September 17, 2011

Water Mixable Oils vs Acrylics and 16th day of 30

I can't believe today I start the second half of my 30 days of blogging daily of art... wow!

Today I want to talk about my personal experience with water mixable oils, vs Acrylics. If you have been with me for a while you are probably going to hear a repeat, since I have talked about it before in other online places.... But here we go:

Although I have doodled with art all my life, when I started to paint more "seriously", I was like many people undecided about which medium to go with or what substrate. I started with watercolors on paper. They are sweet and I love them, but that didn't fill up my hunger. So I quickly moved to oils because they are the "real thing".... right? The traditional, classic, real art.

Oils on canvas was the thing..... Only, it was way too stinky for me. I almost quit art right then and there, because there was no way I was going to be using that near my children. But then I was introduced to the water soluble oils about 10 years ago. I took a workshop, and loved them to pieces. I didn't try anything else for a long while, but the thing that bothered me was the time to dry. I don't always want to paint wet on wet, being afraid to mess up one particular corner that I like the way it looks, don't want to touch with a brush again and ruin my master piece (Isn't it always the current painting our most treasured master piece? hehe).

But, waiting for a day for it to be dry was too long for me (for regular oils it's many days for it to be tacky) and if I added water the paint yes, would dry fast, but the colors were patchy and matte in some areas, since only the most oily parts are the typical satin finish of oils. That was no fun to discover. So it was all watered down, or no water at all, since I didn't like the patchy uneven finish. Until I started to use a medium to help the oils to dry. That made things better for me. I could paint, wait for it a couple of hours for it to be tacky enough for my next step, and still have the same even finish on the whole area.

Around that time I decided to paint on wood, and believe me, it is a very messy business to paint wood with oils, unless you hold them well to something and don't touch the sides.
I went ahead and took the little craft acrylics for some kids projects, and I really liked the fast drying time. But they were too flat, I was used to the more texture of oils, so flat was not very convincing to me, but by then I was very interested in acrylics. Sometime after that I took another workshop with an acrylic artist and had the awesome experience to work with Liquitex and Golden. The word that comes to mind is yummy!

The oh-too-fast drying paint is something I had to get used to, which started to be frustrating when I was layering a face, so naturally, the next step was the use of mediums to slow down the drying paint, and stretch the play time. I simply love the retarder additive, and the gel medium to help acrylics perform like oils; just as I love the mediums to accelerate the time for oils to dry faster.

As the technology has advanced on the acrylic paints and mediums, I can tell you, they lack nothing. They look beautiful, so versatile and can be as soft, real and classic as the oils.Acrylics can make you be more creative than oils in some regards, since you can do more things in the same amount of time and mix them with other elements that are hard if not impossible to mix with the oils.

I have been slowly dipping my toe in mixed media for the past couple of years while doing my dolls (which is another blog altogether!) And all I can say is: take your time and experiment. Play with new things. Take an art workshop if you can.

Don't go buy the whole collection of a brand. Get a couple of things (with your magical craft store coupon!) and see if you like it.... I can tell you right now, I like pastels but I do not like painting with them, and there's no way to know that until you try.

So in conclusion: Water soluble oils are not smelly, they are easy to use, and in some cases the color variety is better than the regular oils. The cleaning is easier, the finished look can be opaque or dull if mixed with too much water, or patchy if not mixed evenly. They can even perform like watercolors! Mediums and additives can help the impatient artist to accelerate dry time. They can be layered on top of acrylics. Overtime oils are not as stable and could crack if not painted on a suitable substrate, or not following the "fat over lean" rule. It still takes time -days or weeks- to dry completely so you need room for it to be untouched for a while.
You can save a dirty brush with enough effort if you left paint on it for a week :oS

Acrylics can be as creamy as oils, are not smelly, clean up is easy; the fast dry time can be managed with mediums. They can have the look of oils; they can be mixed with any other element and medium like collage or oil pastels. It will crack if added on top of oils (That can ruin a piece ...or make it very interesting). They can be painted fat over fat, lean over fat, any substrate as their plasticity allows for it. They definitely can work like watercolors if diluted with enough water or mediums. It dries completely within minutes and can be stored or put away or be touched right after.
Good luck removing any of it from any brush you forgot to clean for a week! lol

I do not want to discourage anyone to use either, rather the opposite. I love both acrylics and water-soluble oils,  I think each has a different and unique magic.


Thanks for visiting! I'd love to hear your opinion.

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  1. We worked with water-soluble oils during my gymnasium years, I liked them a lot more than acrylics! So much easier to blend beautifully on the canvas...

    Re (my blog): Thank you! ^-^
    No, he's finished this way, and I will show his two "brothers" from the rest of the project later.
    My site is made so that you get to the main page first to read a bit about me, before clicking the "blog" button. So you navigated it right... allthough people seem to get confused, I might have to remove the coding I worked so hard on to make the site the way it is now... =__= Ah well...

    // - T.W -

  2. Hey Martha, I love the painting, or is it part of a painting? And, for myself, I have only used my acrylics and my fine gel markers. I don't think I will ever change, I love what I paint with ;o) Great post!

  3. TW The blog looks great, but I guess people can get lost at first. I liked it a lot! And your work is beautiful!

  4. Stacy, Acrylics are my favorite most of the time, they are so versatile! but oils, well, they have such creaminess, I like them a lot too, but they need a bit more time.

  5. Hi! and thanks for posting your experience with using oils and acrylics. I absolutely love acrylics! Watercolor, though my first love,is now 2nd. However, I am having a fling with Prismacolor colored pencils and it has been exhilarating! Like you, I just think you have to experiment and play with different mediums to know what you can do and what you like best...hmmmm (lately I've been dreaming about going back to watercolor!) We'll see what's next! It's a huge world of art out there!

  6. Thank you for the post, Martha! I've been wanting to try the water-soluble oils. My sister gave me a gift card for Michael's for my birthday, hmmm may just be the thing to splurge on =)


I ♥ all your comments! ~
. .Keep your paintbrush wet!