Advanced Painting With Acrylics

Click here for Advanced Painting With Acrylics Lesson Five

Class Four: Advanced Painting With Acrylics Guidelines For Showing Your Work

Traditionally, paintings have been judged by certain criteria, however, today, the criteria is not so standardized. You may have found out that galleries have their own criteria for accepting the work of artists based on saleability within the gallery's market

Large exhibits and juried art shows follow the guidelines of whoever is judging and depending upon who that is, the guidelines can represent many differing preferences and interpretations. For example, it is highly unlikely that a gallery that shows contemporary work will want traditional paintings. A small, local gallery will be more receptive to the work of local artists, whereas a prestigious city gallery will want well-known artists on their roster.

Looking At Art

There are, however, some general factors that exist to aid in judging artwork. These are the rules of what has traditionally been called aesthetics. Originally aesthetics was the study of beauty and the principles that comprised beauty. These days, beauty may or may not be a viable criteria for a painting

Knowing these rules does not in any way guarantee that an artist's work will be accepted by a gallery, art show, competition, fair, exhibition, etc. The true value of knowing the basics of aesthetics is that an artist then has an expanded knowledge of the physical and visual structure of a painting and a good frame of reference for reviewing their own artwork as well as other artwork.

Aesthetics is a broad and dense study, but here, I will set down very briefly some basic principles that will help you see your work and other artwork in formal terms. There are many good books on the subject you will want to read. Below, I have listed books that I frequently recommend for my students to read.

"Composition In Art," by Henry Rankin

"A Painter's Guide To Design and Composition," by Margot Schulzke

"Color," by Betty Edwards

"Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," by Betty Edwards

"Art and Visual Perception," by Rudolf Arnheim

A Refresher On Composition

I have found that at this juncture, in the last classes with advanced painting students, a refresher on some painting basics is helpful. By this time, most students have advanced in their skills and personal style and are feeling stable and positive about their progress. So a return to some elementary principles has the effect of giving students an overview of their development from their beginning painting experience to entering into advanced status.

Below are examples of my "nitty-gritty basics" that I present to students as a common gauge with which to measure their development, or as I sometimes put it, how far they have come in their art learning journey. Students often find this return to basics refreshing and realize that they are, for the most part, incorporating the concepts of composition, design and technique in their work.


The elements of a painting, be it abstract or realistic, cause the viewer's eye to move in a certain way. Figures arranged in a triangle will move the viewer's eye in that way. Two circles, one small and one large, will cause the viewer's eye to see one as in the distance and the other up front. In a landscape, our eyes may move from large trees in front and down a road, visually journeying. When composing a painting, an artist is aware of how the elements will cause the viewer's eye to move. acrylic,painting

Three figures of different sizes -- the eye moves in a triangle from foreground to background and from object to object.

The larger circle appears to be in the foreground and the smaller circle appears to be in the background.


The road, which is at a diagonal, leads our eye from the foreground to the background. We visually walk down the road into the distance.

Light And Shadow:

We tend to see light or lighter colors advancing toward us and darker colors receding. Light and shadow are interactive in that lighter colors emphasize dark areas and darker colors emphasize lighter areas. The interplay of tonalities enriches color and volume. To use all dark color or all light colors flattens the composition and creates a much shallower space.


The white ball appears to be closer than the black ball. The balls are the same size.

Design: What It Means Today

How the artist puts together color and shape in a painting is a process of design. It can be done unconsciously or consciously depending on the style of painting. Although traditionally there are extensive hierarchies of good and bad design principles, these days, successful design refers to how close the painting comes to the artist's intent.

Technique: What It Means Today

There are many classifications for techniques in painting: impasto, glazing, scumbling, masking, feathering--just to touch on some for brushwork and use of paint. Technique can also refer to individual style, use of color and interpretation of subject matter. Technique is ever-expanding in definition as new materials, concepts and painting methods are discovered. Again, successful technique is today, closely related to the purposes of the artist.

