What is SO special about THIS Acrylic Layers Process?

What is so special about THIS Acrylic Layers process I’ve developed and why are artist’s of all levels enjoying using it?  Is it the materials used? Is it the technique in application of the media?  Is it the overall approach to arriving at a finished piece?  Each of these factors certainly contribute to the originality of this process and the unique characteristics of the resulting artwork.  Let’s take a few moments and shine the light more intensely on those underlying aspects of this process that make it more than a simple technique to be replicated.  We will explore what makes this Acrylic Layers process a creativity enabler and introduces a novel thought process into the activity of creating art which becomes intensely personal and excitingly freeing.

Robyn Ryan Fleeting Glimpses

Left to Right:  “Eight Points” ~ 24″ x 24″ Acrylic Layers on Raised Panel;   “Heron V” ~ 24″ x 36″ Acrylic Layers on Raised Panel;   “Black Bear I” ~ 24″ x 24″ Acrylic Layers on Raised Panel

This Acrylic Layers process transcends technique alone by physically breaking apart and capturing the artistic decision-making process in distinct cycles.  This opens unconstrained possibilities during each iteration of layering which would typically be overlooked.  How so?  Well, as I have taught fellow artists this process, the most common challenge is for them to not just apply their artistic media the way they always have, one stroke after another after another.  This Acrylic Layers process introduces intentional interruptions, and challenges the artist to think through and decompose their artistic process.

Robyn Ryan's Acrylic Layers Process - Iterative Cycle

The Acrylic Layers process goes beyond the typical layering of the same or varied media in traditional art making techniques, one stroke directly on top of another.  Instead, this process physically separates them in proximity and time.  The creation of physical distance between each layer of media forces the artist to interrupt their normal painting or drawing techniques into smaller “chunks” of art making isolated on each layer.  It also introduces an “un-rushable” artistic “Pause” which sets up time and opportunity for making more liberated creative assessments and decisions.  Just as we are taught to step back to see a piece of art in process from a different vantage point to assess the overall piece, this process invites the addition of less predictable and non-traditional decisions for each consecutive layer.

Detail of "Osprey" Acrylic Layer painting by VA artist Robyn Ryan

Detail from “Osprey I” ~ 16″ x 20″ Acrylic Layers on Raised Panel (Private Collection)

Why is this so exciting?  This Acrylic Layers process invites you to ask “what if I…” in an exciting new way that excites and nurtures creative exploration every single layer!  The typical “rules” no longer must apply since there is no “right” way or “wrong” way apart from those cases where media characteristics would physically be incompatible, such as painting acrylics on top of oils.

Acrylic layers and collage of mist in valley

“Dawn” 8″ x 10″ ~ Acrylic Layers with Collage on Raised Panel (Private Collection)

Each Acrylic Layers painting encapsulates the actual creative journey of its making…  Every piece of art does in some sense, but these paintings are different.  Each cycle of the Acrylic Layers process not only offers the opportunity to take different paths, but it also freezes the decision (hitting “save”) which then allows time to contemplate the “what if I…” exploration of possibilities to inspire the decision for what to do with the next layer, and the next.  This is enabled through several unique aspects of this Acrylic Layers process which set it apart from traditional layering techniques.

The first aspect is the “Decoupling” of the layers of media into smaller isolated actions or pieces which creates additional decision-making opportunities.  The artist must STOP painting, drawing, and adding on a particular layer and separate out the next steps for addressing on the next layers…  Learning to stop and “hit save” after only one or two artistic actions per layer cycle is the key; and it feels strange when first attempted.   This interrupts the typical painting process since the artist must wait when normally they would just keep going on the same “level.”  The result is a new way of thinking through the development of the artwork through smaller decoupled “chunks” of activity in each layer cycle.

Robyn Ryan Fox painting, layer 2Robyn Ryan's Acrylic Layers Process - Hit SaveRobyn Ryan Fox painting first gel layer

The second aspect is the purposeful and unavoidable “Pauses” due to the actual time required for the drying of the clear separation layer of gel medium.  This results in a creative opportunity for fresh eyes and new ideas on what to do with the next layer.  Once appreciated, this pause becomes a meditative break of distance and perspective for the artist.  It makes room to decide on the less predictable response instead of doing the same “habitual” thing the same way we have always done it.  The space created in this pause allows for the artist to honestly assess where they are and get over the “precious” aspects that often keep us from making the entire piece better.

Robyn Ryan's Acrylic Layers Process - Pause & Think

The third aspect is the “Physical Distance” between each media layer.  This is the purposeful creation of clear layers of enough thickness to achieve the floating effect between an art media layer above the layer(s) below.  When complete, the viewer can see “through” the clear layers to perceive what lies beneath.  This creates a dynamic viewing experience and brings new meaning to the idea of “visual history” within a piece of art!  Viewing from different angles results in subtle changes as the viewer looks through the layers from different directions perceiving depth in a unique engaging way.

Bottom line, in addition to the unique visual effects of the texture and seeing through physically distanced layers, it is so exciting to see how each artist discovers the freedom to explore their own creative ideas through the “hitting save” on one layer and allowing time and mental space for the “what if I…” inspirations and creative decisions for the next.  This Acrylic Layers process offers freedom to those that learn to employ it.  We are no longer constrained to rigid rules and the prison of “right” and “wrong” as it relates to expressing our personal visions in our art.  I love sharing this Acrylic Layers process with other artists of all levels.  It is thrilling to see how each adapts this process to their own creative vision and art making practice.

Eye on You - Fox Acrylic Layers painting by VA Artist Robyn Ryan

“Eye on You” ~ 15″ x 15″ Acrylic Layers on Watercolor Paper mounted on Raised Panel (Private Collection)

Come join me and engage in a fun and creative adventure during the next Acrylic Layers Workshop!  Check out the CLASSES section of my website for Acrylic Layers Workshop information… You will find either a Workshop Registration Open page where you can sign up for an imminent workshop OR a Pre-Registration page where you can join my mailing list so you can be notified when the next workshop is scheduled (plus get first dibs on limited spots and an early bird discount!

Would you like to coordinate an Acrylic Layers Workshop for your art group or organization members?  Contact me directly at robyn@robynryanart.com.


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