Pouring paint: Acrylic workshop kicks off Spring Arts festival at Dartmouth Cultural Center

May 7, 2021

Artists spray, drizzle, splash, and painstakingly apply paint to surfaces in a multitude of ways.

But in the Dartmouth Cultural Center’s basement studio on May 7, ten artists and art enthusiasts learned something new.

Painting instructor Jill Law hosted a “Dirty Pour” acrylic workshop at the Elm Street center for its first Spring Arts Festival event on Friday evening.

After mixing acrylic paints with glue, water, and other chemicals — including paint additives like Floetrol, as well as the cosmetics-grade lubricant dimethicone — to make them glossy and pourable, artists layered colors into cups and released them onto canvas.

Paintings were then tilted to coat evenly, and finishing touches were added with a mini blowtorch, similar to that used for the crust on a crème brûlée.

The heat helped reveal layers of colors lurking below the surface.

For more than two hours, Law instructed, aided, and torched while artists drizzled and dripped paint on fingers, plastic tablecloths, and even — in one instance — hair. 

Law has been using and teaching the “dirty pour” technique since she discovered it several years ago.

“I saw a painting with what looked like cells,” she told the class. “So I looked it up.”

After finding YouTube videos describing the process, she was hooked. She said she first tried it out on a large canvas with a whole quart of paint, dragging the paint container around the surface.

For this particular arts festival workshop, Law said, she donated her time to the cultural center. 

“I’m trying to support this organization, which I’ve been with for over three years now,” she noted. 

Law is the former DCC president and current gallery coordinator, along with her role maintaining the website and information on all the center’s courses.

And she teaches abstract painting as well as the “dirty pour” workshops.

“I love the students. It’s inspirational for me,” she said. “I have the best time during my painting class!”

She said that she enjoys the fresh ideas that students bring to the studio.

“Those paintings up on the wall are students’ work, and it’s great to see them achieve something and develop and evolve,” Law noted. “And I paint along with them!”

The artists were evidently enjoying themselves on Friday evening as they mixed colors, laughed, and wandered around to see others’ work.

“This is fabulous,” said Lakeville resident Tina Curran, who came with a friend. “We’re having a blast!”

“It’s fascinating,” said June Chapin of Dartmouth, who said that it was her first time using the technique. “It’s got kind of like a serendipity to it, because you can’t really plan out what you’re going to do. You can just plan the colors that you’re gonna use, and that’s kind of neat, I think.”

Dartmouth resident Alicia Duff said that due to Covid, she hasn’t been doing art lately. “So this is getting me back into it again,” she said.

The paintings will spend a week drying before the participants come back for final steps and to apply finishing before taking them home.

Westport artists Karen Melansen and Brian Kahn were experimenting, drizzling colors on top of their poured paint and using popsicle sticks to create designs.

Melansen usually makes art with watercolor and pastels, while Kahn works with recycled house paints. 

But they said they liked the new technique.

“I’ve been dying to do it for a long time,” Melansen said. “It’s a lot of fun. I would tell everybody they need to try it!”