If you stumble upon acrylic pouring, one of the the first things you might find is that this mesmerizing, intoxicating art form appears to be so simple. You just throw some paint in some cups, right? Then just pour it out – easy!
Well, creating stunning pours is harder than it looks. But don’t be discouraged. Acrylic pouring is equal parts science, art, whimsy, and emotion.
Since your frame of mind has a huge effect on the outcome of your work, I want to share some of my tips for getting into a good headspace before I start a new pour. Taking time for this helps me bypass some of the mental barriers that might otherwise get in the way of my creativity.
I want to help you let go of your expectations, enjoy the entire process, and ultimately make art that will surprise you. Let the pouring set you free!Acrylic Pouring is one of the least judgemental forms of art. Let go of your expectations, enjoy the entire process, and ultimately make art that will surprise you. Let the pouring set you free!Click To Tweet
1. Connect With Your Inspiration
What made you want get serious about this experiment?
Did you watch acrylic pouring videos and read chats? Did you already own some paints? Did you stumble onto someone’s work and ask, “What the WHAT? How did they do that?” Do you have a vision you want to create?
Whatever drew you to pouring or inspired you will directly affect your creative process.
2. Embrace the Unique Personality of Each Pour
Pouring is a personal process. Each pour will have its own personality. Remind yourself often of this.
You may follow a recipe to the letter, and achieve VERY different results than the original creator.
Remember that undesired outcomes can actually contribute to the evolution of discovering your personal process. Sometimes you won’t be thrilled by a result (on the first, second, or twentieth try), but it’s only through allowing that to happen that you can be surprised — or even blown away — in time.
3. Let Your Painting Be as Moody as Its Creator
Some things that affect the personality of each piece:
- Air moisture content
- Viscosity of paints and other elements in your mixture
- Most important, your mood
What is your mood as you go in to paint? Are you stressed? Are you excited? Are you angry or frustrated? Are you just feeling massive amounts of love?
There’s no wrong mood to paint in. See if you can embrace whatever emotional state you’re in and let it out onto the canvas. Trying to put a different mood into the pour than the mood you’re currently feeling is where conflict and frustration arise.There’s no wrong mood to paint in. See if you can embrace whatever emotional state you're in and let it out onto the canvas.Click To Tweet
Take this into consideration when stepping in to create, especially if you like to do multiple pours at once or are limited on resources and really want to make the most of the supplies you have.
If you find yourself pouring one or more canvases and are unhappy with the results, STEP. AWAY. FROM. THE. PAINT. Take a break to re-evaluate.
Pours change over the first 24 hours as they dry. Depending on the medium, amount of products used, and the environment, your work may change quite a lot. Knowing when to say when is important. Overworking a piece can lead to less than desirable results. But you may not know what overworking means until you experience it.
Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised with your results, and other times you may want to throw it all in the trash. When that happens, step away for a day and let your body process the process.
4. Connect With Your Breath and Let Go of Expectations
Sometimes you follow a recipe exactly and the outcome is not even close to what you wanted. When that happens, take a moment and breathe. Acrylic pouring isn’t about copying or even recreating someone else’s work. As tempting as that may be, it’s impossible anyway.
The brain is able to absorb amazing amounts of information that we may not pick up consciously. Taking a break and allowing yourself to just breathe lets that process take shape.
It’s okay. You figure out what “isn’t working” when you take a break. Maybe you were being heavy handed with the Floetrol… Your body and brain might have known this, but perhaps you, all hopped up on expectations, weren’t paying attention.
Before you mix another cup of paint, just stop. Let go of expectations, and inquire into yourself. What is it you are trying to do here? How does your body feel? Are you excited or tense?
Oftentimes, those new to pouring have some underlying fear. For example, perhaps a part of you is afraid to try experiments for fear of “messing up” a canvas? Perhaps “wasting paint” gives you some anxiety. Or maybe you struggle to trust your instincts about color combinations.
Maybe you’re worried you’ll create some paintings that don’t reflect your original vision and people will judge you.
Is it possible that you’ve naturally been pretty good at creating art your whole life, and now you are trying this new technique and having a hard time?
Stop and listen to that. Those are all valid feelings. They’re human feelings. Don’t push them away; just let them be there in your experience while you breathe.
