Updated: Sep 22, 2018
In my younger days, when I was studying art history in university, I was always fascinated by the fresco paintings characteristic of the late 13th to mid 16th centuries. If you're not sure what fresco is, according to Enclyclopedia Britannica (britannica.com), fresco painting is a "method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster". Usually there were two coats of plaster roughly applied to a wall, and then followed by a smooth final coat to which the paints were applied. This infused the colour right into the plaster finish creating a beautiful and brilliant softly textured finish. There was truly nothing quite like it.
This is when my love of texture took hold and really began to grow. I always had a desire to paint on plaster and accentuate the wonderful ripples and patches that would naturally emerge on a rough plastered wall, but the process seemed messy and laborious, so I opted for using more accessible materials from my local art supply store.
This is where I discovered modelling paste. I could apply a thick and richly textured layer of paste onto my canvas and allow it to dry with the texture intact. Once dry, I could apply layers of fluid acrylic along with acrylic inks to effectively stain the surface and maintain some transparency to accentuate the great texture. This is exactly what I did and you can see the results in the sample painting... I was quite pleased with the outcome and this has become yet another trusted technique in my paint arsenal.
You can use a spray bottle of water to spritz an area of freshly applied paint (or ink) and then gently rub back some of the stain. This thins the colour and allows some of the white textured background to emerge.
Here’s how to do it:
Apply a thick layer of gesso to your canvas and allow any texture to remain
With a palette knife, apply your modelling paste to the surface building up more layers of interesting texture
Apply your fluid paints and inks to the surface using both a damp and dry brush technique. While the paint is wet, rub and wipe back the paint with a rag
If any area seems too dark or saturated, wet a rag with some isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe away the colour (alcohol will remove acrylic paint)
Add finishing details with heavy body acrylic paint and/or spray paint
I find this technique creates a soft and luminous effect that is very appealing. The painting maintains a glow of sorts, with darker more mysterious areas contrasted by areas that are infused with light... I love this effect! The rougher textured finish is also visible through the layers of translucent paint. Together, it makes for a rich finished piece that has depth and interest.