“I want all of it!” The responses of excited preteens filled the art studio as they were unleashed to choose the paint colours of their liking.
Attending a kids' workshop on acrylic-pouring, most of the bunch aged 10 to 12 had never before been inside a professional, working art space.
Laughing with one another, the five girls dug into a big container holding tubs and bottles of paint, jokingly equating the colours to different foods like mustard and strawberry jam.
Organised by artist Tina Lee Degreef at The Art E Space (TAES) in Straits Quay, in George Town, Penang, the class was part of the first workshops that the goldsmith has conducted where paint is the focus.
The sculptural jewellery maker, who has recently moved back to her hometown of Penang after years in Canada, only started dabbling with paint during the movement control order (MCO) brought on by the pandemic.
“I had so much time on my hands during the MCO. So, I watched a lot of YouTube videos and came across acrylic pouring.
“I read people’s blogs on the subject and researched different techniques. The MCO gave me the time I needed to do the proper research to try it out, ” says Degreef.
Generally, few would be completely unfamiliar with the poured-paint art style.
It calls to mind canvases of random swirls and splotches of paint with a distinct abstract art feel.
But as recognisable as it may be, paint-pouring is less than popular in Malaysia.
Be it the free nature of the finished artworks, the cost involved in pouring cup after cup of paint or the mess each creation inevitably creates, pouring is an art style that the children at the workshop have never even heard about.
“It’s not mindless art as a lot of planning goes into it. But it’s all about creativity and you don’t have to have any previous art skills to come up with a good artwork, ” says Degreef.
Recipe for randomness
On the surface, paint pouring is simple. Pairing different colours, a paint concoction is poured onto a canvas that is then tilted, flipped or spun to create different patterns.
But with all beautiful things, the underpinning realities are often more complex.
Degreef says the basic medium – a mixture of paint, pouring medium and water – is crucial and different brands of paint react differently.
“I have to tweak the recipe to the kind of paint that is available in Penang. Every single brand is different and testing has to be done to see how the paint moves. I’ve been pouring since June or July and until now, I am still changing the recipe, ” says Degreef.
As for techniques, Degreef is pulled towards two specific types of pouring: the “Dutch pour”, which utilises a hair dryer to move the paint, and the “swipe” technique that uses a tool – anything from a paper towel to a palette knife – to spread the colours.
Degreef has poured on over 100 canvases and often reuses them by repouring more paint on those that have dried.
Many paint pourers attempt to create “cells” (holes or circles in the painting that show a difference in density) and often mix silicone oil in the paint, though Degreef has tried swapping this with everything from linseed oil to WD-40 with varying degrees of success.
“I haven’t been able to find any local pouring teachers to ask questions when I make mistakes.
“So, I’m learning it myself and the only way to do it is to keep practising, ” she says.
Originally experimenting with it for fun, Degreef put one of her creations up for a good cause in an art auction in July that aimed at helping trishaw drivers through the MCO.
Titled Sip The Wine, Pour The Acrylic!, the lovely blue, purple and yellow splash raised hundreds of ringgit, selling at at least three times the reserve bid – a fact that surprised Degreef herself, who thought few would be interested in her piece.
After gaining confidence in her pouring, Degreef decided to hold two days of workshops in early September – one day focused on basic acrylic-pouring and another day on using acrylic pours to design resin bangles.
Her workshops were a hit and with urging from two of the participants, a mini kids workshop was soon organised.
“I want to show people that art isn’t just about drawing or using a brush. It can be so many other things.
“With pouring, you don’t need to colour in the lines; there are no lines!” she exclaims.
Outside the lines
For her workshops, Degreef experimented with other, simple pouring techniques.
Adult participants tried the “flip cup” and “reverse flower dip” in addition to Degreef’s favoured “Dutch pour”.
For the former, different coloured paints are poured into a cup, after which a canvas is placed on the rim.
The whole thing is then flipped upside down and after waiting a minute for the paint to settle, the cup is lifted to allow the paint to spill over the canvas.
It is then tilted in various directions to spread the paint and cover the whole canvas.
In the “reverse flower dip”, a base colour is laid down followed by lines of paint drawn in patterns.
A wet paper kitchen towel is then laid over the top, pressed down and then lifted to mix the colours together.
For the children, Degreef hit the Internet again and discovered a new technique: the “pour and spin”.
Purchasing a large plastic container, a cake turntable and a simple sink strainer, Degreef had kids pouring and spinning, creating brilliant designs along the way.
“I think with children, when they choose colours, they don’t hesitate. They go for it straight away while adults tend to plan and replan. Children are also braver, which benefits them when it comes to blowing colours. They don’t have much fear, ” says Degreef.
As for the kids, the workshop proved to be an eye-opener to the many, different faces of art.
“In school, it’s just ‘paint this, paint that’. I’ve never heard of pouring before and it’s so much more beautiful, ” says Denise Low, 10.
Adeline Lim, who also attended the workshop, found the most enjoyment in mixing her own paint and watching it spin.
The fellow 10-year-old also admitted she was now a convert into liking the colour green after witnessing Degreef demonstrate a pouring technique in the colour.
As for Degreef, demos and exhibitions may be in the future for her acrylic-pouring though she has hardly forgotten her first love of creating jewellery.
“Frankly, I thought I would be done pouring by now but I’m still hooked on it as there is so much more to explore.
“Pouring is all about creativity. There are no rules and it’s about thinking outside the box, ” she says.
Aspiring paint pourers can follow Degreef’s journey on her new Facebook page Sip and Pour.
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