5. Remember That Paintings Are Just Emotions on Canvas
Each painting is an unspoken feeling, manifested in the material world through puddles of paint.
When we paint without acknowledging the emotions we bring to the process, we deny the full degree of creative energy available to us.Each painting is an unspoken feeling, manifested in the material world through puddles of paint.Click To Tweet
It isn’t a recipe that makes a good piece, it’s the artist’s ability to embrace something within and pour it onto the canvas. Some of the greatest art, and greatest pours, are made in anger and frustration. Jackson Pollock was notoriously manic when he was working, and you can feel that energy when you look at his paintings. Not everyone appreciates Pollock’s work, but that’s okay. He wasn’t trying to please anyone but himself.
Leave your expectations at the door and try approaching your next piece as an experiment in color, medium, and feeling. Acrylic pouring originated through experimentation, and you’ll never recreate a piece exactly the same way twice. So put on your lab coat and get to the experiment.
Accept that this process is sometimes hit or miss. You can always start over — that’s what those big buckets of Gesso are for. Sometimes you’ve just got to scrap it and start again.
When you walk in to paint, dig deep and get in touch with your immediate feelings. Even if you’re feeling forgetful, clumsy, or ugly, try to accept that and use the energy to influence your work.
Think of your feelings as mediums unto themself. For example, I love to correlate color to the emotions I am feeling at the moment. Lighter colors mean lighter feelings for me. Darker colors equal depressive feelings. Vibrant colors can represent a manic feeling, or an explosive emotion like anger. Neons feel youthful, pastels peaceful. You do you when it comes to feeling that part out.
Remember that with each piece you pour, you are literally creating a piece of yourself. Art is meant to evoke emotion, so don’t run away from the emotions you feel while creating. Instead, channel them into your work.
When you create this way you will see your art evolve, and your individual voice will begin to speak brilliantly. Eventually you will get a strong grasp on your unique artistic voice.
I’ve been painting for over twenty years, and sometimes I am just not impressed with the results. The key is to not beat yourself up about it. There will always be critics out there, so there’s certainly no need to bully yourself in the process.
Finally, Read This If You’ve Ever Felt Like Giving Up
Pouring is super fun. It’s by far the least judgmental, most fun form of art since finger painting (which I admit I still incorporate at times).
If at any point you get disappointed enough to throw in the towel, I hope you’ll come back and read this article. Remind yourself why you invested in this often glorious, at times frustrating, experiment.
Never settle on, “I’m just not good at this.”
I say this because I deeply believe we are all artists — even those people who say things like, “I wish I were an artist,” or, “I could never do that.”
We live in a world that displays a vast range of creativity, every day! Food is art; architecture and fashion design are art. Folding a fitted sheet properly is freaking art.
Honor what you are good at and use it in your process. Be bold, throw caution to the wind, and let your personality bleed into the paint. Remember that your voice will eventually come through. Remember to always drop your expectations at the door.Be bold, throw caution to the wind, and let your personality bleed into the paint. Remember to always drop your expectations at the door, your voice will eventually come through. Click To Tweet
My hope is that these tips will encourage you as you refine your process, even if you’ve been pouring for a while, or if you also work in other mediums. This is information I have been yearning to share with people for over a decade, and it excites me and inspires me to finally have that opportunity. I can’t wait to see what you produce! Now get out there, make some art, and enjoy yourself!
Mandie Shattuck (aka Madge Midgely) is a self taught artist who has been experimentally painting for 21 years. When she isn’t creating, she is a full time care giver for her lovely 91 year old grandmother.
6 thoughts on “Let the Pour Set You Free: 5 Techniques for Letting Go and Allowing Your Paintings to Surprise You”
Lots of reasons to love you sweet pea….the First being I, more times than not, want to chuck the WHOLE STUDIO in the trash…. but haven’t yet. Second ….MUCH LOVE to anyone privileged enough to have a 91 yr old grammy AND be her caregiver. ????????????????????
<3 You are a doll Marie!
words of encouragement are always welcome , positivity rules usually
loved reading your article
Can i have your permission to print and share this article with a group of newbie artists? I host paint night sessions at the local senior center and hear many participants say im just not creative enough. I think this would help!
For sure! Glad you got some value from it!