give or take.


The Low Key paintings create a more somber feeling to viewers.

There is a sensation of being more contained,  but it also can have nuances of foreboding at times as well.


abstract acrylic on board, low key painting, diagonal patterns, debiriley.com
Low Key painting, Cerulean with black,  abstract on board panel




blue abstract on board, heavy texture, darkness to light painting, debiriley.com
Illusion of the darkness of space, A low key painting  in blue




When you wish to convey summer, celebrations, joy, movement, spaciousness, etc.  you now have a definite tool to rely on.

Simply ‘High Key.’


Same thing when painting to express the opposite.   Use,  ‘Low Key.’


Awareness of our options, gives us the strategies and the power to execute them –  as the subject and mood dictates.





High Key  –  Watercolor Mountain

This is my rough estimate of  the painting’s tonal value ratios….

Light tones 40%

Mid tones  50%

Dark tones 10%


Additionally…. with a Vertical, format rather than a traditional horizontal, it provides us with an increased sensation of movement, of implied action.

Of Space and of Depth.


Staining watercolor paints, prussian blue pb27, Impressionist watercolor landscape mountain, granulating paint manganese blue, cerulean blue, debi riley watercolor, debiriley.com
Mountain Prussian Blue watercolors, full sheet 22×30 


I included this at the last minute, because it illustrates nicely the ‘sensation’ of high key using vertical format.

And to show you how you can ADD Light Tones (white,)  by using light white matts to increase the light ratios, if, that is what is required.





Midnight Dreams: indigo

Midnight Dreams: indigo

There in the distance…. the deep velvet near black, midnight blue sky twinkles with stars.

So it seems.



indigo blue green collage, midnight blue acrylics on paper, debiriley.com
Midnight Dreams: indigo collage


Midnight Dreams

In my last post, I did promise a little more interesting “Title.”

Sometimes, artists do dream and then create.

So it was.

I didn’t capture the precise dream like qualities.

But I did convey the colors in the dream.


The Midnight Dream is expressed as:

A collage with torn papers and acrylic paints.

Indigo blue transitions to cobalt, then cerulean.

Finally the surface is bared with whites upon the foreground’s stark shape.



What, is it?

The shapes are vague.



I think, I’ll encourage your own imaginations to take over.

To imagine, what it could be. 

In your mind,  your dreams.



The theme of “dreams” has come in handy;

with  Watercolor  Daydreams II  and   Just Daydreams preceding this post & painting.


I just really, like the colors.

Indigo. Cerulean.  Prussian blue.   And those gorgeous blends of greens.



Design Elements

I enjoy this movement, direction, pathway the painting takes.

A little journey.

Upper left to centre.

Flowing downwards in a smooth diagonal path.


Atwell Students might also notice the other feature that plays such a major role here.

The tonal values, are plentiful.


The smooth gradation of tones from near black at the top, to the white at the base.

That’s what is guiding the viewer’s eye.

Its this,

that makes the viewer’s eye roam,  travel through the painting so easily.


And so, even if one  can’t quite pin down

what the painting represents exactly –

still, we can enjoy the journey it has taken us on.


In those Midnight Dreams. 



Color-filled Textures!  Watercolor class lesson #6

Color-filled Textures! Watercolor class lesson #6

Color and Texture:  Watercolor Class Lesson #6.

It was pure fun.  I always thoroughly enjoy this topic and technique.

We played with paints, palette knives, pastes, gels on sturdy boards.

We turned plain old  ‘normal’  watercolor, into a Unique Creative Adventure.


Is what I’m talking about!


creative textures in watercolor, using gel for textures, blue craggy abstracts, debi riley art, Perth gallery art lessons, debiriley.com
Creative Watercolor Textures, molding paste and impasto gel






Yes.  We used Acrylic products, for use with Watercolors!

Impasto gel  and Molding paste. 

They are so exciting, so versatile, I do love them.

They unleash your Imagination.

I’ll tell you how……



creative watercolor techniques, cobalt teal blue paint, debiriley.com, watercolor art lessons free
Creative Watercolor textures



Texture: its Function 

Creating Texture in the painting…. what purpose does it serve? 

What locations does it best serve in?   


Texture Effects will help the artist to create depth, dimension, perspective, form and space. 


Texture creates visual “Interest,” preventing the painting from being boring,  from monotony.


