Review of The Acrylic Painter: Tools and Techniques for the Most Versatile Medium
James Van Patten, a local to Seattle, Washington, graduated from the University of Washington in 1965 with a BA in art education. When I first picked up Patten’s book ‘the Acrylic Painter’ I didn’t know I’d be learning from such an amazing teacher, as well as one who once lived only a couple hours from myself. It’s no wonder Patten eventually became inspired by water and wetlands, as there is an abundance of that here in Oregon/Washington! Of course, I didn’t find out I was learning from a local until the end of his book. The reason I chose Patten’s book is all in the name, “the Acrylic Painter: Tools and techniques for the most versatile medium”. Acrylic paint was the first paint I ever touched, mostly due to it being the most commonly used paint for beginning painters. Unfortunately, without doing the research yourself, you won’t realize just how complex this paint can be. Looking back now, I don’t see how I could have gone any further into my career as an artist without this book.
I first thought of acrylics as the easy option for artists. I mean, you look at the price alone and you’re going to get more bang for your buck with acrylics. So that is where I started, before I began to learn the many frustrations that comes with working with acrylics. As a self-taught artist, I didn’t have the schooling and teachers to grow me in the art of working with acrylics. No one was there tell me that acrylics dry so fast, or that you shouldn’t pour more then you need to work with at that time, or that there are additives you can mix into it to slow the drying process. Books soon became my teachers, and believe me, I’ve read a lot. Up until Patten’s book, almost every book I picked up felt like a really boring art class. Reading through these books just wasn’t an option as much as I tried. Patten’s book was one of two books on acrylic’s that I fell in love with from the moment I turned the first page. For an entire summer it became my life source. His book answered so many questions about acrylics that I’ve had over the years, and taught me so many tricks of the trade that have opened new doors for me as a painter.
What I loved first about his book was how Patten doesn’t just speak about acrylic paints generically. As an artist, the first question that runs through my mind when I meet another artist is, “What brand of paint do you use?”. I get kinda nosy and want to learn which brand, body, and consistency they prefer. Patten touches on this subject from the get go. I was soon pleasantly surprised to find my paints of choice are right up there with Patten’s. Through his teachings I have become so much more familiar and comfortable working with my paints. I no longer look at paint additives like their foreign objects, or look at the more expensive brands of paint like they’re too far out of my league. Learning to use your paint right makes a difference in whether or not you will become a successful artist in both product and profit. (Better product and less waste.) With the proper palette and formula, my paint has come to last so much longer.
My second biggest curiosity when I meet an artist is their brushes. A brush to an artist is like an extension of their own hand. As a beginner, your standing in the paint isle at Michael’s and you’re staring at the brushes thinking, “What does it all mean!?!” The fibers, the shapes, the angles, and the brands! Even to this day, I mostly make my decision using my own imagination and observation. I basically run the brush across my hand and watch the movement of the fibers and say, “Yup! Looks about right…” Patten dedicates an entire chapter to palettes and brushes, and it’s just beautiful! The same benefit that comes from choosing a proper brand of paint comes when choosing a proper brush. Better product and a longer lifespan. You aren’t replacing brushes every couple weeks, or finding fibers glued to your canvas. You’re getting finer, straighter lines, and less unwanted lines.
Just the same, I could go on and on about each chapter following, but I think you get the gist. From painting surfaces, to learning what gesso really is and what it’s used for, to color theory and finding out that the color wheel doesn’t just consist of primary and secondary colors, and finally the proper way to finish and present your art, he literally touches on everything. James Van Patten makes the world of acrylics so much bigger, especially for a small artist like myself. I honestly can’t thank him enough for what this book did for me this summer. I have a lot more confidence in my knowledge and the choices I make as an artist, and it’s already showing in my work. I’ve ventured out to Michael’s (to my husbands dismay, ha!) and have slowly started adding products to my studio. I would honestly suggest this book to any artist, even if it’s just for the purpose of a great reference book. James Patten’s advice and experience alone makes it worth the read.
-I received this book for free through blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.