Fluid Art is one of the most popular ways to create artwork today.
Why? Well, it’s fun and colourful and you never know exactly what your final piece is going to look like until it’s dry. Talk about intuitive art!
Some of you may think Fluid Art, such as Acrylic Pouring, isn’t really art. You just pour some colours into a cup, plop it down on a canvas, and POOF, you’re done. Well, I’d like to have a go at changing your mind about how you see Fluid Art creations and the artists who work in this medium.
I’ll be honest with you, I used to think the same way. But once I began creating pour as the backgrounds of my paintings, I learned just how much I needed to know to get the results I was looking for. I had to apply some the same principles to creating each pour that I did to any painting I’d done before and I also needed to learn a bit about physics. Yikes!
Artist: Eva Folks, Acrylic Pour on wood panel,
acrylic paint and metallic colour
Let’s have a look at what really goes into creating awesome pieces of Fluid Art.
What’s Considered Fluid Art?
Fluid Art can be defined as any form of art that uses free-flowing fluid paint. This paint is usually a runny consistency of similar or varying densities. When the paint is combined with different additives and poured onto a surface, it creates an organic, abstract form of artwork.
Many times, Fluid Art is referred to as Acrylic Pouring, and there are a lot of ways that artists pour their paints to get the effects they want. You may have heard terms like clean pour, dirty pour, flip cup and swipe before in regards to Fluid Art. We’re going to get familiar with each one of these techniques later in the post with the help of Mixed Media Girl and Olga Soby, but first let’s take a look at how this art form came into being.
A Very Brief History of Fluid Art
Fluid Art has been around since the 1930’s. David Alfaro Siqueiros, a Mexican artist and political activist, can be credited with the invention of paint pouring. He referred to it as ‘accidental painting’ because it was just a fluke that he stumbled across this painting technique! His experiments with paint lead him to just pour one colour of paint onto the other and watch what happened. The paints moved and mixed and much to his surprise, he fell in love with this technique.
Artist: David Alfaro Siqueiros (December 29, 1896 – January 6, 1974)
Source: Fluid Art Projects
Siqueiros began using this 'accidental painting' method for his artwork because he enjoyed the combination of art and science he was using to create his work. Yes, successful pouring is based on science. Fluid Dynamics to be exact!
Siqueiros fully explored the influences that Fluid Dynamics had on his art. Later on, as it happens, other artists such as Jackson Pollack were also knowledgeable of how Fluid Dynamics worked and it’s actually what made their artwork so successful.
Physics and Art
To understand how Fluid Dynamics influences Fluid Art, you need to know that all paints have density. Think of density as the weight of a pigment.
Some pigments are lighter weight, others are heavier. You can check it out for yourself by just picking up a few of the paint tubes you have in your studio and weighting them in your hands. I’m sure you’ll find that one feels heavier than another.
Lucky for us, GOLDEN Artist Colors has compiled a handy chart that lists the density of the pigments used in each of their acrylic paint colours. Some pigments, such as Dioxazine Purple and Phthalo Green, are relatively light weight when compared to the pigments used to make Titanium White or Zinc White.
So, why is it important to know a paint’s density when you’re using a Fluid Art technique? It’s because colours with a heavier density will sink to the bottom while the colours that are less dense will float on top. Adding heavy on top of light causes the paints to mix and create cells. That’s what you want them to do when you’re creating Fluid Art.
For example, you would want to add Dioxazine Purple and Phthalo Green to your pour before adding Titanium White.
Tip: It’s important that you know the sequence of colours you’re going to use based on density before you start layering paint in your pouring cup or on your canvas.
Fluid Art Supplies
There are a variety of materials involved in creating a successful Fluid Art piece. Here are some basic supplies you’ll need to get started.
· Disposable gloves
· Plastic cups (clear)
· Coffee stir sticks (wood)
· Digital scale (to weigh your paint)
· Paint pour box
· Paints (different grades, opaque, transparent, metallic)
· Paint additive (Floetrol or white PVC glue)
· Table covered with plastic or paper
· Prepared surface to pour on
· Sink close by
Let’s have a more detailed look at a few of these.
Paint Pour Box:
Some artists use cups or even push pins under their surfaces to elevate them when they create pours. I’d suggest you set up a dedicated paint pour box with some type of grid or support on the top for your Fluid Art projects. It makes it much easier when you’re pouring multiple pieces one after another.
