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Development of a painting, Don't be afraid of making a mistake and Plastic wrap background

Acrylic painting how to paint painting advice personal art journey

In this blog I wanted to show you how I do a plastic wrap texture for the backgrounds in an acrylic painting and help you answer the question “How do I know when to stop painting?” by showing you my journey with this abstract painting.

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I often hear the comment “How do I know when my painting is finished? When should I stop painting?” Especially when it comes to abstracts.

This Abstract was inspired by the colours of water and waves. I had a plan in mind and even an idea of the composition. But best laid plans and all that. It didn’t turn out like my plan at all in the end.

It went through a few different stages before I got to an end product that I now love. I thought it might be helpful for you to see my process.

For me doing an abstract painting is play time. A lot of my other work is quite detailed and so I enjoy doing something that I can just play with paint for a bit.

That’s not to say it’s any easier. The process of developing an abstract for me is very organic. They still require a lot of thinking and usually experimenting. This one was no exception.

Seems to me the more I think a painting is going to be easy the more trouble it gives me. Must be in the mind set.

I decided the plastic wrap technique would be perfect for the background on this painting.

So if you want to try this it is super easy.

You will need: Plastic wrap, paint colours of your choice, water, water with a spray bottle, brush, canvas or paper

First give your canvas a spray with water just a bit is fine. Use watery paint in a variety of colours and quickly cover the whole thing.

Give it another quick spray with water then place your plastic wrap over it creating interesting folds as you go. Rub over the plastic with your hand to get out the air bubbles then leave to dry.


When it’s dry just lift off the plastic wrap to reveal some cool patterns.


Here I am showing you the difference in the look if you use paper verses canvas and also if you colour the canvas first so those patterns are showing a different colour coming though from the background instead of just the white from the canvas.

Paper                                                            Coloured underneath 

This part of the painting turned out great so I went on to putting in some dark's with glazing.

When I then came to putting in the lights is when it started to go wrong for me and I didn’t like that white paint on it. I kept working on it and trying different things. I could see glimpses of something good but just had to find it.

As I worked on this piece I made mistakes and didn’t like what I was seeing so I kept changing it.

Even got to the stage where I thought I had finished only to leave it overnight and then found I didn’t like it in the morning.  In fact it kept me awake overnight for thinking about it. (Obsessive artist much!)

  But I came back to it in the morning with a fresh eye and decided to throw some watered down white paint at it and let it drip. This let me get away from my preconceived ideas of what I wanted it to look like as that obviously wasn’t working for me.

That was a great idea as from there it changed completely with some more glad wrap texture and other things as you can see in the finial piece, now I love it. All that time spent before wasn’t wasted as all those layers underneath are still providing interest peeking though as well as adding texture. 

If you would like to see me painting this piece here is the YouTube link. I show you how to do the plastic wrap technique a couple of times on here too.

Now I could have worked all this out then just shown you how to do the finial version without all the experimenting. But I thought it would be more useful for you to see how to change things when you don't like them. But if you do want to do a picture like this without all the experimenting let me know in the comments below and I can do a step by step video for you as now I know what I'm doing it's super easy. 

So what I wanted to show you with this painting is that it’s okay to make mistakes and mess up. Just keep experimenting until you are happy with the end result. You never know down what path something will take you. So don’t give up to soon as you might just miss out on something you love.

Looking at this sitting in my living room I am really enjoying the way the painting changes as the light changes on it. And now I have figured out the method and know what I am doing I can go ahead and make more in a similar style. I can play with different colours and compositions.

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So to answer my question at the beginning

“How do I know when the painting is finished?”

I don’t know if my answer will be helpful to you but I know when I look at a painting and get those flutters in the pit of my stomach of excitement. I know I have finished. Also I ask myself “Would I be happy to show this in a gallery or art show?” Then I really know that I am done.

How do you know when you are done with a painting?


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