Impasto Painting in Acrylic

I recently took an impasto painting class using acrylic paint at Northaven Gardens from artist Melanie Brannan.  Impasto is a technique where paint is applied to a substrate in thick layers. Due to its thickness and slow drying time, oil painting is historically considered the medium best suited for the impasto technique; however, a similar effect can be achieved in acrylic painting through the use of products designed to slow the drying time of acrylic paint and build texture.


For this class, we were tasked with completing an abstract landscape painting in using acrylic paint on a piece of 10″ x 10″ wood panel. Ms. Brannan had example paintings for us to see, but no actual photographs as the goal was to intuitively create an imaginary landscape.


  • Birch Wood Panel
  • Golden Heavy Gloss Gel*
  • Golden Molding Paste*
  • Palette of Golden* acrylic colors – white, yellow, red, green, blue, and purple
  • Palette Knife, Paintbrushes, and Paint Shaping Tools

*Ms. Brannan is a certified educator for Golden so we used Golden products exclusively in this class.


We started the class by choosing either orange or purple paint and painting a base coat of it on a piece of a birch panel. I loved the ultra-smooth texture of birch panel and plan to use it for other art.

Base Coat of Acrylic Paint  in Orange 

After the base coat, we smeared on a layer of heavy gloss gel whose purpose was to slow the drying time of future applications of paint. Then, she guided us through the process of using a palette knife to lay down blocks of color (acrylic paint mixed with molding paste to create texture) to create a loose, intuitive composition.

Once finished with the color-blocking, we used shaping tools to remove sections of paint and refine our composition with critiques from her and her studio assistant. Removing the paint was a freeing experience, I felt almost like I was excavating my painting. (She called it a subtractive painting.) Using this technique meant that the original orange base set the theme for the whole painting and I had to find a way to work with it. It was a little scary at first, but the finished painting turned out much better than I expected. I plan to incorporate the impasto techniques I learned in this class into a landscape series I’ve just started.

Finished Acrylic Painting with Impasto Technique  

Venue Information

The class was held in the Gallery at Northaven Gardens. Northaven is an extensive garden center/plant nursery located in north Dallas that is open 7 days a week. The Gallery there has art classes and hosts exhibits for artists. During this class they had an exhibition up called “Botanical Portraiture: A Modern Take on Classic Still life” featuring several well-regarded local artists such as Gaby Pruitt and Jan Dreskin-Haig. In addition, Northaven has an onsite cafe with an excellent menu, we had fabulous wine and cheese during our class, and they also host weekly plant educational talks and classes.


Melanie M. Brannan –

The Gallery at Northaven Gardens –