|Detail from Deal, December|
Most artists have a deep passionate attachment to their medium. People who aren't artists might wonder why does oil painter reacts so negatively if you ask if they use acrylic? Why does a pastel artist not use paint? Why does an artist only draw in pencil and not charcoal, or the other way around? Surely if an artist knows how to paint a landscape or draw a figure then they can do it with anything?
The answer is that they could. Probably.
|Detail from Infinity Window|
Usually an artist can use other mediums. Sometimes very well. Sometimes adequately but they would need some time and practice to get the result as good as their main medium. Really it's just about familiarity, and you lose a bit of skill when you aren't practicing with a kind of material every day.
So I trained in oils. Could I do my paintings in oil paint? Probably.
It would definitely take a bit of trial and error to figure out how since both my technique and style have changed drastically since I worked in oil paint.
|Detail from Resound|
But if I started in oils, that must mean I changed to acrylic. Why?
There are several things I just love about acrylic:
- The colours. I actually like the solid colour of acrylic. Even one colour on it's own has that flatness to it because there's no oil to give it a reflective surface. (some pigments, the powder of the colours, are actually glossy - so this varies from one tube of paint to another)
- The drying time. This one was a challenge at first! But I work very fast and even my teacher tried to convince me to try acrylics early on. With oils I was working on up to 10 paintings at a time because I had to let each glaze layer dry before I could work more. Even in oils I didn't tend to blend the paint together while brushing on the canvas, I liked to overlay lots and lots of thin nearly-transparent layers of colour. So with acrylics I could actually work on 3-4 and completely them a bit fast. In fact I now tend to work on 2-3 at a time.
- The flatness. Oh yes, the flatness. So not only the flatness of colour from the non-reflecting medium, but also the wonderful way I can build up layers without building up a thickness. The colours are soft and some artists describe them as "chalky" which I think is just the contrast to way oils are glossy. Oil will build up a thickness of paint - basically you'd see a thick layer on top of the canvas. Because the oil that binds the pigment stays even after drying and make the painting thicker and thicker. Acrylics are bound with a polymer and water. The water evaporates leaving only a very thin layer of colour, just the pigment and a bit of polymer - the water is gone, unlike the oil. Lots of my acrylic layers (I say "my" because much of it is down to my technique) don't build up enough to look like a blanket of paint over the canvas.
Of course, this last one is tricky because it can turn the tables on you!
It takes time and practice to figure out how to make the quick drying work to my advantage. Paint that dries too fast can be immoveable with a paintbrush! In fact in the summer the paint usually dries to fast even for me - and some summers I actually stop painting for a few weeks.
|Detail from Late Lias|
Now it's worth mentioning that the switch to acrylics wasn't a magical flip of a switch, nor a real cheerful choice for me. I took them with me on a 4 week residency as a personal challenge - no oil paint for a month! They drove me crazy. I hated them. Yet there was something interesting about them. My interest was piqued. I painted with both oil and acrylic for about two years before finally finding a way to start getting acrylic to do sort of what I wanted. Yeah, that doesn't sound very successful does it? It wasn't. I'd say it was at least 4 years of working with it before I could get acrylic to start glazing in a way that was sufficient. Not great, but sufficient. It was a start.
In fact, it's still not there. I'm sure I can still push my transparency further.
Quick, hand me some gold paint!
|Detail from Under Durdle|
See the coast paintings tina-m.com