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Classes with Ali Kay

Updated: Apr 15

Loose Tulips, 12 x 12 unvarnished — Painted along with Ali Kay

Classes I've Taken —Things I've Learned

In the spring of 2024, I took a class called, “Loose Tulips” with Ali Kay. ( I found her on Facebook and had already followed along with a couple of her You Tube demos. (She has tons of great, free demos here: I concentrated on flowers, but she also does great portraits. When a $30 spring class called Loose Tulips popped up for $20, I decided to sign up to do it at my own pace. The You Tube videos were a good start, but her classes are wonderful and give you all the details. I believe Loose Tulips is still available to purchase on her site—at least for awhile. It was a great investment!

Ali’s teaching style did not disappoint. Her teaching site was easy to navigate. She was organized and went to great lengths to help students of all levels succeed. She even provided a downloadable drawing to transfer to canvas for those who would like it. Having a good composition already laid out is great for beginners. Also available for download was her numbered color palette, as well as the reference photo and her final painting.

A few of the 31 shades we mixed for this painting

Ali’s favorite paints are Golden Fluid Acrylics, which are liquid acrylics with a very intense pigment. (A little dab will do ya!) I had used them before with Elizabeth St. Hilare when I first got back into painting, so I had some on hand. I used to think that you could just thin Golden heavy body paint down for the same effect, but it does water down the color a bit, and ends up not being as crisp and intense. (Of course I tried a painting in Ali’s style with heavy body. It still turned out pretty well - just not quite as intense.) Other supplies included an inexpensive plastic tray palette, flat brushes, and Golden Satin medium. Any painting surface that was gessoed would do.

Golden Fluid Acrylics

Ali takes great photos and often uses the Picsart app with a Geode filter to slightly alter her photo until she likes what she sees. Then she prints a copy, and traces a basic outline onto her canvas using graphite paper. For florals, she uses White with Alizarine Crimson and Payne’s Gray to make a gray tone, and uses a script brush to paint a light line over the graphite lines. (She uses Burnt Umber light and white for portraits)

She then does a value study with washes of Alizarin Crimson and Paynes Gray for florals.with and permanent dark violet wash for portraits. She starts with the lightest, most watered down color first and layers her way deeper. She turns her reference photo into a black and white photo so she can really concentrate on the values without being distracted by color. Ali paints from her iPad or a screen whenever possible instead of printing her reference photo beach it captures more brilliant color.

8x10 value study from one of her tutorials on You Tube

Next, she adds a wash as an underpainting with two or three colors that are close to complimentary to objects on the actual painting. (Except for portraits when she always uses a light purpose under-painting, since green would be bad to show through on skin.) She allows little snippets of those colors to show through some areas to help the final painting pop. It was the first time I’d see someone use multiple colors on the same underpainting. (Many artists coat the entire canvas with an under color first. I often use a light red or orange shade under mine. Having the same color peek through in a few places can help to unify a painting.)

Complementary washes for underpainting

When Ali starts the actual painting, she often begins with the deepest tones and then moves to medium and lighter values which sit on top so that you see the brush strokes. In spite of being well thought-out and executed, her style ends up looking more loose.

It was easy to follow along with her - the color chart she made was in the order we would mix each color! Her chart showed a sample of the color and the recipe it was made with. Very helpful! When we were at the half way point, with part of the painting in “final colors,” and half still in the “opposite underpainting colors,” she called this phase of painting the “Messy Middle.” I love that! I’ve often mentioned I’m not fond of the “Adolescent Stage” of my paintings. I really like the term “Messy Middle,” and I’m sure I’ll repeat that. My painting turned out ok, but for sure it was not fabulous!

The "Messy Middle" — not finished yet . . .

I definitely learned what I liked and didn’t care for about using Ali’s style for myself. Ali offers as artist community called “Fresh Paint.” It's monthly subscription which she opens to new students several times a year. She brings her students new content every week, and has a large bonus library of past tutorials. I loved Ali's teaching style, so even though I think I’d prefer to concentrate on learning more about using heavy body acrylics, I may opt to join her Fresh Paint group for a month. It might be wise to invest in a month or two to learn more about her style of painting portraits before moving back to my heavy body paints. Stay tuned for more lessons learned!

What I Learned through my class and You Tube tutorials:

I Liked:

  • Using an altered photo and sometimes tracing it right on the canvas with graphite paper. I think it would be especially great for portraits.

  • Doing a well thought-out value study with washes.

  • Her color combinations — they were lovely.

  • The Princeton Dakota Flat & Script brushes are great.

  • I liked working from dark to light and will remember that for future paintings.

  • Golden Fluid Acrylics are beautiful and easy to work with, but I did missed my Golden’s heavy body paint which allows me to add more texture to my paintings. I will think about using Fluid Acrylics for some of my under paintings, and add heavy body acrylics on top. I will also remember to use it for glazing, because it makes a beautiful glaze when blended with mat medium.

I did not care for:

  • The plastic palette—my paint dried out quite fast and I was constantly cleaning the palette. I missed my Masterson Stay-wet palette. I’m not sure how that would work with watered down fluid acrylics, but I might try it.

  • I love to look at Ali’s paintings, but I realized that her style of brushwork is a little “too chunky & hard edge” to make my own. I realized I definitely like seeing some of my edges more blended, as well as to see more heavy body paint texture in my paintings.

8x10 unvarnished painting from one of Ali's You Tube tutorials

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