Pour Painting as Art

I love this process, the freedom and happy accidents that occur with it. If you pour, you know what I mean.

Sometimes the results are wonderful. Sometimes parts of it are.

I saw an ad a popular arts & crafts store did for pour painting, and I thought, you know, I need to put something out there about focusing on pouring to make art, not just arts & crafts. Because it’s fun, like crafting a marble effect, and freeing, it’s become crazily popular. But man, if you saw that commercial, you might see it as fun but their examples left the art out of it.

How to make pour painting art? Simplified, I’d say keep art principles in mind –

COMPOSITION: Composition, perhaps using motion and assymetrical balance as your guide, and unity. You may have a great innate sensibility already tuned to this – don’t discount that. But the classic lessons on composition can really help you create more artful and satisfying pieces and less pieces that end up stuck in the back of the closet.

Here’s a good place to begin for internet studiers

For a more thorough read, you can’t get any better than David Lauer’s Design Basics books. I’ve burned through and given away just about every edition, including the old black and white version. It’s college level, but easy to read and for artists, the short explanations with copious amounts of illustration and photographs are easy to embrace. Visual learners, this book is key.


LAYERING (and gelskin hack):

As you progress, you may find that some pieces have promise but just aren’t satisfactory as they are. Yes, you can layer this stuff. I can tell you from experience that you can layer, and layer, and layer … and soon it will start taking a really long time to dry in between layers. And note – with transparent paints, it’s much easier to go darker in layers than lighter, unless you start adding some opaques, which can be tricky.

You’ll also find that you can also ruin a painting pretty easily by not really knowing what you want to do in that next layer.

Hack: Try the type of layer you want on a piece of plastic sheeting, polyethelene, or even a large Ziploc bag. Let it dry, and check it on top of the piece. If you get an effect you like, you can either recreate it on your piece, or simply peel the gelskin off, and brush on some gloss medium or pouring medium, and apply it to your art making sure to squish out any bubbles. MAKE SURE NOT TO LAY YOUR GELSKIN DIRECTLY ON YOUR WORK, especially if it’s sticky at all.  They may become one.  And, Yes, your surface will be bumpy – try doing a pour over the whole thing (I usually wait until it’s all done, do a final pour and Art Resin to clear up surface issues.

This is only one example of layering – experiment!


COLOR THEORY (and hack): The David Lauer book is good for a bit of this, and there are tons of books out there.  Color Matters offers a fairly concise description – but what you are interested in here is how they are going to react on the painting. And, especially, what you might want to layer on. Sometimes a very light transparent glaze is all you need to tie things together in a beautiful way.

Hack: Use sheets of mylar or scraps of plexiglass from your framer, and mix a little of your transparent paint with pouring medium. Pour a large enough puddle of each in sections on your mylar and let it dry thoroughly. Us this to hold over your painting and see what you might want to add in a layer.  They keep for long use if you put a sheet of polyethylene (painter’s tarps) around them when you store them.  Note – The paint will stick to the mylar – this is not a way to make gelskins.


USE THE SPECIAL PROPERTIES OF THE MEDIUM: I’d go a bit farther, too. The nature of Liquitex Pouring Medium is that it has wonderful clarity and creates spectacular light-bounce. This creates especially lovely effects with transparents, metallic and interference paints (called color-shift by some companies). If you want to use opaque paint, you might save money and try one of those cheaper alternatives like Floetrol* or Glue, like many demonstrate with this on YouTube.  I don’t use them so don’t ask me for advice on that!



Listen, however you want to paint, do it. If you hit those paintings that are pretty but just don’t make you happy, seriously consider doing a bit of study.  You might find it fascinating and fulfilling to use it in your work.






Info on Painting with Gravity – Liquitex Pouring Medium Demo

contemporary, abstracted underwater painting, blues and oranges, by Linda Ryan
New Series of Underwater acrylic pour paintings
Dreams of the Reef at Dawn by Linda Ryan
Copyright 2015 by Linda Ryan

I recently posted a YouTube video (link below) where I demonstrate how I created this underwater painting using Liquitex Pouring Medium, acrylics, a spoon and my (gloved) finger … ok, and a couple of tarps and stuff like that.

It was one of those magical afternoons when, after four days of painting mostly bottom layers, it all came together and just flowed. Sometimes, in the words of Audrey Flack (Art & Soul, a wonderful book), everything disappears in the room except the art and you … and then it’s just the art…

I happened to get lucky enough to get that on film!

Because of that, the Pour Painting Demo – Dreams of the Reef at Dawn makes it look pretty easy.

Once in awhile it’s just you and the art, and then…

ARTISTS: If you are an artist and want to try it, please spend some time exploring the medium on a smaller scale, first!  It took me a couple of years of experimentation to get to a good understanding of how each different pigment is going to react to the medium. Some float, some like to sit on the surface, some like to be by themselves and some overpower everything around them.

Nowadays there are a lot of videos out there that demonstrate how to use the medium, and you can also use my earlier “DIY” blog to get a little grounding in the medium.

Then, be brave, get your gloves on and start pouring!

Art San Diego Contemporary!

2. Ocean Floor 24x24

Several of my new underwater series will be exhibited at Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair, a juried, high-end art fair exhibiting 500 artists’ works in gallery groupings and interesting themed exhibits at Balboa Park in San Diego.

The VIP reception is Thursday evening, November 5th, and the show continues 11-6 until Sunday November 8th.  My work is in Booth 321.

Seeing these pieces in person makes such a huge difference – photography flattens them out and you don’t get the sense of luminosity that you would if you were standing in front of them.

