Monday, January 14, 2013

My Love Affair with Alcohol

As a mixed media artist, I do like to try new things. It's always useful to add items to my repetroire. It takes a little courage and high tolerance for frustration when trying something new. There is always something useful, even in failure, to learn. In fact, failure is valuable teacher. I have tried and dismissed some techniques because I couldn't make them work for me. (I have some really sad projects hidden in a closet; maybe sometime I will show them to you).

But, there are some techniques that I seem to go back to. Things that I love and that really share my point of view as a player of paint. One of my old standbys is creating a distressed look from removing paint with rubbing alcohol. The process is simple, but can be smelly and messy.(Always do this technique in a well ventilated area).

What you will need:

91% isoprophyl alcohol (found just about anywhere) in a spray bottle
Lots of paper towels
Acrylic paint (two different colors)
Canvas surface
Brushes to apply paint


  • Apply the base color of the acrylic paint (I like to do two coats). Let it dry completely.
  • Apply a second color of acrylic paint on top of the first. Let it dry until it is tacky.
  • Spray the alcohol on the top coat of paint.
  • Wait about two minutes.
  • Using a paper towel and start dabbing off the paint. I also, sometimes, take a paper towel sheet and press it over the entire canvas with my hands. I wait for about 30 seconds and then pull the whole thing up.
  • Repeat the alcohol process until you have removed the top layer of paint from the surface in the places you want.

A couple of things to remember. First of all, don't over work any one spot or you risk removing the base coat too. (I have done this and it's really pretty, however it's always better when you mean to do it). But, most importantly, you can't mess this up. If you don't like it, just let the whole thing dry. Then paint over it and try again or enjoy the new texture under the paint.

Give it a try and feel free to share your work or comments here. Hopefully you'll fall in love with this technique.

Examples of different uses of alcohol distressing

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