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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on September 12th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 28

Local artists use acrylic pour painting process to create work

By Rebecca Rose

Paint has a mind of its own.

Artists know this frustrating truth about the medium all too well. Sometimes it's hard to blend; sometimes it decides to dry into a different color. It's a sneaky element of the artistic process. But for some artists who specialize in a technique called acrylic pour or paint pour, their work is all about the unpredictable path their paints take.

Kathy Badrak’s acrylic pour work features techniques that help highlight cells, spherical colorful shapes that appear when paint is swiped with a large or small flat tool.

"I just think it's fun and different," said artist and pour painter Beverly Johnson. "It's a different way of engaging with paint and art."

Acrylic pour or paint pour is a technique that involves a few supplies including paint, a pouring medium, canvas, and a few tools to help bring out the colors and shapes in the work. Acrylic paints are mixed with a pouring medium (which allows them to stay wetter longer and flow together) and poured over a blank canvas. Artists then manipulate the medium either by physically moving the canvas or by using tools such as palette knives to swipe over the paint, creating dynamic shapes and unusual new colors. 

Pouring in
Beverly Johnson is currently featured as the artist of the month at Orcutt’s Valley Art Gallery, 125 W. Clark Ave., suite 101. More info: (805) 937-2278.

It may sound easy, but the technique can be tricky to master, especially when attempting to create certain shapes or effects. Shapes known as "cells," especially large or colorful ones, are highly prized in acrylic pour paintings. Cells are circular shapes that emerge when a tool is swiped over the pour, releasing the paint trapped underneath. Artists go to great efforts to perfect their pouring and swiping techniques as well as experiment with different pouring media and recipes to get the desired effects. 

Johnson, who is featured as September's artist of the month at Valley Art Gallery, spent years working as a painter until she decided to try something new and explore the pouring technique. 

"I'm always looking for something a little different," Johnson said. "I started creating some really cool images. Now I just keep experimenting and coming up with new images on the canvas."

Johnson, who frequently paints on silk fabric, said she connects to the process because of its unexpected results. Artists never know what's going to come out of the process because there is always an element of surprise in how the paint, medium, canvas, and tools will react together.

One technique she uses is called a "dirty pour," where paints mixed with products to thin them out are layered color by color into a cup. The pouring medium helps the colors stay crisp rather than muddying as they are layered together. Once poured onto a canvas, the colors then separate, creating distinct color blends, streaks, and cells. 

Artists such as Kristen Bates manipulate acrylic poured on canvas to create unusual works of abstract art.

While artists may sometimes use stencils or other tools to create less abstract images, rarely, if ever are traditional paint brushes used in paint pouring. The idea is to think outside the box and come up with new or inventive ways to manipulate the pour on the canvas. Techniques include spinning the canvas, pulling string through the poured paint, or tilting the canvas in multiple directions. 

"There's little bit of control where I can create some images," Johnson said. "But I do not use a paint brush at all."

Kristen Bates is a local artist who became drawn to abstract painting when she was pursuing an arts degree at Chico State. She drew her inspiration for her work, which she described as "nature-based abstracts," from the scenery on the Central Coast. 

Drawn to images of water, but unable to achieve the effects she was looking for in her work, Bates turned to the internet, where she discovered an artist in Norway who made tutorial videos of her acrylic pours. Bates, who had brain surgery in 2015, spent a year in recovery, practicing and studying the techniques. 

Without the aid of paint brushes, the pouring medium becomes an essential tool for the artist. Along with the paints, a silicone-based product is added, which helps generate the large and more intricate cells many are looking for when they pour paint. Many pour painters recommend treadmill lubricant, which is 100 percent silicone and doesn't have a harsh smell. 

Some artists, such as Bates, spent months (or years) perfecting their recipes for product-to-paint ratios or color mixes and are tight-lipped about sharing them. 

"It took me over a year to perfect that conconcotion," she said. "I use it every time, and I can subtract or add elements to it and get different effects."

Beverly Johnson, who is featured as September’s artist of the month at the Valley Art Gallery, specializes in acrylic pour painting, a style that does not use brushes or traditional paint methods.

Unlike traditional painting, the blending of colors occurs on the canvas, leaving little room to perfect or manipulate color before it is laid down. The pouring medium helps slow the drying process, which then allows artists to move and shape the paints until they achieve the desired look.

Kathy Badrak is widely known for her gourd art, sculptures made from carving and painting dried hard-shelled gourds. For her, acrylic pouring offers a chance to explore another avenue of creative expression from her usual line of work.

"The acrylic pour is such a different way to work," she said. "For me, it was a release. It was an adventure, an exploration of color and texture ... it is so totally different." 

The pour does what it wants, Badrak explained. Approaching most new art projects often entails having a design in mind before starting. But each pour is truly one of a kind.

"There are certain elements you can control," Badrak said. "I can decide I'm going to do a dirty pour with blues, yellows, and greens, but that's all I can do."

While the element of control might be difficult for some painters to give up, Badrak said the pouring process can be relaxing. The expectations of creating a perfectly specific work are gone, she said. 

"I find it very peaceful," Badrak said. "It's just a very enjoyable way to paint and make art." 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose watches it all fall out; still has her money. Contact her at

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