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Art making meets the scientific method

Frequently with art making an assumption is made that all us artists just mess about in our studios and magically produce works. What is not widely known, as artists hone our skills there is a ton of prototyping and testing going on…essentially we utilize the scientific method to find the optimum use of the supplies we have!

tint test board

For instance…if I wanted to tint a clear acrylic polymer to mimic the look of beeswax to create a layered piece that is reminiscent of  encaustic without all the toxic exposure just what would you tint with?  How much paint should you use to tint?  The means to the answer is simple…creating test boards!

Here’s the outcome of the test I did to find the answer.  I tried a few different colors (iridescent gold, raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber, iridescent copper, iridescent bronze, micaceous iron oxide, and nickel azo yellow) and found that dipping just the tip of my palate knife into the color was more than enough…in fact sometimes that had to be cut further…but the secret was to get a mixture that was about the color density of mayonnaise.

Another test I did was to understand how the matting agent used in acrylic affected paint clarity.  matting agent test boardI took several different clear gels and polymers I had and created another test board, this time on a black matte board so I could see the matting agent if any.  The best part of this is that the amount you need to use is tiny compared to the time savings this type of testing gives you.  At a glance you can see exactly how matting agents affect clarity…so a single layer will probably not impact the image however several layers of matte would start to give a frosted effect – which is either something you want or don’t – but definitely important to understand before you start incorporating into your work. And of course while creating the tests it is important to label them, as at the time you may remember exactly what you used…but this test board can be saved for reference and I know I won’t remember the colors I used just by looking at them even just a few days later let alone a few years. This is the type of testing I am using frequently while working on my “My Dreams Are Blue” series – major progress update next week as the shipment of paint has arrived at my studio 🙂

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