A Word About Permanence

Traditionally, in painting, permanence was a very important criteria. Artists made their own paints, monitoring the purity and quality of the pigments. Today, permanence is not so important, although commercial painting mediums such as acrylic paints are notably permanent and the colors are always improving. Quality canvases and brushes, as you have learned by now, come in many styles and qualities. All tend to be, for the most part, long-lasting and well made.

Again, permanence is a personal artistic determination today. In contemporary art, a work may be permanent or not. For example, performance art is as permanent as its production. Many artists these days work in very temporal media: earth, water, fire, for example, which are subject to constant change.

Ultimately, I tell my students that studying aesthetics and art history will help them place themselves within the framework of traditional and contemporary art. It is well worth their while to know how traditional art forms developed and what is happening in the art world today.

In retrospect, today's artists are relatively unencumbered by the rules and regulations of the past with regard to how a painting should look and how long it should last. The contemporary artist may be involved with multi-media or conceptual expression. Many creative venues today don't even have a category and as artists research new frontiers of creativity, judging criteria becomes more specific and, in some cases, applicable to one artwork.

My "Last Lecture:"

Learning Acrylic Painting from Beginning, to Intermediate to Advanced levels is a funnel-like process--a small area at first, concentrating on specific skill exercises and lessons for technique, then opening slowly to introduce more and more skills and techniques and working towards the development of a personal style.

Advanced painting is the widest part of the funnel, where the student has all of the skills and techniques at hand and begins to choose which skill and technique works best towards their personal style.

In the last lessons of Advanced Acrylic Painting, the funnel walls break away and a vista of personal growth and progress is now open to the student. For some students, this is an exciting time, as the tethers of the art instruction process fall away and they are free to do whatever they want. For other students, this can be a bit scary, as the comfort of classes is ended and they are on their own.

The migration of the student to a personal studio or work space signals a mastery of painting skills and a maturity of development which will make the student a true artist.

Do you revel in the fresh wind of freedom sweeping past you on this vast plain, or does the open space look a bit daunting? However you may feel, there is one thing that you must keep in mind--that is to always promise yourself that you will make time to paint, to be faithful to your skills and to always enjoy your art learning process.

Real Feedback

I work for a Recreation & Parks Department and I was online searching for some art projects to use for our summer day camp program (and secretly for myself to satisfy the little artist in me!) I look forward to taking some of your online lessons.



I'm 50 and going to retire soon. I always wanted to be able to draw so now is the time. I saw your website and you sent me the classes link.What you said about my work I sent you was right on!

Much improved, I'm hummin'!

Mac B, Toledo, Ohio


Hello, I have been drawing portraits lately and feel your crosshatching method has been very helpful! My shading has improved immensely!I will work on the line drawing as soon as I have time! Rose


My eight year old son likes to draw. You sent me the drawing lessons and I am helping him with them. We are having fun and hey, guess what, I'm learning to draw too!

Helga V, Sweden


You said everybody can draw, even if they can't draw a straight line. So I am working on how you told me to do the still life and really am having fun! Just want you to know I'm drawing and shading and love it!


Quotes from famous artists from

"It took me 40 years to find out that painting is not sculpture." Paul Cezanne

"I am out to introduce a psychic shock into my painting, one that is always motivated by pictorial reasoning: that is to say, a fourth dimension." Marc Chagall

"At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since." Salvador Dali

"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself." "Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master." Leonardo da Vinci

"Cezanne, you see, is a sort of God of painting." Henri Matisse

"Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment." Claude Monet

"Every good painter paints what he is."Jackson Pollock

"Practise what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know." Rembrandt van Rijn

"The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting." Vincent Van Gogh

"Why do people think artists are special? It's just another job."

"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches." Andy Warhol

"I had reservations about making art a business, but I got over it."

"There are not only more people collecting, there are more people collecting for the wrong reasons, basically as the latest get rich quick scheme. They buy art like lottery tickets." Mary Boone (art collector and gallery owner)

"Warhol turned to photographs of stars, as the Renaissance turned to antiquities, to find images of gods." David Sylvester (art critic)