If you are in the area, stop by and say hi! I plan to be at the booth at least between 2-4pm each day, and again towards closing each day  I do want to check out the fair and all the galleries exhibiting!

🙂  Linda

LATER:  It went great! Woot woot!

7. Approaching the Temple Ryan L 18x18

10 Tips for Showing in a Foreign Art Fair

photo credit Duane Gordon
photo credit Duane Gordon

Parallax Art Fair 25-26 July 2015 was my first time showing in an international artist-based fair (where the artist hangs the art and works the booth instead of a gallery). It was a great time, and I learned a few things in the process that I thought I’d share-

  1. Bring an extra outfit for opening night. You can have a catastrophic tear issue or coffee spill that leaves you rummaging in the suitcase. I know this from experience.
  2. Read through the show requirements and make your shopping & packing lists well ahead of time. Get them in your scheduler. Pay attention to the details – the specific hangers Parallax required aren’t available in the states and had to be shipped from overseas.
  3. Practice the coinage ahead of time. It makes purchases so much easier if you can count it out correctly (and you don’t annoy the people waiting in line behind you).
  4. Set up social media ahead of time on a scheduler like a Hootsuite app. If you are in a different time zone than most of your fans, you can at least schedule it for when most aren’t asleep.
  5. Might be worth paying for some cellular data roaming ahead of time. Delete or disable apps that use data roaming (ones you won’t need while on travel).
  6. Bring a signup sheet – and I suggest adding a section for Comments. Some people won’t want to give you their email address, but might interact with a comment if they like your work and add it anyway. Sometimes, when someone’s stopped and looked and said, “Lovely!” or, better yet, made an insightful comment on the work, I’ll write that down myself. Some people then sign up as a result – and if not, I have that lovely comment down on paper!
  7. Aside from a signup sheet, have a reason for them to sign up. For me, my DIY Pouring Paint (No it’s Not Resin!) blog coming out in late August was an incentive. There was a lot of interest in the medium – it really does look like resin.
  8. Ask questions ahead of time. The Parallax Manager was wonderful with me, answering whatever question I had. As to questions, make sure you understand sales procedures. If they don’t explain ahead of time, ask early, and long before you start making sales. You don’t want to appear like you don’t know what you are doing.
  9. Especially if you are flying a long distance, go a few days early to get over jetlag before hanging and opening night. It is hard to be enthusiastic about your art when you can’t stop yawning.
  10. During times when the attendance is low (our Sunday was very rainy, and it didn’t pick up until later), take short breaks, explore and meet the other artists, especially those whose work rings a bell for you. Pick up their cards so that you can contact them afterwards. I met a few new friends that way – plus, if you are at all like me, I love when the show is busy and I’m constantly talking with patrons. I’m not great when it’s slow. Taking breaks to interact with others keeps me from getting antsy. Patrons can smell antsy a mile off and they don’t like it much.

photo credit Duane Gordon
photo credit Duane Gordon

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Just plain advice:

I remind myself of this at any art exhibition I participate in: It’s Not All About the Sales. It’s about contacts, handing out a ton of cards, engaging with people interested in your art. You started the art conversation by creating the work – engage in that conversation with the people that get your work. And, often, the best things happen after the show.

When Life Changes your Art, Follow the Flow

I had a bit of a fall in the Fall of 2014 and couldn’t hold a brush. This is how it ended up. High-fiving the Alien in the living room in a purple cast. That’s me in the cast, not him. I’m the one on the left..

I'm the one on the left.
I’m the one on the left.

I had a show coming up and had scheduled a bunch of painting time. And had that intensely edgy feeling that signals the need to paint. Stupid thumb.

It didn’t dawn on me that maybe this was one of those things that would change my art. I just had to get some paintings done, and they had to be good.

I’d been exploring, testing, playing and teaching using the recently introduced Liquitex Pouring Medium to make small, luminous, motion-based paintings. These were built on years of experimental play with a bunch of gels and mediums – and were the kind of resin-like finish I’d been trying to get to for years.

Time to order a bunch of cradled board from my friend at Way Up Art & Frame. Hired a young friend to gesso the boards. Ordered a couple of gallons of pouring medium. Got tarps (lots) and the largest latex gloves I could find.

It got kind of exciting.


Had to go back for the largest janitorial rubber glove I could find, split it down the side and duct-taped it together (with purple duct tape. You’ll just have to imagine it. I was too busy painting and way too into it to take pictures.)

Then I started on big squares. Man, those knocked my socks off – and were super challenging, to try and create a solid composition within a square, interrupt circular references and create places for the eye to travel along, all within the constraints of a fun but tricky medium – milky fluid that hides what is below and sort of shows what floats (the benefit of all that experimenting!!).

flow 1.0, acrylic pouring medium on cradled board copyright 2014 Linda Ryan

Cool, huh?

Intense yumminess. That sense of aliveness, being one with the paint, inside art with the art, me and the art and then it’s just the art (thanks Audrey Flack). And then the next fun part – watching them dry. And then just living with them.

Only got a little paint on the cast. Got a bunch on my tarps to strip off and give to my friend, Virginia, who uses them to make collages. More about Virginia later, you’ll love her.

And later, I’ll post more about the method, give you a little DIY tutorial and more about following the flow … catch up a little on my belated blogging.

The takeaway here is – sometimes things that are painful on the surface help define us, show us a new path. Open a new door.

At least, that’s my takeaway….walking through the open doors….following the flow.


To Return to Linda’s Website Click Here

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