Happy Friday! This is a short blog post about my recent adventures with the Golden 'Open Acrylic' paints. I've painted with acrylics since before art school, but in art school we used them often for assignments and for our own paintings. I think the brands I used were Hyplar (a Grumbacher product) and Liquitex. Then as I entered my career and was painting paintings of birds, acrylics were a very common medium that many wildlife artists used, and use still. I tried, using watery glazes and acrylic primed hardboard. I will admit that they were nice to use for rendering details of feathers and vegetation in a bird painting, and several of my bird paintings in acrylic were published by my publisher, Wild Wings, Inc in Lake City, MN.
But I was never very happy using them... they seemed like the medium that you could paint forever and ever with and never finish... because you could instantly and constantly change the paintings... forever! Yet I've always felt that they just might be the 'ideal' medium for a painter. Just think, no solvents other than water, you can paint on nearly anything that the acrylics will bind to, so no need for fancy or toxic primers. Brushes could be washed out with soap and water, and you better be sure to wash them out or they're toast! Imagine walking into the field to paint, and you can drink the same thing that you wash your brushes out with, and that you thin your paint with!
As my painting life evolved into one of spending more time outside in the field painting, than in the studio painting, about once a year I would haul out the acrylics to give them a shot in the field. I could usually get one decent painting, then one that was beginning to give me fits, followed by one more that usually became a Frisbee! That would be it, the acrylics would be put away, until my Cub Scouts would need to paint something, or the boys would need them for a school project. Then the following spring, I'd dig them up again and go through the ritual once more.
The two biggest enemies of artists using acrylics, at least this artist, has been the Value shift that happens when they dry... frustrating as heck. And that they set so fast that you have a hard time adjusting edges and subtle transitions with them.
This was my routine for years. Then about 7 years ago or so, an Australian company, Chroma, introduced Atelier 'Interactive Acrylic' paint. It had a longer open working time than traditional acrylics, there were various additives that would extend that time, shorten that time, or just close it off altogether. Being into about 27 years of being interested in these quirky paints called acrylics, I purchased a palette of the Atelier Interactive acrylics. My results were a little better than in previous attempts at it in the field, but these still dried to quickly for me to seriously pursue them. In addition to that, there were so many 'sprays' and mediums to add to control them, that I lost interest. They're still sitting in my studio in a box.
Then a few years ago, not sure how many, but probably about 5 or 6, Golden the acrylic paint manufacturer, introduced their version of this class of acrylic. Their line is called 'Open Acrylics'. I have a penchant for self inflicted, art supply frustration, so I bought a palette of these paints to try. For some reason, they've sat... probably out of my own fear of failure with them after such a long history of 'wanting' them to work for me. Until about a month ago...
I decided that I wanted to do something a little different one day when heading out to paint. It was a really chilly and windy morning, so I decided it would be a 'paint from the car' day. Usually, I would use oils, or gouache, when car painting. But this day I wanted to use something that I could paint on a canvas board that I clamped to the steering wheel. Light bulb??? Why not take the acrylics along and give them a shot?
To my pleasant surprise, I found that I could work the Golden Open Acrylics as long as I needed to to get the painting done, and the color and value shift didn't happen... Wow! This was interesting... I sensed a new journey in the making that day. Since then, I've been painting with them in the field and in the studio, on primed hardboard, paper, and primed cotton canvas board. I'm finding that this medium is allowing me to think about what my concept is more than what the paint is doing... or what to do with the paint. It seems to be a medium that I fit, finally, one that fits me. The extra time to paint is the key, yet it is dry enough within minutes to lay a glaze over. Then it can be spritzed with a solution of water and Goldens' Open Thinner, and it re-wets and is blendable and can still be worked into. This stuff is really cool.
There are so many things that I've discovered about painting with this paint, that I will need to write a separate post about them in the near future. I haven't painted any large paintings with it yet. That's something I plan to do soon.
A note of caution that I've learned recently... DO NOT think that because these are water based paints, that they are SAFER than other paint... NOT TRUE! I was surprised to learn that in fact, Pastels (#1 on the hazards list), Acrylics, Gouache, Watercolor, all water based paints, are MORE hazardous than OIL PAINTS... given sloppy painting/studio habits. Remember that it's not the vehicle that the pigment is dispersed or held in suspension in, it's the PIGMENT that is the danger. Water allows the pigment to be more readily absorbed into your bloodstream than pigment ground into suspension in an oil base... ie Oil paints. The solvent in oil painting is a hazard of course. So my idea is to use safe studio and painting practices (no eating or drinking while painting, good ventilation, and wear gloves) and realize that aside from ingesting the paint, the acrylics are a safer paint to use because there is no solvent, all things being equal.
So below are some of my recent acrylic efforts. And since this blog post ended up anything but short... I'll say adios for now. Soon I'll write up my thoughts about the materials and methods when painting with these paints.
A Golden Day - acrylic on canvas board - 8x10
Cottonwood Morning - acrylic on canvas board - 5x7
Morning Drive - acrylic on canvas board - 9x12
New Snow - acrylic on board - 8x10
Cloud Color - acrylic on board - 8x8
Cloud Cover - acrylic on board - 8x8