Crackles and Strings

The Monday Muse Group’s lesson this week explored acrylic gels and pastes, that bewildering array of white jars one encounters on the shelves of art stores. I occasionally buy a new variety on sale and it sits on my shelf until I get around to trying it out. So in the class demo I used my crackle paste and tar gel.


crackle paste, fluid acrylics and inks, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

This must be the track of my daily circuit. Just try to follow the logic of it. Like a snail’s glistening trail it leads you in circles and gets you lost.

But still, it does fascinate. . .for a while. . .in a way. There are subdivisions, categories, directional flows, but it is loathe to be labeled or pegged or directed by external forces, driven underground by such demands. . .slippery, like that snail, (though perhaps not as slimy).

On the jar of Golden Crackle Paste the instructions read “Apply to primed rigid substrates. . . Allow three or more days for curing and cracking.” I find that being loathe to be directed by external forces, I tend to ignore directions.

So here’s what I did in the example above. Using a stencil I scraped the crackle paste over the openings (squares) and leveled the top with a palette knife. The layer was thin enough that I didn’t run into problems with putting it on a paper surface. By the next day the surface had cured sufficiently to give me some marvelous cracking patterns, which I painted over with flowing transparent pigments that settled into the cracks nicely. I also applied a top coat of matte medium which hopefully will keep the paste from flaking off. So far, so good.


Golden Clear Tar Gel and fluid acrylics on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

The description on the jar of Clear Tar Gel says “Generates fine lines by dripping from a palette knife or other tool.” If you want to try the Liquitex brand, it’s called String Gel but is the same thing. It reminds me of mozzarella cheese when it’s melted and you pull a slice of pizza off the mother pie and a long string of it is still attached. It’s hard to feel in charge of this medium, but if you want to practice with it, you could actually write your name or draw a border on your paper like I’ve done here. It’s fun to apply lots of transparent layers. I’m going to save this one until I know what to add next!

By the way, we do a different mixed media lesson each time in the Monday Muse Group and at the moment we have one opening for a drop in. The session runs weekly through the end of October. Visit my website for more info and to contact me about joining in.



  1. Oh poo! It kills me to miss such fun classes! I loveccrackle paste . I tried using drywall mud and stucco patch with success. After it dries you crack it by gently by “cracking” the paper. I used matts medium over it too. All packed up and ready to zoom off to set up at the Zpetaluma pumpkin patch in the morning.


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