Shaving Cream & Acrylic Paint?
I work at an art museum with an in house Paint Studio, which is a place for our visitors to create their own artwork. Recently the studio was using a technique with shaving cream and acrylics to create abstract paintings. It really engaged the public like I hadn’t seen before––and not just the kids.
The technique mostly results in a kind of marbling or similar abstract design, but it’s versatile and once you get the hang of it, you can mess around to create something that feels more intentional. It’s also extremely simple, so mastering the basics and moving on to the experimental phase doesn’t take long!
What you’ll need:
- acrylic paints
- shaving cream (foam, not gel)
- ruler (or anything with a straight edge good for scraping a surface)
- toothpicks (or any pointed utensil)
- paper that is thick or medium-thick
- a flat surface to work on (I’ve seen people use trays to contain the mess, but you can also just put down some parchment paper)
- water, depending on the thickness of your paints
- rags (this can get messy)
That’s it! Other than the shaving cream and maybe the toothpicks most of these items you’ll already have handy in your workspace. These are the materials that work best from my experience and research; however, feel free to substitute and get as creative as you want. Just be sure you know what the purpose of each material is, before you swap it for something else.
On your flat work surface, spray enough shaving cream so that you can spread it out into a smooth layer about a half-inch thick, with dimensions a little larger than your sheet of paper.
Next, after choosing a few colors, drip the acrylic paint onto the shaving cream layer, Jackson Pollock style. If your acrylic paint is too thick for drizzling, it’s totally fine to water it down beforehand. During this step, keep in mind the final product will be a mirror image of what you’re putting down.
Take your pointed utensil and, holding it vertically, swirl the colors around however you like––but don’t over-mix because you’ll end up losing all the detail in the design. A little tip: there’s no need to penetrate more than a millimeter or so. The final product will be neater if you stick to the surface.
Once you’re happy with the swirling, lay your piece of paper flat on top. Press down gently and evenly for the paper to pick up the paint. The reason it’s important to choose thick paper is because it needs to hold up against the wet shaving cream during this step. 30 seconds to a minute is plenty of time for the paint to be absorbed by the paper (any longer and the paper could become soggy).
Now you want to pull your paper away from the cream and paint mixture, and lay it flat on it’s dry side. Align your straight edged tool on one end of the paper and evenly––and in one motion if possible––drag it across the surface, scraping off the shaving cream. What you’re left with is the marble-like design from where the paint came in contact with the paper.
It’s up to you what you want to do with your designs! They are beautiful as is, or you could cut them up for collages, etcetera or marble some wooden letters. The choice is yours!
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P.S. Before you discard your shaving cream mixture, try throwing another piece of paper onto it. The results of this second round might be just as cool as the first! You could end up with something reminiscent of a Mary Abbott painting––and Mary Abbott > Jackson Pollock, IMO.
By: Rae Quinn