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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.


Cute As A Button Tree (example)

Cute As A Button Tree (example)

So I finally opened shop! My nerves are on edge as I think about actually taking on this journey of painting for complete strangers. I’m excited, cause this is really what I want to do. I want to use my talents, I want to live out my passions, and I know this is going to move a lot faster then me finishing a novel, LOL.

The “Cute As A Button Tree” was one I designed and painted for my niece for her birthday. I was super excited when adding the buttons, loving how it turned out. It was that moment that I decided I was going to start my shop. I wanted to make more of these, and to start selling my work.

I have three works in progress, with hopes to have more original pieces for sale, although I will be doing custom work. But I look forward to doing special pieces, that come from the heart, and putting them up for sell to share that heart work with others.

I look forward to growing my talent, building my shop, and going bigger and better! I want to start doing bigger canvases, more extreme pieces, more room for more detail, and providing for my customers beautiful pieces that will make an impact in their lives.

I love getting to share my artwork, and look forward to posting those pieces to come. 🙂

The Purple Grace Tree

The Purple Grace Tree

As I work towards opening my Etsy shop, I decide it would be worth it to share with you one of the items that will be up for sale there, not because I’m in any way advertising, but because I love getting to come on here and share with you my most recent paintings.

I thought at first that this would go up for sale as a fingerprint tree, but then after finally finishing this painting I decided that I would leave it up to the buyer to decide. I think this would create a beautiful fingerprint tree, but also is a wonderful piece all in itself.

This would be the first of my paintings I’ve ever sold, and I’m actually really nervous about it. I’ve only ever given paintings away to family, and although they were great pieces of work (some of my personal best) I fear my work being good enough to sell to a complete.

My Purple Grace Tree is a twelve by sixteen acrylic on flat canvas, and is probably one of my most favorite pieces. Although almost all my trees turn out to be favorites of mine, I just love the colors and the way they complement each other.

Although the picture I took makes the background look more pink then white, it’s actually mostly blue and white background, with a slight pink hue around the curls. I still need to find a room in my house, with lots of natural light, to photograph my artwork. I also live in Oregon, and we get little natural sunlight, even now. (Yes, it’s june, but it’s cloudy and raining, lol)

My hope with my Etsy shop is to sell already created artwork, although I would love to do personalized pieces. I guess you can call me a timid artist, for even though I would love to do for my buyers what I do for family, I am also a perfectionist, and want to provide for them an amazing painting, and fear not being able to provide that.

I know I need to just have courage, and trust in the gift God gave me. I will never settle on a painting not worthy of ones wedding, shower, party, event, or special occasion. I love what I do, and wish to do nothing else (well…that is other then writing). I can’t wait to get started my shop, and start making more beautiful paintings. 🙂

Golfing Donald