Art Tools of Patti Mollica

For this installment of Art Tools and Gears, we have guest artist Patti Mollica from the USA.

Currently based in New York, Patti previously studied Fine Art at the State University of New York at Oswego. Patti passionately pursues her art career of over 30 years as a fine artist full-time, and she is versatile with both Oil and Acrylic Painting. Patti also teaches art through workshops conducted regularly, within and outside the US.

We have invited Patti to share with us more about her experiences and knowledge in fine art, as well as offer some tips on art tools and painting. And we have also featured some of her works below.

Qn: Can you share with our readers more about yourself?

I became interested in art at a very young age. My babysitter, Sheila, was an artist and would come over for an evening - or whenever my parents needed to escape 6 young children - with a large sketchbook and oil pastels. I have many fond memories of the two of us sitting at the kitchen table while I watched on, mesmerized, as she drew all sorts of subjects - portraits, landscapes, animals, etc. She drew for hours on end, often working from her imagination. As a young impressionable girl, this was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen, and naturally I wanted to be just like her! I started drawing at this young age, and for my 6th birthday, my parents bought me a large sketchbook and a set of oil pastels. Believe it or not, I still have that original sketchbook, as well as many of my babysitter's beautiful drawings, which I treasure.

I eventually translated my love of art into a career in commercial illustration, graphic design and art direction. This multi-faceted direction allowed me to use my drawing skills while at the same time work with color, shape, design, composition, concepts, and a broad range of art related elements. For many years, I was happily immersed in creating beautiful designs for many different types of clients. As the technical computer age took hold, I found myself in an environment that seemed to favor generic push-button solutions over unique creative problem solving. Learning code became burdensome, and I decided that this was never my interest, so I went back to what I love - painting.

I am currently a full time artist, as well as art instructor. I make my living in a variety of art-related ways. I sell my paintings, both traditional and mixed media, through several galleries. I teach workshops on how to paint fast, loose and bold, both in the US and abroad, I offer educational lectures and workshops on acrylic paints, mediums and mixed media materials for Golden Paints, I create art for commercial and stock usage - ads, book covers, editorial art, posters, annual report covers - for ad agencies and corporate clients such as American Express, Penguin Books, RCA Records, NYU, etc., I have authored 3 books (soon to be 4) and instructional videos for North light books, and I also have a number of private students whom I tutor online, through Skype. It all keeps me quite busy, especially trying to find time to do my own work, which is both representational and sometimes a bit abstract. I like to work in various styles, to keep things fresh and interesting!

Qn: Could you tell us more about how you use the art-tools above for your mixed media paintings?

When I work in a mixed media way, anything goes regarding tools. Anything that has an interesting texture or pattern to it, which i can use in some way, for spraying, imprinting, stenciling, etc is fair game. I often start out with complete visual chaos, using collage bits and pieces of patterned paper from magazines and newspapers. Then I start to draw on it with pen and ink, add acrylic texturizing gels and pastes, and I scrape interesting patterns into them, and also spray ink through an atomizer using anything that provides a cool stencil pattern. As I work, I basically start to rein in the shapes and patterns to turn the chaos into the subject I am aiming for.

The image above the tools, was an 18x24 commission for a corporate client. The lighting is poor because I did the painting during the Super Storm Sandy and within minutes of starting the piece, all the electricity went out. I put on a miner's headlamp and continued working in the semi-dark even though our house was being battered loudly by tree limbs. I thought our house was going to come crashing down at any minute. (Our garage did). I think working during this crazy experience comes through in the piece! The beauty of working in this mixed media manner is that at the start you simply play with the materials without knowing how/if the colors and shapes will integrate into the overall piece. As the piece progresses, it starts to fall into place, with bits and pieces of the underlying colors coming through. It is incredibly fun - more so when one is not worrying about survival.

Qn: What brushes do you use for painting?

When I work in a more representational style, I use Princeton Catalyst Polytip Brushes. They are perfect for holding a lot of paint in the bristles and have a tapered tip that offers incredible control for nice edges. I use Flats only, in all sizes. When I need very loose brushwork, I will use the size-2. For a while I used craft brushes, but they don't hold up well over time. Often I challenge myself (and my students) to use only large brushes for an entire painting, it is a great way to learn how to control the brush edges.

Qn: Acrylic paint has a tendency to dry very quickly, such that it may even dry out on the palette even before it is able to reach the surface of the canvas. Do you have any tips for someone faced with this issue?

Yes, everyone asks this question - I answered it in my June 30 2014 blog post

Excerpt from Patti's June 30 2014 blog post;
I store my paints (Golden Heavy Body) in a plastic craft bead box, or bead organizer as pictured above. The one I use is divided into 18 compartments, the brand name is "Darice". I bought it at Michaels or AC Moore. It is a type of plastic that is sort of flexible and has some give to it (high density polyethylene). I don't buy the type made from hard plastic which is as rigid as glass, and snaps if you try to bend it. Reason being, the acrylic paint adheres to that type of rigid plastic and does not peel off when dry. By the way, the bead box is not air tight.