Selective Texture,  is especially useful in capturing and holding the viewer’s interest.

Place the Texture in preplanned Select areas.  Areas you have targeted for the viewer to look at,  then you create more contrast and texture in that area.


Art Basics.  Its a good idea to try to remember the basic guidelines.

… A regular painting will generally have a background, middle ground, foreground, and focal point;  and how Texture increases coming forward, into the front.      





Progress – with Different, New Ideas

Using  Watercolors, doesn’t automatically  mean you must only use watercolor paint products. 

There is no “rule” stating your paintings must be pure watercolor paint only.   

Using Watercolors,  doesn’t rule out creating Textural surfaces with mixed media, or acrylic mediums. 

Take your art to the next level. 

Expand,  to include the possibilities of  alternatives, taking you beyond The Beginner levels.  Go ahead, try out the the textural gels and pastes. 




Preparing the Surface

Before we apply the Texture gels and paste, the surface (in this case a wood board) needs primed.

By that, I mean triple coating with gesso.  Making sure the masonite wood board is 100% covered up and completely white. Do the sides as well.

Allow it to dry in between coats.

The masonite board is Ideal.

These boards are sturdy, (vs paper or the warp-able thin card canvases.)

They will uphold the weight of the textural mediums applied so lavishly and vigorously.   


Once the gesso is dry, apply the gel or paste using the palette knife.

Be very Generous, with the gel and paste.

Don’t try to make a “tiny bit” cover the entire board;  scraping it across, till there is no texture left at all. That won’t work.

Go on ……    S l a t h e r     it   on!


As previously mentioned,   I recommend palette knife pk1008 

Dick Blick Comfort handle style 62    soft handle



cool purple watercolor textures, viridian green, teal, debiriley.com
Cool and Purple watercolor over impasto gel


Impasto gel

This will dry clear or nearly clear. 

You will see whatever has been painted underneath.   


So if you think about it, this could work well in many instances.  An underlying ‘not quite resolved’ image, can be covered with the gel and then repainted in areas. With thick goauche, or inks, or acrylics.  


Impasto gel, acts more like the slippery, slick Yupo paper;  the paint will slip off easily. 

debi riley free watercolor art lessons, watercolor and impasto gel techniques
Impasto gel with watercolor stained on top


To counteract this slick attribute, try using either of these techniques:  


A. staining paints and rubbing the paints into the board

B. Gouache White, Opaque paints which will adhere better than the others as they are thicker, denser,  ie more like acrylics       


A bonus, is it that it is so easy to Simply – rinse off and start all over again!!        



masonite wood board art paintings, watercolor and impasto
masonite board,  watercolors over molding paste textures



Molding Paste 

This used to be called Modelling paste.


I used Heavy molding paste.

This will dry off-white and matte,  slightly gritty with a tooth to it; it is ‘absorbent.’   


watercolor landscape trees, with texture, debiriley.com
Watercolor with molding paste


Watercolors applied to the molding paste textured board – acts a lot like a Fresco

Paints are quieted, dulled a tone, slightly less saturated.

But with a lovely old world feel to them, from my perspective. 


Paints are best applied, poured on Or squeezed on… not ‘brushed’ on 

Its not a surface to dob, dab, fiddle about. 


Paints will not wash right off  – the surface is too Absorbent.

But some of the color, will rinse off. Maybe 80% or so. 





Application of the Texture Medium

I prefer applying molding paste randomly.

Freely. Loosely. With my fabulous palette knife. 

Slather the paste on. As if it was meringue.

Don’t be ‘miserly.’


craggy tactile texture in watercolour using molding paste, debiriley.com
A Mountain… emerged from the molding paste textures



You can experiment the textures, by laying a paper onto the paste then lifting, for some fun random foliage like patterns   

With both The Impasto and The Moulding paste,  they must be super dry before any attempt is made to paint.      

If, or when you reach a point watercolors aren’t working for you on them;  they are ready for Acrylics to be painted on. Or mixed media.         You can also re gesso   and reapply the paste.     



cobalt teal and rose watercolor abstract, creative texture techniques, watercolor lesson for beginners, debiriley.com
let the dust settle, teal and rose


Rewards  of Impasto Gel and Molding Paste   

I like using these as wonderful imagination builders. 


