Oil paints dry v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. An oil painter can take his or her time executing a particular passage because oils remain wet and workable seemingly forever. Acrylics are just the opposite. Blink and they're fully dry and ready to varnish. Their "open" time is measured in minutes. An acrylic artist who goes off to have a quick cup of coffee in the midst of a painting session can return to find his brush welded to his palette and the paint on it hardened into an immovable blob.
|Fluid acrylics, used here in a scraping technique, dry even faster than heavy body acrylics and soft body acrylics.|
Their fast drying time demands of artists the ability to make split second decisions, and be able to successfully blend, scumble, and otherwise work the paint skillfully and without hesitation. For this reason I firmly believe this medium forces you to become more adept as a painter. The clock is always ticking when you're painting with acrylics.
The number one complaint of beginning acrylic painters is, "They dry too fast." The number one complaint of longtime professional painters trying to switch from oils to acrylics also is, "They dry too fast." Both groups are absolutely right. It's unquestionably the most frustrating aspect of using this paint. (Thanks to recent advances, there are now a number of ways to overcome this. More on that in a minute.)
Another challenging aspect of working with acrylics is learning the differences between and mastering the use of dozens of specialty acrylic mediums that produce an endless array of effects not possible with oils or watercolors. Each medium's unique properties call for experimentation with the myriad of ways it can be used. An artist could experiment with a different acrylic medium every day for a year and never run out of new techniques to try.
Then there's the issue of familiarizing oneself with the extensive number of acrylic types at one's disposal: heavy body acrylics, soft body acrylics, open acrylics, fluid acrylics, professional artist acrylics and student grade acrylics. (There are also acrylic craft paints but they're better suited to making crafts rather than fine art.) No other medium offers so many choices that call for acquiring such a broad base of knowledge. If you want to paint with acrylics, expect to do some homework.
More than a few would-be painters decide it's too difficult and give up. But many more don't give up. They persist and reap the rewards. What are those rewards? Unlimited freedom of expression. The ability to innovate. To achieve a level of visual depth in a day that would take weeks to achieve if rendered in oils. Easy soap and water cleanup as opposed to smelly solvents. Very low toxicity. A lack of fumes. A huge range of colors that's continually expanding. Compatibility across most types and brands. Unmatched versatility. The ability to make an acrylic painting look like an oil painting. The list of benefits could go on and on!
Yes, acrylics are for beginners, though not in the sense that the aforementioned oil painter intended. Would-be painters would be shortchanging themselves if they didn't learn to paint with this medium. They'd miss out on one of the most thrilling and exciting experiences making art can offer. Are you looking to learn to paint? Go forth and take a class in acrylic painting. That spark of creativity you hope to encourage will become a roaring flame.
|A drop or two of Open Medium added to fluid acrylic, heavy bodied acrylic or soft body acrylic provides extended working time.|
And those solutions I mentioned earlier for slowing the drying process? Adding glazing liquid or open medium to heavy body, soft body or fluid acrylics slows their drying times quite effectively. Special lidded palettes fitted with absorbent sponges can extend the paints' working time, too. Within the last several years a leading manufacturer, Golden Paints, has introduced a new line of professional level acrylics. Golden's Open Acrylics remain wet and workable much longer than any of their counterparts, no additives needed.
I don't have any affiliation with Golden Paints or any other manufacturer; I'm simply sharing what I've learned and experienced after years of using this wonderful medium. Should you, too, decide to explore it, you'll find it to be as fascinating as it is creatively fulfilling.
©2017 Lynn Edwards