Annie O’Brien Gonzales doesn’t just love to paint—she enjoys sharing her knowledge and advice with anyone who has the same passion. We’re thrilled to feature Annie as our Artist of the Month for March, and show you her great techniques, projects, and ideas for mixed-media painting. Annie believes that anyone can paint, and she encourages people to take chances and try new things in order to find their own creative voice.
These five favorite techniques from Annie are perfect for artists at all levels, but they merely scratch the surface of what she has to offer. Please check out her articles, books, and videos for more how-tos, guidance, and inspiration!
1. You catch a glimpse of a stunning floral arrangement and make a mental note of the colors and composition. A day later it’s forgotten, and that painting you planned based on that arrangement probably won’t happen. But with a Painting Notes Sketchbook, all would not be lost. Creating a sketchbook to house ideas, design and color samples, and anything else that catches your fancy means that you’ll have inspiration at your fingertips anytime you want to create. In her new book The Joy of Acrylic Painting, Annie explains that it’s all about creating “a personal library of ideas,” and this working tool is meant to be just that—a practical repository of ideas. All you need is a sketchbook, pens and colored pencils or markers, scissors and tape, and you’re good to go!
In the book, Annie shows several pages from her own notebooks, which are filled with paper swatches, rough sketches, notes, and magazine photos. A little bit of discipline is all it takes to keep this notebook up to date, and you’ll no doubt find it an invaluable resource when you want to create something, especially when your muse is on hiatus.
2. Mixed-media artists love to use recycled materials in their artwork. This technique is not only good for the planet, it’s good for stretching creative muscles, too. In the article “Upcycled Paintings” in the September/October 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Annie builds a mixed-media piece that incorporates pieces of her own recycled paintings. “The best advice I was given while learning to paint,” she writes, “was to paint a lot.” This results, however, in “piles of experiments and failed attempts that get stashed in closets and under beds.” No more! Free those less-than-stellar artworks and reuse them in a new painting.
Annie uses the pieces as raw materials for collage, cutting up paintings on canvas into shapes to use in a new painting. In the article, she explains how to prepare the new substrate with acrylic paint, sketch a composition with dry pastel, and assemble the pieces into a cohesive arrangement. “It’s very freeing to repurpose those disappointing pieces,” she says. “Once you shift to viewing them as raw materials rather than failed experiments, they take on a whole new life.”
3. Some of the best advice for abstract painting techniques is included in Annie’s article “Abstract Intuitive Painting” in the November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. When starting a piece, Annie turns on her favorite music to keep her in a left-brain intuitive state, and makes marks on her canvas using the elements of color, shape, and line. That, she says, “starts a dialog between the painting and me.” She begins adding layers, reacting to what’s in front of her, and not evaluating the results. This part of the process should be fun and judgment-free. She gives herself time—days, in fact—to work on a painting, coming back to it with fresh eyes that allow her to assess what it needs. This approach takes the uncertainty out of how to build an abstract painting, leaving you free to create and learn throughout the process.
4. Acrylic paint is a mainstay of mixed-media art, but so many of us use paint right out of the tube, not sure how to create custom colors that can set our work apart. In her book Bold Expressive Painting, Annie devotes several pages to color-mixing techniques. But don’t worry, this isn’t boring stuff. You’ll have fun creating color wheels and analogous and complementary palettes, and even learn easy ways to create beautiful neutrals. She encourages artists to keep notes of their color explorations, and includes her own charts that she references when painting. Who knew there were that many incredible variations of green?
Annie even includes a fun color grid painting project, so you can turn your experiments into a piece of art.
5. If you paint something you don’t like, you can always recycle it (see #2). But sometimes artwork is salvageable, and in The Joy of Acrylic Painting, Annie offers great painting techniques for fixing a piece that, as she says, “just isn’t working.” One idea is to add a glaze over the canvas, a mix of fluid transparent acrylic paint and glazing liquid, in a warm or cool tone. She shows how to apply the mixture with a brush, and how to remove some of the color if it’s too intense. Annie even includes her favorite Golden Artist Colors fluid acrylic shades that she considers “magical” for their transformative properties, such as Phthalo Turquoise, Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, and Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide.
These painting techniques are sure to give your artwork a boost, so try them the next time you put paint to canvas. Annie knows it’s all about enjoying the process, and with these tips and more, you will!
For more information on how to create a Painting Notes Sketchbook, check out this guest blog from Annie!