Plastic Paints And Happy Mediums
by Tina Manzer
First, acrylics are children compared to other art tools and supplies. They were developed for the U. S. government after World War II to fill a need for fast-drying paint. Acrylics became available for commercial use a few years later, and then for artists in the late 1950s.
“The difference in the acrylics then and those we use today is dramatic,” noted Doug Purdon, a Winsor & Newton artist-in-residence in Canada.“With the early acrylics, if I let the paint dry slightly on the palette and then lifted my brush, I’d have a string of paint come off it like chewing gum.”
The same characteristics that made acrylics unpopular then – its plastic-y glueyness and the fact that it can dry too quickly – are among the reasons artists use the much improved versions today.
“There are so many creative things that an artist or artsy person can do easily and better with acrylics compared to oils,” said Suzanne McNeill from Design Originals. “They’re just fabulous, from sand and speckles to textures and adhesives, from glass beads to stucco. The applications and opportunities are endless. Want to collage? Acrylics provide perfect mediums, textures and adhesives for almost anything. Want to paint?Acrylics come in a wide variety of colors. They can be used full body for brush stroke and palette knife textures, or they can be thinned with water and glazing mediums to use in a similar manner as watercolors.”
That may be so, but “Even as acrylics have Become more popular, we’ve seen the market go more towards oils,” said Dennis Kapp from Martin/F. Weber.His company offers Prima Acrylics, and acrylic lines developed for artists Susan Sheewe and Wyland.What’s more, a fourth line is in the works. All the formulas were developed in the U.S., and the paint and medium is produced in Philadelphia.
“I’m an oil paint manufacturer who also happens to produce acrylics,” said Dennis. “To me, acrylics have a very specific purpose for artists who don’t want solvents around their children or their pets, and artists who may be allergic to some of the things included in oils.”
“Oil paint is actually on a high,” agreed Neil Gwartzman from Masters International, an importer and distributor of traditional fine art products and unique art and stationery items. “Right now it’s more popular than it’s been in the past five to eight years.”
Acrylics and oils have always enjoyed sort of a rivalry, noted Edouard Andre-Hessig of Daler-Rowney.“Oil painters will not change to acrylics, and artists who love acrylics are not fans of oils. A lot of it has to do with drying time – acrylics dry from the outside in quickly, and oils from the inside out slowly.
However, many paint manufacturers, both oil and acrylic, try to invent formulas that merge the most desirable properties of the two. Cobra, a water-soluble oil from Talens, is an example. Daler-Rowney offers good quality oils and a good quality acrylics, and we’re going to stick with both."
In this issue, retailers will find a sample of Daler- Rowney’s System 3 acrylic, manufactured in the U.K. “It’s been available for 20 years, but it was recently reformulated and repackaged,” Edouard told us. “It’s exceptionally versatile.”
System 3 is available in two different consistencies: a flow formula, System 3 Original with 60 colors, and a heavy body formula, System 3 Heavy Body with 34 colors. It’s available in six different sizes of tubes and jars. “Out of the four grades of acrylics we offer, it’s second from the top, and would be considered ideal for experienced students and artists with high pigment load and exceptional versatility,” he added.
While acrylics can be used on a canvas as a basecoat for oils, acrylics are not permanent on top of oils.
When I asked Suzanne McNeill what kinds of crazy, beautiful art were being created with acrylics, she gave me two examples.
1. Wonderful paintings with textures including raised surface area and glazed areas with pools of transparent medium that give it a fabulous “window” effect.
2. Faux encaustic paintings created with layers of clear Tar Gel. “This art looks like encaustic wax with embedded items and a beautiful beeswax tint. However, it’s permanent, doesn’t melt in the sun, and doesn’t need buffing,” she said.
But all those mediums can be confusing, said Neil Gwartzman. “It’s almost too much to think about. To paint with oils you need the paint, linseed oil and turpentine, and that’s it.”
GOLDEN Artists Colors, easily the industry leader in acrylic mediums, understands that selecting the right one can be overwhelming. That’s why Patti Brady, the director of GOLDEN’s Working Artists Program, will present, “Selling Your Acrylic Aisle to All Your Customers” at NAMTA’s upcoming show. “This special workshop will help you sort through the basics and then look at some of the odd pigments and weird gels that stump the best of us,” says the workshop’s description. “Acrylics can be used by all your customers, including color pencil addicts, crafters, oil painters, and DIYs, spanning tastes from traditional to wildly contemporary.”
Altered Surfaces by Chris Cozen, published by Design Originals.
“It pictures each versatile acrylic medium, then shows how to use it and what creative effects can be achieved with it,” explains Suzanne McNeill.
Cozen follows up with two more books on projects that use acrylics – Transfers and Altered Images and Mixed Media with COLOR, also available from Design Originals.
Wendy’s Top Tips for Acrylic Artists by Wendy Jelbert, published by Search Press.
Jelbert, an artist, instructor and author, shows how acrylics can be used with watercolor or oil techniques, or with a combination of the two. Included are how-to’s for mixing colors, using tone, and creating space and distance; plus tips on painting trees, skies, water, coastal scenes, flowers and more.