Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Acrylics are my least favourite medium but I have a box full of them so I can't let them go to waste, can I? I reckon they need doctoring to look decent. On their own, they dry too quickly (use a retarder), frequently they form as a blob on the end of the brush, too thick (use a flow enhancer) and they look dull on the resulting painting (use a gloss medium). Ah, that's better!

I do use decent quality paints, I have Liquitex colours which have a creamy consistency and also I have Rembrandt acrylics. But somehow they still fail to inspire me and the resulting painting still ends up looking dull and boring. Add a comment if you know what I'm doing wrong (apart from using them in the first place). Maybe I should be using them in more of a graphic design environment. Colour mixing in watercolours is a joy but, due to their opaque quality, mixing acrylics just doesn't work in the same way.

For a palette, previously I used a piece of 5mm toughened glass which was made to measure to fit a Tupperware container. It sat on top of a white-painted base just below the lip of the container and, below it is a water reservoir to keep the atmosphere humid. The paints stayed liquid for several days but once the lid was opened, you can guess what happened! The water is treated with a mould killer. I use the same type of glass for my oils palette. I went to Vidrieries Girona for the glass and it wasn't expensive.

After... I've changed my acrylic palette. I now use greaseproof paper (papel vegetal in Spanish) instead of glass, in common with many acrylic artists, and lay it on top of a dampened sponge. This keeps the paints moist even when open to the air as the paper allows a limited amount of water to pass through it. So.. forget my glass plate! That was a mistake.

But I will persevere with acrylics because, uniquely, they give me the opportunity to make small changes to a painting which are simply not possible with watercolour and which take too long with oils, with the layers mixing. I've tended to use primed MDF as a surface, which I describe in my oils posting, but I think I will try painting acrylic on watercolour paper instead.

On a shopping trip to Girona, I bought several "squeezy" bottles and loaded them with Liquitex Slo Dry, Flow Aid (diluted 1:20 as in the instructions) and Titan (huge Spanish paint company) Gloss Medium. The water here is very hard, full of calcium, so I used distilled water for my solution. I even pre-mixed Slo Dry and Flow Aid in the same bottle as an experiment! I only use my water container for washing brushes now. You can see the Tupperware container that I use for my palette plus a book for making notes. It's all rather like mixing chemicals in a photographic darkroom - I'm far more optimistic now with my new toolkit!

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