Acrylic paint

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GAILS TIPS ON WORKING WITH ACRYLICS

Published August 6, 2018 by Gail Daley Writer & Artist

I have always painted in Acrylics. Over the years, I have attempted to use other mediums but they were a poor fit. Oils stink, are messy and take waytoo long to dry for me. Watercolors are too unforgiving for a ‘seat of the pants’ painter like myself and I usually ended up with something resembling a kindergartener’s finger painting. I don’t have the patience for colored pencils or graphite pencil. When I attempted charcoal and pastels, I usually ended up looking as if I’d been playing in the coal bin. Sometimes it was a colorful coal bin, but still—But like Goldilocks beds, Acrylics and I fit just right. I really don’t understand why some artists seem to have so much trouble with them. Over the years, the most common complaint I have heard about working in Acrylics is “it dries too fast”. No offense intended, but in my experience, this problem is caused by the artist’s unfamiliarity with the properties of the medium. There is a little bit of a learning curve and I understand that it’s hard to change your work pattern to adapt to acrylics. If you really want to give them a try and are willing to change your work pattern a little, I think you might be happy with Acrylic paint.

Some basic facts about Acrylics: 1–Drying times for Acrylics is actually comparable to Watercolors. 2–Acrylics, like watercolors, dry by evaporation. 3–One of the things that affect working with Acrylics has to do with the thickness of the paint an artist applies. The thinner the application of paint, the faster Acrylics will dry. QED. 4– If the artist applied a thick layer of paint, even though the paint may be dry to the touch on the surface, it may still be soft underneath for several hours. 5–Acrylics will dry darker than when first applied. 6—Mixing Acrylic paints ‘greys’ or darkens them. Acrylics straight out of the tube are always brighter than any color you mix together. This isn’t a terrible thing; I consider the difference to be negligible. If it’s important to you to retain that initial tube brightness, I suggest you use thin glazes instead of mixing directly, allowing the color underneath to bleed through. Acrylics master painter Jerome Grimmer uses a medium instead of water to overcome this issue.

Unlike Oil paints, Acrylics won’t wait days for you, but there are ways to slow down the drying time. The simplest way is to just refrigerate the painting. Yep, I said put it in the refrigerator for the night. Cold temperatures slow down the drying time of Acrylics. Of course, that probably isn’t practicable for most artists. Unless you are painting miniatures, I doubt you will have room for a painting in your refrigerator! If you live where the daily temperature is between 40oand 50oF you could stick it out on your unheated porch overnight.  However, your palettecan be sealed and kept in the refrigerator and your paint will stay workable for several days.

The next simplest way to slow down the drying time of Acrylics involves using water. I saw this technique demonstrated by TV artist Jerry Yarnell and it works great in the short run. Dip a large brush in your rinse water and brush it over the canvas until the canvas is thoroughly wet. You can smooth out any dripping runs with a damp brush. Using clean or dirty water is irrelevant; you are going to cover this up with paint in a few minutes anyway. This will keep the paint you apply workable longer. Remember a spray water bottle is your best friend when working with Acrylics (they still sell them in the laundry section of department stores–I just bought a new one). Periodically spray down your palette and the portions of your canvas you need to keep wet. If a drip occurs, blot it away with a paper towel.

There are also commercial mediums to slow down drying time. They work, but I personally didn’t like them. My paint seemed sticky afterwards, and it was difficult to judge when I could start working over the top of the painting I had used them on. I admit that issue probably has more to do with my own painting techniques than how well the medium worked. You see, I sketch up the painting, paint over the drawing so I can place background shadows and highlights where I want them, and then redraw the foreground objects, people or animals. To do this the paint needs to be dry, and hard enough to stand up to the pressure of my pencil or charcoal. Thickly applied Acrylic paint is soft enough that a hard pressure will leave an imprint even if the work is completely dry, so the “slow-dry” mediums just didn’t work for me.

 

While it’s true that not every medium will suit everyone, I suggest if you really want to learn to work with Acrylic paint, you take one of Grimmer’s or Yarnell’s workshops. Yarnell also has video series about painting that can be purchased from his website. http://www.yarnellschool.com/

Jerome has a video on YouTube about working with Acrylics that is free to watch. Jerome Grimmer Mixes Acrylics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaW3Gz5UMks

DOES ACRYLIC PAINT REALLY DRY TOO FAST?

Published December 11, 2017 by Gail Daley Writer & Artist

Acrylic is a very forgiving medium. By this, I mean that if you goof up you can just paint over it and start again! Can’t do that with watercolor; at least not unless you are very, very skilled with it. I do love the way a talented watercolorist can bring a painting to life with watercolor, but sadly, I find it much harder to work with than acrylics. I am a kind of “create as I go painter”, and with watercolor it seems necessary to minutely plan each step. I am the type of artist who starts with just a general sketch and then details with paint as I go. While I like the way oils look (my mother worked in them) I can’t use them because of the chemicals and the smell. Oils also dry too slowly for a painter like me. I end up with mud every time because I am too impatient to wait days until my canvas is workable again! Pastels and charcoal make fantastic mediums when done by an artist skilled in their use, and they don’t stink but I am such a messy painter that I inevitably end up with as much on me as I do on the canvas or paper!

Acrylics are wonderful for impatient painters like me. Since each layer will dry and be workable in about a half hour, in four or five hours I can add at least four layers of paint without creating mud which every artist dreads. (You know when you’ve accidentally mixed your colors on top of each other and ended up with a dark mess instead of the beautiful color you were aiming for?)  I confess that it puzzles me to hear of other artists complaining that acrylics dry too fast to work with since I often have to stop and walk away for that half hour in order to let my painting become dry enough to add another layer of paint.