The reason my paints don't dry out, I am assuming, is that there is a LOT of paint in each compartment, and the amount of paint stored is a pretty thick depth-wise. Acrylics dry when the water in the paint evaporates, and due to the thickness of the paint in each compartment, it takes a lot of time for the water to work its way out. Plus I spritz all the paints while I am working. I may not have done that in the video, but in between filming segments, I spritzed. Also, I put the whole container in a ziplock 2 gallon bag with a moist paper towel. My paints last for months and months without drying out. It's not a perfect solution, as eventually they seem to get a tad dry, but it works for me. I don't like setting out blobs of paint each time I have some time to paint, this allows me to flip the lid and start immediately. If you put tiny little blobs in the paint compartments, I can guarantee they will dry out fast.

If you want acrylic paints that dry 10 times slower, try "OPEN Paints" also by Golden. They are a slightly lower viscosity (not as thick). You can mix the regular heavy body paints with the OPEN paints too - they are perfectly compatible. If you mix in a 50/50 proportion, your paints will dry 5 times slower than the straight heavy body colors. You can also use the slow drying "OPEN Medium", which, when mixed with either the OPEN or heavy body paints, helps increase the flow of the paint off your brush, and extends the dry time. You can also put a drop or two of OPEN Medium on each of your colors, whether you are working with blobs on your palette or in the compartments.

Many people use water as the medium with acrylics, not realizing that they could be using a medium such as "Polymer Medium". When I want my paints to dry faster, I use water as the medium. When I want them to dry slower, I use a medium. Polymer Medium is glossy, Matte Medium is matte. OPEN is the slowest drying medium, and is available in both sheens. Again, all OPEN products are designed to work with the faster drying acrylics too.

Another tip: You can use OPEN Titanium White in your mixtures (rather than regular heavy body Titanium) to extend the dry time in any mixtures that have white in them.

Qn: What can an artist do to prevent Acrylic Paint from lifting?

Traditional acrylic paints don't lift up once they are dry - that's one of the things I absolutely love about them. (That being said, Golden OPEN Paints, the slow drying acrylic paint will lift up because they take longer to dry.) If you are working over an under-painting and make a mistake, just wipe it off immediately. Whatever is underneath is likely dry and won't lift off. I find it much easier with acrylics vs. oils to layer up, because I don't worry about disturbing the layer underneath. I can be bolder and heavier-handed. Although I also work in Oils, they can often seem too slippery to me, like trying to run on ice. Acrylics grab my surface better because whatever I have painted before dries fast and when I put another stroke on top, it sticks. Plus I am very messy and the clean up is much easier, not to mention less toxins


Qn: How do you maintain consistency in glossiness over your acrylic paintings?

With acrylics I put an isolation coat over my entire painting. I personally like a glossy sheen better than a matte finish, because a matte finish will dull the colors somewhat. I mix 1 part water with 2 parts Soft Gel Gloss (GOLDEN) which will create a milky, cream-like mixture. Paint a thin coat over the entire painting in one direction (vertical). Let it dry (15 min.) Then paint another thin coat in the opposite direction (horizontal), and let it dry. Your painting will have one glossy beautiful sheen. This mixture is semi-opaque when wet, but will dry perfectly clear and glossy.

Qn: Do you have any art advice that you can share with us?

USE MORE PAINT! :-) Most students want their paintings to look luscious and juicy and yet they put out really tiny dabs of each color on their palette. I once had a great teacher who told me to use paint as if I owned stock in the company. (Charles Sovek). It was great advice, that I am passing along.

Qn: Can you share with us more about the following books you have written?

(I) Color Theory: An essential guide to color-from basic principles to practical applications

A very straight forward guide to understanding color theory and working with various color schemes. I have examples of my work throughout, showing how I used color as it applies to a color theory concept. I get many nice emails from artists who have read this book and thank me for making it (color theory) so easy to grasp.

(II) Getting Started: Acrylic Made Easy:

Step by step demonstrations with color mixing information, using acrylics to paint various subjects - portraits, glass, landscape, figures, still life, glazing, etc.

(III) Modern Acrylics: Innovative mediums, tools, and techniques for today's artist:

Everything you ever wanted to know about acrylic paints, mediums, texturizing additives, viscosity changing additives, extending and slowing down the dry time, and examples of what all the (Golden) products can do.

This is written for the person who walks into the art supply store, looks at all those acrylic products and scratches their head thinking, what in the world do you do with this stuff?

Some prefer videos to books, here is a link to my 3 instructional videos by North Light.

Qn: Lastly, which other artist/s do you think we should feature next?

Adria Arch is a friend of mine who does very interesting work with materials!


We thank Patti Mollica for this very insightful interview and her generous spirit to share her art tools and knowledge of Oil and Acrylic painting. For more of Patti's artworks, you may visit her website or her blog.

Patti also regularly shares her artworks on her facebook page.

Check out other artist interviewees at


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