Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Must-Read for Abstract Painters

Every once in a while a book on painting techniques comes along that really fires up my imagination. Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting: Fun, Creative & Innovative Techniques (2016 North Light Books) by Jo Toye has ignited a bonfire. The author certainly delivers on her promises in this nicely photographed, well written book, making it easy to follow the tutorials. And what an interesting menu of techniques she presents!

Gather up some razor blades, masking pens, contact paper and a hot glue gun, along with pipettes, a resist pen, a dry erase marker, chalk and clear tar gel. You'll need these, plus a few more items, to experiment with off the wall techniques like drawing "sparkling" lines with a razor blade and India ink; creating stencils with hot glue and achieving a stained glass look with a resist pen.

You'll learn how to give a dud painting a whole new look with masking tape, gesso and foam rollers. And how to paint stunning (and easy) abstracts using gesso, fluid acrylics India ink and -- again -- a razor blade. These and others in the book are excellent jumping off points for taking the techniques further, combining them or going on to develop more that are uniquely your own.

I've had a blast with this book. Jo Toye's writing is lively and engaging, and her droll wit and sense of humor are refreshing. Scattered throughout its pages are nuggets of helpful information you rarely find elsewhere, such as how to choose and use a Resist Pen, get gesso and paint to flow smoothly from an applicator bottle, and tips for using a mouth atomizer successfully.

When tools like these are combined with the techniques Ms. Toye includes, some very interesting art results. One of her techniques that called for using tar gel prompted me to paint the piece shown below, using Liquitex's version of that product, which goes by the name String Gel. Previously, my jar of this product had done nothing but sit around gathering dust.

After completing this painting I went on to experiment with several concepts involving String Gel/Tar Gel that had spontaneously popped into my head as I worked on Land of Enchantment. Some of those proved to be quite promising, giving me ideas for even more works in the future.

"Land of Enchantment," 18x24 acrylic on cradled wood panel    ©2017 Lynn Edwards

By the time I was done, there was tar gel all over me but I was having a ball so who cared?
And that's the whole point, says the author. Have fun. Experiment. Don't be afraid to push the envelope, and yourself.

I enjoyed this book so much, I'm hoping Ms.Toye will publish another one soon. Meanwhile, there's no shortage of material already on hand in Abstract Explorations to inspire. This fine book is definitely a keeper!

Text and images ©2017 Lynn Edwards



  1. I really like your Land of Enchantment piece, Lynn! You got the feeling just right. Happy New Year, and I look forward to your next pieces!

    1. Thank you, Molly! I had so much fun painting this piece I'm now working on a series. I can't get enough of those Southwestern colors! And Happy New Year to you also!

  2. Happy New Year Lynn! Looks like you are on a roll and working already in 2017. Off we go!!!