Acrylics - The New Game in Town
Ocean Hues 12"x12" acrylic on canvas
Acrylic paints are a relative newcomer to the art scene. Water based acrylics were first commercially available to painters in the 1950's. Acrylics are made of the same pigments used in watercolor and oil paints, but suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion with some additives. They are generally fast drying (very fast). Depending on the amount of water they are diluted with, they can give effects similar to watercolors or oil paints.
3 Tomatoes 8"x8", left acrylic on paper right oil on canvas
You will find acrylic paintings created on canvas, paper, board, and other substrates. Acrylics are usually framed the same way as oil paintings, without glass or mats, which means you can frame them yourself relatively easily. Ready made frames are available online or you can have them made by your local frame shop. Acrylic paintings are a great way to start or grow your art collection. This blogpost will show you how to frame your paintings with a minimal investment.
Red Sailboat Boothbay 6"x6" , left acrylic on paper, right oil on canvas panel
Painting with acrylics is a bit different than oils due to three factors. First, the solvent for acrylics is water rather than odorless mineral spirits. No special ventilation is needed to work with acrylics indoors, and cleanup can be easy if you are careful (see the second factor). Since I have a septic tank, I'm careful to minimize the amount of acrylic paint that goes down the drain, wiping off my brushes carefully before rinsing them.
Second, the drying time is short, so short that if you aren't careful, your brushes will be stiff and unusable in short order. Always rinse each brush or put it in water when you are not using it! The paint that you put out on your palette needs to be misted with water often in order to stay usable, and using a Masterson pallette box is a big help. Painting wet in wet is hard to do with acrylics unless you use a retarder or the new "Open" Acrylics by Golden, that dry more slowly. Any acrylic paint you get on your clothes will be there forever. Once it's dry, soap and water wont clean it up.
3 Sunflowers 8"x8" acrylic on paper
The third difference is that acrylic paints dry darker than they are when wet. This is because the emulsion contains small beads of polymer that are white in water, and clear when they dry. This makes it tricky to mix more paint of the same color and value to match an area that you've already painted. And with acrylics, the quality of your paint is even more important than with oil paints if you like bright color. I highly recommend Golden acrylic paints for their high pigment concentration and bright colors.
When I paint the same subject using acrylic and oil paints, I see a difference in the results. For me the acrylics are usually more graphic. I think you can see that in the 3 Tomatoes and Red Sailboat paintings above. In the sunflower painting, I was able to work quick;y enough to get a bit of wet in wet feel.
Some of my favorite painters who work in acrylics are Leslie Goldman, Robert Joyner, and Geer Morton. Robert is an excellent teacher and offers courses in several media.
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.