I love Instagram because I’ve connected with a number of talented creatives there. And when Laura of Art + Soul Creative Co. and I connected, we became friends instantly. I love her whimsical style of painting and amazing attitude.I couldn’t help but squeal with delight when she agreed to guest post for the blog.So without further ado, here’s an acrylic painting tutorial of a panda by the lovely Laura.
Today’s tutorial is going to be all about acrylics. It is one medium that I am not very comfortable with.I’ve tried them before and failed miserably. When Laura and I discussed on what topic she should create for the blog, I instantly thought about acrylics. Laura does wonders with acrylics and I figured why not learn from the expert ! So, I’ve learnt a lot from today’s post and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.
Hello thereeeee!!! My name is Laura Uy and I’m an artist and illustrator based in Vancouver, Canada. My work is often described as bright and whimsical, and I love to paint animals, florals, and nature. I’m the proud owner of Art + Soul Creative Co. where you’ll find fun greeting cards, creative illustrations and more.I love burgers,the color mint and and I have a plump and mischievous bunny named Mikey.I’m also an avid instagrammer and you’ll find plenty of sketches,paintings and travel photos there. Today I’m taking over Zakkiya’s blog to give you a behind-the-scenes peek into the process of my most recent acrylic painting. I completed this panda painting in three days while I was on vacation in Singapore this past month.
This is me, awkwardly saying hello from Singapore’s Cloud Forest exhibit, soaking in all the greenery and trying to blend in as a wallflower.
Anyway, I was staying with my sister-in-law for the week. She was expecting a baby girl, and she had a blank 2.5 x 2.5 ft canvas that needed a makeover. It was the perfect opportunity to paint something special for her nursery. I know most people wouldn’t try to tackle something like this while on vacation but it was relaxing for me and I thrived on the challenge of painting something so big in a short period of time. So amidst all the sightseeing, hanging out by the pool, and eating amazing food every day, I spent time creating a giant panda painting! Here’s a look into the creation of that painting from start to finish!
1) Getting Inspired!
During my vacation, I had a chance to visit the Singapore Zoo and was super inspired by this adorable panda called Kai Kai. He was very active when I saw him so I was able to take a whole bunch of photos of Kai Kai in different poses. What a little cutie!
2) Early Sketches
After coming back from the zoo, I began sketching a few panda poses, using the photographs that I had taken as references. These sketches helped me eventually develop the shape and character of the panda in my painting.
When I am working on a painting for a client, I find that it helps me to jot down notes and do preliminary sketches of the elements that the client wants included in the painting. For example, my sister-in-law mentioned a few things that she thought might look good with the panda such as orchids, bird of paradise flowers, and butterflies. I started doing some sketches of those things and transferring my mental visualization of the painting onto paper. Through this process, I also started thinking about what colours would complement the painting and which elements would work well together.
4) The Background Layer
Once I had the general idea for the painting, I sketched the outline lightly with pencil on the actual canvas. Then, I painted a quick background layer to map out all the general shapes and colours (green for the bamboo forest in the back, light brown for the sand, and black and white sections for the panda). I always say “the first layer is always the worst layer” because it really doesn’t look like anything yet. At this point, the edges and lines don’t have to be all refined and that’s one good thing about painting with acrylic – you paint in layers so if you make a mistake, you can always go over it once the paint dries.
5) The Bamboo Forest
I decided I wanted to paint a lush, green bamboo forest behind the panda. Once I had the first green layer down, I used painter’s tape to cover or “hide” all the areas where I wanted the bamboo rods to be. The rest of the green that was exposed became the background. I began adding more green textures to the background layer to create more depth. I made sure to mix up a bunch of different greens (I used a dark “hooker’s green” mixed with various amounts of white, yellow, and emerald green to create the hues I wanted). Then I blended them lightly so that the background had some areas of light and dark green. I also added some leaves and foliage in the background too. All this creates dimension so the painting doesn’t look so flat.
After I had finished the green background and it had dried, I took off all the red tape. Then I used the painter’s tape again, this time to tape off all the green background bits that I had just painted (exposing the bamboo shoots). Basically, the tape covered the areas on either side of the bamboo shoots so when I painted them, they would have a nice straight edges. I used a medium brush and painted vertically. To create the illusion of a 3D bamboo shoot, I used a lighter yellow-green for the middle section of the bamboo and a darker green on the sides for “shadows”. Also, to add more depth and layers to the painting, I added more leaves and foliage, with some hiding behind the bamboo shoots and some painted in front.