You can use just about anything as your paint pour box. A cardboard box or a plastic storage tub will work just fine.
I use a large photo developing tray that belonged to my grandfather. With just a few taped together stir sticks and a grid from those sets of wire cubes we all used for storage years ago, I have a perfectly good paint pour box to work with.
Tip: Do your pour on your paint pour box then move it to a level location for drying. Make sure it’s elevated when drying otherwise it will stick to the surface you’ve put it on and that’s something you don’t want to deal with! I use the same type of grids for this as I do for my paint pour box.
There’s a difference in results when it comes to the paint you use. We’ve discussed grades of acrylic paint in the 3T Art Blog before and they apply to your Fluid Art projects as well.
If you use only low grade paints in your pours, you’ll find your dry, finished pieces looking a bit chalky. That’s because low grade paints don’t have much pigment in them but they have a lot of fillers.
Using only student grade paint isn’t bad but the colours will still be missing that full-chroma bang you get with the profession grades.
If you want to go with all profession grade, you’ll love GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics, but expect to be spending a lot of money on your paint!
I'd suggest using a combination of low grade (craft paint), student grade (like Liquitex Basics) and professional grade paints (like Liquitex or GOLDEN) when creating your pours. You’ll get great results and end up saving money on paint. And, let’s face it, paints aren’t cheap these days and when you pour, you can end up wasting a fair bit of it.
Tip: I use up as much of my paint as I possibly can because I hate to waste paint! Sometimes, I put a sheet of heavy watercolour paper on the bottom of my paint pour box to catch the excess paint. Other times, I’ll dip sheets of heavy watercolour paper into the excess paint at the bottom of the paint pour box to get a different effect. I use the paper pours when they’re dry for other projects.
There are a number of different paint additives used by Fluid Art creators. One additive you’ll hear about over and over is Floetrol. Available at any paint store or Home Depot, it’s actually a latex paint additive used by house painters. They add it to cans of paint to extend their coverage, increase flow and to smooth out the paint making it easier to apply.
When it comes to Fluid Art, adding Floetrol to the paint allows it to flow smoothly over your surface and it helps the colours flow together.
A substitute that some artists use for Floetrol is white PVC glue. I’ve never tried it but have heard from those who have that they were happy with the results. Diluted with water, white PVC glue creates similar effects when mixed with your paint as Floetrol does but it will give your dry piece a flat finish.
In case you were wondering, Floetrol and white PVC glue do help in creating the cells you see in Fluid Art. Cells are also controlled by things such as the mix of paint densities you’re using, silicone additives, Treadmill belt lubricant and even dish soap.
Isopropyl Alcohol is an additive I use in my paint formulations to help with cell formation. If you try it, please be careful! It is flammable and you need to use it in a well ventilated space!
Fluid Art Techniques
We know painting a landscape, sculpting or creating a drawing all require the artist to have a concept of what their finished piece will look like and how they’re going to go about getting there. Creating Fluid Art takes just as much effort if not more. I know, all those videos on YouTube make it all look so seamless and easy, but there’s much more to it than that. Trial and error come to mind.
I've learned that panning ahead is the key no matter what technique you’re using. You need to prep your work surfaces properly every time, get the right chemistry for your paint formulations and you need to have a good knowledge of colour theory if you expect to get great results.
The best way for you to learn about Fluid Art techniques is by watching videos of how artists use them. It’s how I started out.
Mixed Media Girl on YouTube is one of my faves. She’s put together a series of ten techniques that I’d like to share with you. Turn up your speakers, sit back and check out the awesome Fluid Art techniques she’s going to show you.
I’d also like to share ten Acrylic Pour techniques from Olga Soby with you. I think my fave is her Open Cup Pour. What do you think?
So, what do you think? Have I been able to change your mind about Fluid Art? I hope so.
There’s a lot involved in perfecting this art form. You’ll need some time and patience to get yourself familiar with paint densities. You’ll also need to invest in a few new supplies. But, is it really something you want to do? Maybe you’d like to just try it out first?
Well, in that case, I have some great news for you. Starting in September, and Covid permitting, I’ve scheduled five One-Day Workshops at my studio that’ll focus on the basics of Acrylic Pouring.
I’m only taking four students per workshop and you’ll be happy to know that everything you need for the workshop is included in the fee. All you need to bring with you is your lunch!
If you’re interested in a spot in one of my workshops, mail me at EvaFolksArt@gmail.com for more info.
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