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Painting with Clear Tar Gel

Updated on February 24, 2014
The Wave (2013)
The Wave (2013)

How Clear Tar Gel Allowed Me to Continue Painting

Necessity is the mother of invention. While I didn't invent clear tar gel which is produced by Golden Artist Colors, I have found interesting ways of incorporating this acrylic paint medium into my art. The reason I looked for new painting methods was increased difficulty painting due to carpal tunnel syndrome and Guyon's canal syndrome. These medical conditions due to repetitive use of the hands made it difficult to grip my brush and paint for extended periods of time. I would take frequent breaks to try to avoid problems, but still I would experience cramps in my hand which would cause me to drop my brush. Imagine my frustration when painting something on canvas and getting it just right only to have it ruined when I drop my brush loaded with paint against the canvas. This happened many times.

Any artist knows that creating art isn't optional. It's what we have to do. I could not just give up creating art. I compensated in drawing by switching from pencil to charcoal. I enjoy making looser strokes with vine charcoal. I find that drawing with charcoal doesn't require the application of as much pressure as drawing with pencil. Therefore, it's much easier to do with repetitive use conditions.

I was content with the switch to charcoal drawing, but I still had to find a way to paint. Then one day, I watched one of my movies that opened my eyes to new possibilities. I watched Pollock, the film featuring Ed Harris as the artist Jackson Pollock. The famous artist is known for the abstract works he created by dripping paint across the canvas.

With a little research, I found out that Pollock had use house paint to create his dripped masterpieces. I discovered that many of Jackson Pollock's paintings were in bad shape due to the use of house paint which is not archival quality. But how? How could I achieve the same consistency of paint that would allow the creation of Pollock-style paintings?

Having done works before with poured acrylic paint, I knew that adding water would not yield the necessary consistency. I wanted something that would not result in a pooling of the paint. I wanted a string-like quality. That's when I found Golden's clear tar gel.

Golden Clear Tar Gel

Needed Materials:

  • Clear tar gel
  • Acrylic paint of each color needed for the painting
  • Air-tight containers for each color
  • Palette knife
  • Paper towels

Preparing Paint Mixed with Clear Tar Gel

Though many acrylic mediums allow the artist to mix the medium into the paint on the palette and use it immediately, clear tar gel requires advanced preparation. When clear tar gel is mixed with paint, the mixture contains many air bubbles. The artist can reduce the amount of air by mixing slowly, but the mixture should not be used for four days. This allows the air to dissipate. Air-tight containers are needed to hold the mixed paint. Recycled jars and containers from the clear tar gel can work well as containers.

Any type of acrylic paint can be used to mix with the clear tar gel. However, the more fluid paints are preferred. Heavy body paints are not recommended since it thickens the clear tar gel. Mixing with thick paints causes the clear tar gel mixture to be prone to lumps. Some artists like using the fluid colors. I find that the thinner versions of tube acrylics are fine to use.

Steps for Preparing Clear Tar Gel:

  1. Start by putting the clear tar gel in an air-tight container according to the amount of paint that will be necessary for that color.
  2. Add a bit of acrylic paint of the desired color to the clear tar gel. Slowly mix the paint into the gel with a palette knife. The resulting gel should be saturated with color. The gel is white, but it will dry clear.
  3. Test the consistency of the mixture by dipping the palette knife into the mix and holding it above the opening of the container. The mixture should drip from the brush in a free-flowing thread of gel. If the mixture is too transparent, more paint can be added. If the mixture falls in clumps rather than a ribbon of paint, there may be too much paint in the mixture.
  4. Always wipe the rims and sides of the containers thoroughly before closing. Clear tar gel tends to make the lids stick tight. Also, store containers upright to help prevent this problem.
  5. Make sure all the edges of the palette knife are wiped clean before mixing another color.

Pearls from Swine (2013)
Pearls from Swine (2013)

Examples of Clear Tar Gel Paintings

Jackson Pollock used the paint to make abstract pieces. I prefer to make representational art. I make templates for the shapes I want to fill with clear tar gel. You could use this gel alone, with other acrylic paint, or in mixed media pieces. These images are examples of how I have used clear tar gel in my paintings.

Lighthouse (2013)
Lighthouse (2013)
Loaves and Fish (2013)
Loaves and Fish (2013)
Elephants (2013)
Elephants (2013)


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    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you, FlourishAnyway.. and I love your name! It's exactly what I want my message to be.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I'm sorry about the medical conditions that gave rise to this, but I'm glad that you have found a way to continue doing what you enjoy.