Once colors are on and dry;  “things & shapes” begin to emerge. 

Don’t be hasty. 

Allow. This process to happen.   

Things will come forth.   If you allow the Time. 


Perhaps a flower may peer out eventually. 

Or there could be a tree, a leaf, a mountain and sky….. you just never know! 


It keeps you guessing. 

It keeps you looking forward to something – 



The excitement of the Surprise, that these colors and Textures gift you with,  is almost free.      



watercolor beginner lessons color and texture, debiriley.com, Perth art classes creative watercolor, debiriley.com
wonderful white cliffs, the water below….  gouache and a light molding paste


Which Brand you ask?

Golden brand is the one I can always recommend.

It has never, let me down.

It performs brilliantly.

There are, of course many others in a wide range of prices.

I’ve experimented with nearly every brand!


In the many example shown, I have used several brands.  I found each brand has its own characteristics.  One might be toothy and gritty, the other… not so much. One might be translucent. The other, more satin.



Golden’s very useful website page describes their products.

Providing you with a Treasure Trove of great information on the texture mediums, (gels, molding paste, impasto, etc.) and how to use them.

No.  I get no ‘kick back’  rewards, payments of any sort whatsoever for my recommendation for this product.

Or for that matter, any other product I’ve suggested to you.

If I’ve assessed a product and then recommend it as being the most helpful for you; I do not want monetary gain,  to be an influencing factor.

Golden is certainly on the higher end on the budget. But, helpfulness, reliability and  a student’s consistent,  improved results has Value and Worth.





Do Your Own Thing, while creating bold color filled watercolors,  layered up with texture!   



Palette Knife Acrylic Abstract… “Scorched Wings of Icarus”

Palette Knife Acrylic Abstract… “Scorched Wings of Icarus”

I prefer the title, “Scorched Wings of Icarus.”

How about you?



palette knife acrylic abstract, Greek mythology, Icarus, inspirations to paint, debiriley.com
Scorched Wings of Icarus,      palette knife acrylic abstract


Palette Knife Abstract

I know which title is more ‘relatable,’  more ‘informative’  to the reader.

But which one is likely to generate more,  readers’  interest?   

Readers’  Curiosity?



Scorched Wings of Icarus

How is anyone supposed to figure out what’s actually in the post with a title like that?!

Interesting, but too abstract and open ended, maybe so.

But secretly,  I like this title far better.


I know, I know!!   You’re an artist, creative, imaginative. And your mind just works that way.

I can hear you,  say these things.

As well as,  “We want to know what we’re  clicking on, First!”


I understand……….




Painting Inspirations:

This abstract was inspired and influenced by a few things, people and articles I’ve been reading recently.

As follows:


David Kanigan Miracle. All of It. 

This photograph  with the blazing scarlet sun and the excerpt from Franz Kafka speaking of  ‘flying too close.’

Yes.  They were definitely  influencers.

David Kanigan seems to always come up with some thing,  new or intriguing, or uplifting or just plain humorous for his readers.

Check out his website,  I love his writing –  he writes really well.

Anyway. Go look through his posts.

Be uplifted. Laugh. Smile. Cry. Be humbled. Breathe in Life.




Aquileana  at La Audacia de Aquiles   an  impressive website focusing on Mythology.  Making it modern, entertaining, easy to read,  and Fun!

I’ve been reading her articles for quite some time and always, look forward to the extremely comprehensive and educated efforts she puts forth.

Referenced, with photographs, art works, historical sources, collaborations,etc.,   my  5 Star website to go to for mythology info.

I’ve been especially interested most recently in The Titans.

Who they were, there origins, and who came before them.

Aquileana’s site provides revealing glimpses into the mythical lives of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, The Titans, Olympians, The Muses, The Furies and more.  All, richly described in intimate and living color.


A revealing  read,      Icarus’ Fall….    



Matthew Snowden, palette knife  Artist

The knife can be a blessing or … not.

Beginners often go in too heavy handed.

However that is certainly not the case with Snowden.

He uses the palette knife with sensitivity. Delicacy.

And a Bold Decisiveness where and when it it called for. I most definitely enjoyed his paintings, the slathering on of paint, the sure and swift marks made with the knife.

So strong. So beautiful.




And the last influence.

I needed a brief respite.

