Oil on acrylics – in progress

There’s something about paints that makes me want to master them all. Had the same thing with gouache. I HAD TO master it. For years I hated it because I work in layers and gouache behaved poorly in layers. Especially when mixed with white. Layers of paint would come off at a single moist brush stroke even when it had fully dried.

But I stuck to it. Because watercolours are so horrible at reproduction. It’s next to impossible to get a good image from a scan and photographing them didn’t lead to satisfying results either. Every digital image of a watercolour needs pretty drastic digital tweaking before it gets the same vibrance of the original and somehow to me it felt like it shouldn’t be that way. So I needed to master another kind of paint that would allow for easier and better reproduction. I had begun to paint in acrylics already. The medium forms a film that doesn’t lead to as transparant a result as watercolours do that brings you straight into the white paper, not even when diluted to the consistency of watercolour. The film it forms stops the light on the painting, so if you can avoid reflection, it allows for much better digital imaging.

And overall, I loved working with acrylics. However, sometimes it left this plastic-like end result that I didn’t like as much as the matte feel of watercolours or the velvet of gouache, especially when using the paint straight from the tube. So, I figured, let’s try oils and see what they do. I started with oils on a wood panel a few years ago.

Oil on wood panel – in progress

But you can see the problem, right? It’s still not finished. I think this one is 3 to 4 years old. The thing is, painting with oils is wonderful. It’s smooth, allows for long working time, allows endless smudging to get really nice and smooth colour shifts and it’s easy to paint finely with it as well as coarsely and expressively. BUT….and here is the giganormous BUT:

Oils don’t dry!

Or, of course, they do. But it takes DAYS…weeks…before you can move on to the next layer. The creature on top was dry within 3 days. But the white on the background has been on it for a full week now and it’s even wetter than sticky. The paint still comes off when I touch it and I think that if I’d put my brush into the paint again, I could still move it around. The white comes off like I just painted it.

So that is why the wood panel never got finished. Oil paint takes sooooo long to dry that you must put away your canvas or panel…and then new impulses and projects come up and the painting gets forgotten. I love my creature, but I’m afraid this one will end up in the oubliette just like my wood panel did. and I really wish I had painted it with acrylics. I have already been looking into the possibility of removing the entire layer of oil paint now that it is by no means dry yet and then finish the whole thing with acrylics. I’ll look into that a bit more.

Also, oils must be painted fat on top of lean…meaning that diluted paint must be used on the canvas and each layer must be less diluted. That’s probably a natural process to someone who’s learned to paint with oils, but when you come from acrylics where anything goes and where very often glazes are added to thick layers of paint, it’s something you tend to forget while you work.

It doesn’t feel great when a project comes to a stop or goes so slowly that you feel it drags behind you. But on the other hand I’m learning something. I think oils would be awesome if I worked on huge canvases that would allow me to work on a place on there anyway. But for small canvases it doesn’t work. Or at least not for me. I’d have to do ten paintings at a time to be able to keep busy and that wouldn’t work for me.

There’s always the Golden OPEN acrylics, of course…the one that dries so slowly that it feels a bit like oil paints when working with it. But I’m beginning to feel that a little jar of matte acrylic medium could be a really good option to get rid of that plasticcy feel…

So…all in all…not a lot of end result, but a lot learnt!