Acrylics paint is such a chameleon that if I want parts of my work to look like a watercolor, I just thin my acrylic paint to make it more transparent. There are many additions that can be used to alter the properties of Acrylics, but I just use water to thin my paint. If I want an area I am working on to stay wet a little longer, instead of adding a slow-dry medium, I spray the canvas with water or wet it with a brush. I don’t use any of the available mediums that are supposed to slow down the speed in which acrylics dry. I have tried them but I didn’t like working with them.

Acrylics typically dry darker and less shinny than they look when wet. There are mediums you can mix with your paints to give acrylics that shinny appearance typical of an oil painting, but this medium does slightly alter the way in which acrylic paint acts when painting with it. The same effect can be achieved if you simply apply a coat of varnish to the painting when it is done.

The amount of paint an artist applies to the painting also has an effect on how fast an acrylic application will dry. I have noticed that many artists who received their first artistic training in transparent watercolor seem to put a lot less paint on a canvas each time than I do, which might account for their acrylics drying faster than they expect. I find that acrylic loves to be applied nice and thick. The thicker the paint (the more you start out with on the brush each time) the easier it is to push it around on the canvas and the longer it will take to dry.

If you are having trouble with acrylic painting techniques, don’t give up. If you can’t find a class in acrylics by a local expert, there are many wonderful instruction videos and books available. You can also take advantage of your local art groups demonstrations at their general meetings. The two experts in Acrylic painting that I have learned the most from are Jerome Grimmer, an artist who lives in my area part time and gives workshops when he is in Fresno, and Jerry Yarnell, who lives in Oklahoma and publishes instructional videos that can be found on public television stations or bought from the internet.

PERFORMANCE AND PROPERTIES OF ACRYLIC PAINTS IN FINE ART

Published December 4, 2017 by Gail Daley Writer & Artist

Acrylic paintings now make up a significant part of the permanent collections of museums and art galleries.  Artists’ acrylic paint was introduced in the 1950s and since then has dominated the arts and crafts market.   In addition, it has been accepted by artists as a viable alternative to oil paint.  Unlike oil paints, which have existed for centuries, Acrylic paints are a relatively new medium. Once dry, acrylic paint is not water-soluble and will usually be dry within 30 minutes of application, whereas oils do not become dry to the touch for 48 hours. Most acrylic paint used by artists is water-based. There is a form of acrylic paint that is solvent based, but it is not in general use by artists. A variety of additives can be added to the acrylic paint to make them easier to work with or to give the texture wanted by the artist.   Examples of these are thickeners, stabilizers, preservatives, and merging solvents.

Because it is a 20th century product, artists don’t have centuries of experience to tell what effect aging may have on an acrylic painting. Acrylic colors retain their original brilliance as long, or longer, than traditional oil paints, and they are much less delicate and prone to damage by UV radiation than watercolors and other water-based paints. The surface of a finished acrylic painting does not seem to become brittle or yellow with age, but remains flexible, insoluble and stable.

The behavior of acrylics as a painting medium and their physical and chemical properties are different from oil paint and merit different strategies in caring for acrylic paintings.  Some traditional conservation methods can in fact cause damage to the acrylic paintings.  The aging characteristics of acrylic paintings are just beginning to be understood.  It is known that aging may cause some acrylic paintings to form a grey veil on their surface or develop yellow discoloration. The soft film formed by acrylic paint will easily abrade or dent with just fingernail pressure.  This type of damage can ruin the appearance of paintings that should display a perfect surface. Because Acrylic paint stretches when exposed to heat and cold, Acrylic paintings are expected to develop fewer cracks than oil paintings when they age. Acrylic paintings can withstand much greater forces without breaking.   Cracks can form in acrylic paintings however. When exposed to sub-zero temperatures, acrylics become increasingly brittle and crack so don’t store your acrylic paintings in a freezer!

Acrylic paintings have unique qualities that need diligent preventive care to avoid long-term damage.  Acrylic paint attracts and holds dirt and is difficult to clean. Varnishing to protect the paint is not a perfect solution either.  It is imperative to store acrylic paintings in a dust free, smoke free location to reduce the amount of dirt accumulated.  It is also important to keep the display or storage temperature below standard room temperatures to reduce further softening of the paint film.  One might have to accept that acrylic paintings will experience some visual change due to dirt as time goes on. Avoid handling the painting’s surface directly. Erosion from scuffing or touching the paint surface can damage or alter the appearance of the work significantly. This is because skin oils are acidic and can damage the artwork over time. Dust and dirt are a particular hazard. Acrylics can also pick up mold residue if they are stored in a warm climate like a bathroom or locker room, or even a kitchen.

At present, there is no completely satisfactory solution to the problem of cleaning acrylic paintings. Removal of the top most dirt layer is perceived to be easier on a varnished painting. Varnishes provide surface protection from abrasion, dust and dirt. Varnishing acrylic paintings has problems attached to it. Natural varnishes, such as dammar, will yellow in time and the solvent used in their removal will dissolve or soften the acrylic paint layer, thus damaging your painting. A water-soluble varnish may be an answer; however, this is still being researched by manufacturers to see what long-term effects may take place. Instead, it is important to store acrylic paintings in a dust free environment to reduce the amount of dirt deposited while keeping the display or keep the temperature below standard room temperatures to reduce further softening of the paint film.

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