As I’m still  plugging away at my rather large post describing/explaining the Zen art “Enso.”


I almost, want to bin it.

But no I won’t, too much is invested now.

You’ll see it, then probably wish you hadn’t,  its way too long!




Partner Posts for   Palette Knife Abstract

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palette knife     Those Painted Hills 




Little Bit of Sunshine

Little Bit of Sunshine

Loveliness and Sunshine!

expressing mood through color, mixed media floral paintings, colorful orange pink flower art, debiriley.com
Sunshine… in a flower



Painting Techniques and Materials



I used Saunders rough watercolor paper, dampened.

There were 7 sheets about 1/4 sheet and 1/8 sheet sizes lines up for me to use.

I need to paint quantity; production method in order for me to NOT fiddle and over work my paintings.

Thats what it takes, so thats what I do!




Rose madder genuine watercolor was washed on in 3-4 places, lightly.

Mainly, because I just like the Rose aroma that it releases, to be honest.


Acrylics were white, naples yellow, quinacridone rose, orange, crimson.


And lastly,

Indian red acrylic ink for final accent touches.




The tools used were: a palette knife pk1008,  a skewer, hake brush.

Plus,  my hand and finger to smudge and soften edges as needed.



Really, all I wanted to do, to convey was floral sunshine – happiness and cheerfulness.

That was, the target goal.


I enjoyed the movement, the freedom, the “lack of rigidity” this piece has.

So overall, I’m content.





I must say that of all the tools, brushes, etc. on the market to use to paint with,

the one I always return to with the most enthusiasm and excitement

is the wonderful Palette Knife PK1008


I seem to always be just a little bit sunnier, right after having the total freedom of using PK1008.


Posts on Palette Knife

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Mixed Up media

Mixed Up media

Words and letters lie scattered upon the Acrylic painting. Mixed up.

The letters’ dark hard edges  in sharp contrast to the enveloping pinks, oranges, scarlet and salmons of the background.


mixed media in pink and orange, acrylic contemporary art, using words in paintings, debiriley.com
Mixed up media


Acrylic Mixed Media

Its a mixed media piece;  begun with watercolor, adding some textures and finishing with acrylics.

Fairly large at 22 x 30 inches, its a full sheet.

I haven’t used many colors, keeping the palette to prussian and indigo blue with the pink, orange and rose.




New Art Destinations…

Its not a typical approach for me. Its very different.


But, by going to new travel destinations on occasion, it helps me develop further.

To stretch.

It helps to broaden my horizons and appreciation of new forms of art.

To not stay stuck in my comfortable artistic rut, creating the same thing, week after week.



Surprising Outcomes

I enjoy this image, though I didn’t think I would.

The text, the words and letters, randomly falling and all mixed up – look intriguing.

It may not be ‘my thing,’ no.

I’m not on the “Text bandwagon” for good.

But I certainly will be tempted to do more in this style, (on occasion) in the future.



Materials Used

Watercolor Paper 22 x30 inches 300 gsm recycled and gessoed Saunders

watercolor permanent rose washes

Stencils letters and circle patterns

acrylics white, indigo, prussian, rose, scarlet, orange

old brushes and house paint brush 

palette knife 




Those Painted Hills

Those Painted Hills

When words of a poet long passed, stir the artist’s soul to create… Create!


poetic interpretation, painted hill, Edwin Curran poet, abstract landscape in color, debiriley.com
Painted Hills, poetic interpretation



Paint the Hills

Inspired with visions created within my mind, of granite layers and colors everywhere.

I’ve interpreted   the poet’s words that paint.

In my own way, impulsively and without thought, this time.




Let go and …


I’m merely responding.

In a  quick flurry.

Of colors. Of strokes that wildly form the hill shape in slashing layers of paint.





Edwin Curran.

A magician with words.

The Painted Hills of Arizona.….. you can read it in my yesterday’s post and perhaps you will see how I was so inspired.







I chose to use white, black, scarlet red, turquoise blue acrylics.

4 very Strong colors, but no more.

(The scarlet red, is powerful. Even a thin line of red can dominate.)

That was plenty.

When the action and the movement of the brush or palette knife is going to be vigorous and lively, I need to at least, limit the colors used.


I used an acrylic paper pad primed for oils and acrylics.

When it was finished, I put a layer of gloss medium over the top to seal it.