Embrace the flow to create a pour painting

In Sandra Duran Wilson’s book, Awakening Your Creative Soul, you are guided along on a year-long creative journey with inspiring projects of all sorts to pique your artistic spirit. One featured project is a pour painting tutorial from artist Kimberly Conrad, a popular technique for truly embracing the wild and unruly — and beautiful and awesome! — creativity in you!

DAYS OF SUMMER by Kimberly Conrad, acrylic pour painting, 36″ × 48″ (91cm × 122cm)


Pour Painting Materials

Plastic bin to catch excess paint

Watercolor paper, 140-lb. (300gsm) 11″ × 15″ (28cm × 38cm)

Piece of glass or Plexiglas, 8″ × 10″ (20cm × 25cm)

Pencil

Scissors

Fluid acrylic paints

Kitchen strainer

Plastic bottles with spouts

Distilled water

Spray bottle

 

Inspiration Behind This Technique

I believe my true understanding of ‘go with the flow’ began in March of 2006 when life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. My husband, an airline pilot at the time, suffered sudden cardiac arrest while playing racquetball. His life was saved by a savvy lifeguard at the gym. Though it was touch and go for a bit in the hospital, he received an implanted defibrillator and I’m thrilled to report that he is still here with us alive and well years later.

The things is . . . the FAA has this funny little rule about their pilots having implanted devices, so he lost his job, and thus began a whole new adventure. What’s very interesting looking back, is that it was just a few months prior to the event, as we like to call it, that my art journey had begun to take its own turn.

I began as a palette knife oil painter but had recently fallen quite accidentally into pour painting. Painting suddenly became my teacher, a life coach of sorts. When you pour paint, you have very little control. You not only have to trust the process that every little detour will culminate in the right ending, but you also have to find joy in the process, hold on and allow yourself to feel the excitement of the ride.

It has been such a metaphorical journey . . . this pouring. In life, we spend an exorbitant amount of energy strategizing and planning, often down to the smallest detail, but life has its own ideas and rarely unfolds as we think it will.

I am still a planner by nature, but I am so very conscious of the reality that the less I try and the more I relax and embrace the natural flow of life’s moments, messages and events, the happier I am. In fact, I am quite often blissfully surprised! For me, to go with the flow means to trust the process—in life, in art, in relationships and in all things.

Pour Painting Tutorial Step by Step

Step 1

Tear off a sheet of paper from an 11″ × 15″ (28cm × 38cm) watercolor pad and using an 8″ × 10″ (20cm × 25cm) piece of glass, cut your paper, leaving about ¼” (6mm) or so of additional edge all the way around the glass. As the painting lies flat to dry, there will be a bit of runback, and we will cut this additional edge off in the final stages.

Pour painting 2

Step 2

Using a strainer, pour your paint into a new clean bottle. Add distilled water and pop the lid on. In this demonstration I am using fluid acrylics by Golden (Teal, Cerulean, Iridescent White and Gold) in a ratio of three parts paint to one part water.

This is a critical step to pour painting because you must avoid clumping paint. Use distilled water because the chemicals in tap water will compromise the integrity of your paint.

Pour painting 3

Different colors of paint have different viscosities. The amount of water added will vary depending on the type and thickness of paint used. I like my paint to be the consistency of heavy cream so I can alter it as I spray water. Sometimes a bit less water is needed depending on the color; just add a bit at a time to avoid starting out with paint that is too thin.

Step 3

Hold your paper over a plastic bin and apply the paint in horizontal sections with your spray bottle.

Pour painting 3a

Step 4

Spray the paint with distilled water.

Pour painting 4

Step 5

Apply additional paint, and spray water multiple times to let it run and create the desired effect. Once you have a composition you like, allow the wet, softened paper to fold over your forearm.

Pour painting 5

Step 6

Use you finger to quickly wipe the excess paint from the edges of the paper to reduce the amount of runback when you lay the paper flat to dry.

Pour painting 6

Step 7

Lay the painting on the waiting piece of glass. Be sure to leave an edge of the paper hanging off the glass, to aid in lifting it later. Once I laid this piece down, I realized I wanted to add more blue and green, so I quickly picked it up and applied more paint and water, repeating the process. This should be done only in the first 2 to 3 minutes; otherwise the paint will begin to set and reapplying will result in a mess!

Pour painting 7

Step 8

Let your painting dry overnight. Now it is ready to crop and sign. Place the clean 8″ × 10″ (20cm × 25cm) piece of glass over the top of your dry painting, and crop to the exact size you want, removing the excess edges of the paper.

Pour painting 8