6) Floral Details
At this point, I also started sketching out and painting the orchid flower branch. On the orchids, I painted a quick layer of white first then slowly added different hues of purple. I kept adding more layers of white and purple and carefully blending the colours until I was happy with the shading of the flowers.
And here is a photo of me working hard! Also, it’s for you to have a size reference for how big the painting is.
7) The Ground
I often add patterns in my work and this painting was no exception. Instead of painting the sand super realistic, I decided to use minimal shading underneath the panda and incorporate a subtle pattern in a slightly lighter brown than the ground itself. I used a small round brush with a little bit of water mixed into the paint to get those perfectly smooth lines, and started from the top (around the panda’s little butt), working downwards until I reached the edges of the canvas. Painting patterns for me is therapeutic – I actually like the repetitive process because it helps me slow down and just enjoy the feeling of painting for fun.
8) The Panda
For the panda’s body, I chose to keep it simple with smooth lines and clearly defined sections of black and white. I used a dark charcoal grey (black mixed with a small dollop of white) to provide some highlights to the black areas and define the arms and legs. As you can see in the image below, the grey is quite subtle – I mixed some water with the acrylic before painting the lines so that the lines would have a more soft, hazy look.
9) Final Details
As I mentioned before, one nice thing about painting with acrylics is that you can add layers upon layers. For the butterfly, I also painted it in layers – first with a blue gradient, then the black lines, and finally the white details on top. I find if you think about painting an image in layers, it can be less intimidating and you can break down the process into separate steps
10) TA DA!!! After all the little details, I signed the painting with a detail brush and then I was done! I was really happy with the finished product and I surprised myself by finishing it within three days. I’m so happy that this giant panda will have a special place in its new home and will be treasured for years to come!
Here are some more general tips for painting and working with acrylics!
1) STEP BACK FOR ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: Throughout the whole painting process, I continually step back and look at the painting from far away to view it from a different angle. I also take pictures of the painting on my phone because seeing the image on a screen will also accentuate different features and I can gain another perspective as I paint. Getting someone else to critique your painting is also a good idea. I always ask my husband or other friends for suggestions just to get a second or third opinion.
2) INVEST IN MATERIALS: If you are going to be painting on a large canvas I would suggest investing in some good tubes of paint. I used Daler-Rowney acrylics for this painting and they provided a really thick, rich colour that stayed vibrant even after the paint dried. Sometimes when I use cheaper acrylics (like tubes from the Dollar Store), the paint feels thinner and watered down, and I end up having to add more layers to achieve the same result (which wastes a lot of time too!). Investing in a few good quality brushes is a great idea too because you don’t want to have brush hairs from poorly-made brushes constantly getting stuck in your painting!
3) WIPING AWAY MISTAKES: I’ll always have a damp paper towel or rag beside me in case I make a mistake. If the previous acrylic layers are dry, you can lightly wipe off what you just painted without rubbing off the other layers. Just remember that if you make a mistake, you should wipe it off right away because once it dries, it will be harder to erase.
3) PAINTING THE EDGES: After you’re finished your painting, you want to paint the sides so it looks completely finished. The sides of the panda painting were painted with hooker’s green (mixed with a little black) to provide a nice dark frame. If you’re worried about accidentally painting on the actual artwork, you can cover the edges of your painting with painter’s tape to protect your image.
4) DON’T GIVE UP: Throughout the painting process, you may experience varying levels of impatience and frustration with your work (I know I often do!). I sometimes look at my paintings and think, “how is this going to turn out?” or “Wow… this looks… awful.” I hope you can see from this tutorial that the panda painting looked unfinished throughout the whole process and went through many evolutions until the very end. It takes time and patience to create, and the process is messy and full of awkward moments. For me, I’m always my own worst critic so it’s about pushing through those weird stages where the painting looks terrible in my eyes, and continuing on until I step back and find that I’m happy with what I’ve created.
Thanks for reading all about my panda painting. I hope I was able to provide some detailed steps and useful tips that will help you in your own painting practice! If you have any more questions about acrylic painting, send me a message at [email protected]!
You can also find more of my artwork at the following links:
Good luck and happy painting!