Artist Network Article
There is an interesting article by water colorist Marc Taro Holmes about his technique, "Tea, milk and honey", on the Artist Network website . He begins with a pencil sketch and works from light to dark. He begins painting with the "tea", a fluid wash that doesn't cover his sketch but adds a lot of color. The second step is the "milk". He uses more paint and color in this step, but is careful to leave the lights. The final step is the "honey". Just as you would not add a lot of honey to a cup of tea, the darks added in this last step are done carefully. As he says in the article, "a little goes a long way".
This is similar to the method I use, even working in acrylic. However, I do try to establish some of my darks in the early steps, not saving them for last. This is easier in acrylic, because I can always paint over an area if I change my mind. I'm still working on the portrait of Sam, but you can see my steps. I build up my image using paint and satin acrylic glazing liquid. Glazing liquid gives you about a half hour working time (depending on humidity and the absorbancy of your base) which allows me to use a variety of techniques both additive or subtractive. Because of the longer drying time, I can remove the glaze in some areas with paper towel or even move the paint around with my finger. It allows for easier wet into wet blending of the acrylic. The glazing liquid and paint have to be used thinly or it will remain tacky for a long time.
For me, using acrylic paint and glazing liquid offers a safer alternative to solvent-based painting and it's easy soap and water clean-up.
"Sam" in process, acrylic on canvas
12" x 19"