The Alchemy of White Acrylic

Having told myself to relax, not to worry, not to stress, I had enough art, I could just focus on prints, no need to lose my mind, I calmed down enough to do another painting. This time it’s of an otter, because I have virtually no otter art, and when you do furry art, one of the Capitalist Secrets is that people buy by species as much as by, say, aesthetic awesomeness. People don’t come up and say “What’s your best painting?” they say “You got any okapis?”*

The other Capitalist Secret is that this is a juggling act. If a species is popular, like foxes, they can get ’em anywhere, they can pick and choose, and it’s not worth doing a painting of a fox merely to have a painting of a fox. If you have a brilliant idea, do it, obviously, but to this day, I have moved more water buffalo than I have foxes. The REAL Capitalist Secret is that there’s really not enough cash in furry art for more than a coupla artists to make a living on, so branch widely or do stuff that appeals to people not in the fandom. Also, bring bags.

But all that’s neither here nor there, because mostly I just had an entertaining idea for an otter painting, with an attack fish. The point is, I’m working on this painting. And I have reached the final stage, the application of white acrylic highlights, and I pause to allow some drying after I’ve gotten the head done, and contemplate that this is my favorite part of the painting.

There are two kinds of paintings, for me. The first, rare kind, is the kind where I know it’s gonna be good, and I’m usually giggling insanely while I paint, and occasionally I have to stop and take a moment to walk around the living room because I’m getting high on art. This is fabulous when it happens. It practically never happens. Maybe a dozen times in the past decade. Sir Bunny was one of those, and Bad Egg, and Azezaelbunny, the ones that tend to end up in books and on magazine covers and whatnot. (Not always, mind you. Some languish in obscurity. But they’ve got a much higher success rate than my usual.) If I could turn that spark on at will, I’d be dead of exhaustion in the studio, surrounded by art, so perhaps it’s just as well. I don’t rely on this kind, because it happens maybe a coupla times a year. If I’m lucky.

The other kind of painting, the normal kind, is hit or miss, as most paintings are, and I start off with the great fire of enthusiasm, and proceed, and by about two thirds of the way through, I am looking at the flat and lifeless page and thinking “Shit, people are going to look at this and try to think of something polite to say and be silently thinking “What happened? She used to be a lot better…” But I finish up, because I know that this is just how this stage of the painting feels, and at last, it’s all colored, (we’re assuming it’s a physical painting here) and it’s laying there, a dull strata of paint and colored pencil, and I gaze grimly at it, thinking “My colored pencil work looks like a third-grader’s,” and get out the white fluid acrylic.

And quite suddenly, between one brush stroke and the next, the painting comes alive. It’s like alchemy, and Golden Fluid Acrylic, Titanium White, is the philosopher’s stone. Suddenly there’s a shine on the eyes and a wet gleam on the nose, the fur has highlights, the edges are picked out, there is volume and depth and life and you grin like a idiot and think “Man, I can’t believe that I did that!” And life is glorious. And moreover, you’re relieved, because you have snatched another painting from the jaws of suck.** There are powerful and wonderous drugs out there, but for an artist, I’ll put white acrylic up against any of ’em for mind-clutching euphoria.

People ask if I mask my paintings. I don’t. I cannot plan a painting that far in advance. I have no idea where the highlights will be. I just paint. (Like many of my creative endeavors, it must be done by the seat of my pants, or else I panick and produce crap. This is probably why commissioned work tends to be unfulfilling for me, and often lacks the spark.) Life, as my mother says, is too short for masking fluid. And I would hate to give up that rush of applying the white acrylics.

*Nobody ever asks for okapis. *sigh*

**Or think you have. Few of us are good judges of our own work.

Leave a Reply