How can we see the episodes of your “Colour In Your Life” shows?

Lucy and Barry have filmed their latest episodes for the show “Colour In Your Life”.
Here are the links; For Lucy’s episode
Barry’s is here.

If you missed their first lot of shows, you can view the episodes at the “Colour in Your Life” website www.colourinyourlife.com.au or via the following links;


Could you please let me know the colours you use for your acrylic palette?


Why do you paint on a grey coloured palette?

By using the grey or mid tone palette it allows us to judge our values better. We can compare the newly mixed colour to the mid tone of the palette and assess if it has to be lighter or darker and this in turn speeds up our colour mixing process. It also allows us to see if the mix is transparent or opaque.

You paint on canvas that is not stretched over a stretcher frame or glued to a backboard. Could you please describe your process and how do you then frame this?

We cut the canvas to size off a roll and are then free to adjust the size or format according to the design of the painting and not restricted to a predetermined size. This is then taped to a backing board with masking tape with a 2 inch border. This border is allowed for the framer to be able to stretch at a later date. After the painting is completed and dry it is varnished and sent to the framer to be put on a stretcher frame and then can be put into a frame with a slip just like an oil painting.

Could you please tell me about the tool you use to apply masking fluid onto your watercolour paintings?

Yes, it is just a scrap piece of 640gsm cotton watercolour paper cut into 1 inch or 2.5 cm strips about 3 inches long or 7.5 cm and cut straight across at the bottom edge and cut to a point at the other end. The reason we use this tool is because masking fluid can ruin your brushes and tends to gather in the ferrule and with this tool, you can still produce both thick and thin shapes and when the masking fluid is dry on this tool, you simple rub it off. Another good option is a pastel burnishing tool with the angled rubber tip.

Why do you choose to use acrylic paints over oils?

For me, when painting in oils, the time needed for an oil painting to dry is frustrating. I also find the smell of the paints and mediums very strong and I get a headache when I use them in doors. So now I choose to paint using acrylics. I would like to dispel the myth that acrylic paints are an inferior medium to oil paints and demonstrate how acrylics can have a classical or traditional oil-like look and that they are not just the medium used for contemporary art practices.

Acrylics have proven to be extremely versatile and the different application is only limited to your imagination. I have used them as a watercolour in the past and now use them to create an oil-like look to my work.

Acrylic paints are generally non-toxic and dry quickly and are water soluble when wet. They are non-yellowing, flexible, and durable and resist the effects of ageing such as brittleness, wrinkling or cracking. The colours are permanent, and once dry cannot be re-wet, so artists can quickly build layers of paint without fear of removing the previous layer.

The hardest part of adjusting from painting in oils to painting in acrylics was trying to keep my paint and mixes wet and achieve a soft edge to a shape after some time had passed. I have found that soft edges are more difficult to achieve with acrylics and hard edges are more difficult to achieve with oils.

So how do you control the drying time of acrylic paints?

The way I have control over the drying time of my acrylic paints is by painting smaller shapes and using a “transitional value” to link these shapes, using a retarder in my paint mixes, and by using a moist airtight container to store my squeezed out paints in.

The way I paint is similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle. This is done by placing in one correct piece at a time using an already correctly place piece to help with the placement of the next piece. Patches of colour are laid down one piece at a time and usually painted “inside-out”, starting with the item and moving out to the background. This is done not only as a way to control the drying time of the acrylic paints but also my tones and create the illusion of form and to make the end result look “painterly” because I take care of my edges while the paint is still wet on these small shapes. These patches of colour are placed or positioned in a similar way to the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They are joined together but not necessarily blended.

By painting in this method, I feel that I am in control of the medium and it is not in control of me. The drying time for acrylics is so much faster than oils and this is the challenging part of painting with this medium. You no longer have days to adjust tones or edges but mere minutes, so some fancy dancing has to be done in order to adjust a patch of colour in time. I love that African proverb “smooth seas do not make a skillful sailor”.

What is a Transitional value?

“Transitional values” are the values that link or join two different values together, like a middle value between them. I also prefer the painterly or “loose” look this method produces as opposed to an over blended look which can happen when painting in oils. Using a transitional value is a great way to create the illusion of blending or linking a shape together even after the shapes have dried.

Transitional values help create the illusion of form and shows the viewer how light travels or moves over a shape creating the illusion of reality. Using Transitional values has the same effect of blending or feathering, which is, making the shape appear smooth, round or have a soft edge but with a more “painterly” look.

What are the other ways you control the drying time of acrylic paints?

The other ways I control the drying time of my acrylic paints is by using a retarder in my paint mixes and by using a moist airtight container to store my squeezed out paints in.

A retarder is an acrylic medium (sometimes called a Slow Drying Medium) that when added to the acrylic paints slows down their drying time and keeps them “open” or “workable” for a longer period of time. They basically slow down the evaporation process of the water within the paints.

I use the retarder in two ways. The first way is to add it to my paint mixes via my “mixing white”. I make my mixing white using Titanium White but I add a retarder to it in a ratio of 2:1 and mix it thoroughly. I prefer a thick gel style of retarder similar to the consistency of the paint as opposed to a liquid one which can thin down the paint. By adding the retarder to this mixing white I am making it dry more slowly and therefore it is “open” or workable for longer.

My “mixing white” is added to my colours to make tints. These tints make up the majority of my colour mixes. Using this white with the retarder in it, I have effectively made my colour mixes slower drying or “open” as well. The only colour mixes that don’t contain the retarder are my darks or “shades” and I usually like these to dry fast anyway so as they can be painted over with the slow drying tint.

The second way I use the retarder is by adding it to my fine mist spray bottle. I do not want the spray to be a jet or produce large droplets of water, as this makes the paint watery and runny which makes it very difficult to pick it up and to spread thickly on the canvas. It is paramount that my
paints have a thick consistency in order for me to achieve an “oil-like” look to my work.

My spray bottle contains rain water but with the addition of retarder in a ratio of 10:1. Once the water is added to the retarder in the spray bottle I shake it to mix the two ingredients thoroughly. I use this to keep my mixes usable and my paints moist and “open”. Without the use of a spray bottle, I would find that my paint and mixes would dry too rapidly for any worthwhile application. I believe this procedure is an essential part of painting using acrylics.

The next way I make painting with acrylic paints less frustrating and more practical is the way I store them for long periods of time and not have them dry out. I do this by placing my paints into a storage device called a “Palette Garage” which is designed to keep paints moist for weeks. If I break for a “cuppa” or overnight (or for weeks), I put my squeezed out paints, which are on the “L” shaped insert, into a humid environment. When I am ready to paint again, my paints are there waiting to be used. This not only saves me time, but also saves paint.

No more dry blobs of paint as soon as I turn my back. I believe this is the reason painting in acrylics is so frustrating for some artists. Unless you are working with large amounts of paints that will stay wet by sheer volume or you are working at a very fast pace, the paint will skin over or dry completely, making them useless.

If you are a slow painter like me, having a way to keep your paints moist while you take a break is very advantageous and this single bit of equipment has made painting in acrylics, like painting with oils.

An alternative to using the “Palette Garage” is to use a “Sta-wet” palette or placing your palette of mixes and squeezed out paints in the fridge or freezer overnight (they don’t even have to be covered).