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Step by Step Textural Painting

March 5, 2009

Here is a step-by-step of how one of my paintings has developed. I am photographing another one to do as well.


Step 1:  I adhered paint skins to the center of the painting, then surrounded them with crackle paste. This was allowed to dry overnight. A heavier application of crackle paste yields larger segments. This is mostly a thin application.


Step 2:  I brushed on thinned-down acrylic in the crackle areas, choosing colors that harmonize with the edges of the paint skin colors.

As I go around the painting, the colors get deeper.


I wanted the color very wet, so that it could run down into the cracks and emphasize them. So wet, in fact, that when I set the painting up on the bucket to photograph it, they started to run. I decided I liked that.


After a little while of letting the paint run, I set this aside to dry.


Step 3:  After the colors completely dried, I brushed on a thin wash of black, because I want to further accentuate the cracks.


While the black is still wet, I immediately wipe the surface with a folded paper towel to remove most of the black from everywhere except the cracks and crevices. The black also unifies the color and tones it down a bit. (That’s a paint skin drying off to the side. I’ll tell you about that in a later post.)


Here it is after the black has dried.


Untitled – Acrylic on Cradled Panel
8 x 8 x 2″

Step 5:  Using a large paint knife that looks like a frosting spreader, I have applied a coat of self leveling clear gel and allowed the painting to dry overnight. Note:  This coat was not as heavy as usual. The gel was from a new container, and therefore it was rather thin. It usually takes a couple of days to clear, or “cure.”

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little demo. I’d be interested in your comments.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2009 11:07 am

    Love to see your process, thanks for sharing!

  2. Sherrill Pearson permalink
    March 5, 2009 11:26 am

    Martha! Let me be the first to say THANK YOU. This is terrific! Thanks

    • March 5, 2009 12:45 pm

      Sherrill, so happy you enjoyed that one. It’s my hope that we can all inspire each other!

  3. March 5, 2009 12:35 pm

    I love when you share these tutorials! I had great fun trying your texture one – and I have a book filled with paint peels.

    😀 eirdre

    • March 5, 2009 12:46 pm

      Deirdre, aren’t those paint peels great? I keep them all now. And now I’m going to try creating some a la Golden’s recent newsletter.

  4. Pat permalink
    March 5, 2009 12:42 pm

    This is very interesting, Martha! Thanks for the ‘lesson’. I rather like the results…how large is it?

  5. March 5, 2009 3:46 pm

    This was a very informative and interesting post. The textures in this piece are quite exciting. Thanks for sharing your process.

  6. March 5, 2009 6:26 pm

    These look so interesting to do!
    Did you tell where you get your canvases? I think you did a way back, but I don’t remember.
    We only have Hobby Lobby here and I went in to get a couple of canvases last weekend. I was looking for American made, but all I could find were from Viet Nam, Mexico, and China. Frederix was represented, but they only had canvas-like pads. I found canvases that gave a company in Austin, Texas, another in Minnesota, I believe it was, but, when I looked further, they were made in Viet Nam and Mexico.
    My sister and the artist she takes workshops from are ordering linen or canvas on board or foam, since they do a lot of plein aire painting. I hate to order things, though. I have to touch and examine every piece of paper, brush, etc. to be sure it is what I want to buy! Picky me! But, while teaching, I got too many things that were damaged, or of poor quality, when I ordered large quantities. So, I got in the habit of being picky.
    I ended up just buying a couple of 16″ x 20″ canvases in a package-from Viet Nam, to tide me over. I did get a chance to see some of the cradled canvases that you have shown us, but I wondered about the quality, even of the stretched canvas or canvas boards. They seem to just be folding the edges over, then glueing a sheet of paper over the back of the canvas boards. Reminded me of what my elementary students did when they did their first handmade book. I don’t know how that will hold up.

    • March 6, 2009 8:42 am

      Well, Cecelia, I don’t buy my canvases from the same place always. I look for good prices, and sorry to say they probably aren’t all American made. But if you’re interested in some really wonderful deep-sided canvases, you can find them at (That is, should you decide you’d like to order online.)

      I order a lot of mine. that’s because I’m accustomed to the different brands and know what to expect. And the short answer to the whole question is that these pieces are all on cradled panels and not canvases. Lea at CanvasCubed has those too.

      My mother used to make her own canvas panels by gluing canvas to masonite. She would melt horse’s hoof glue in hot water on the stove to brush onto the masonite and adhere the canvas, then she would leave an edge that she could fold over to the back. Boy did that smell up the house!

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