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Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:32 PM

Is there an oil vs. acrylic snobbery?

When I talk to other painters I often hear, "I used to paint with acrylics, but I'm into oils now." I get it. Some of the oil colors seem to be richer and the fact that they take longer to dry, is great for subtler shading. But I'm an impatient painter and like the fact that acrylic paint dries quickly. In fact, I often use a hair drier to speed up the process. And I love the cleanup--soap and water!

Your thoughts?

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Response to bif (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:40 PM

1. Depends on what you want to do.

One thing I don't like about acrylic paint is that it's too flat unless you mix it with a glossy medium. I do like the easy cleanup (unless it's dried, then you'll never get it off), but I don't like the fact that it dries so fast that you can't mix more than small amounts on a palette or even take a bathroom break without covering it up with something. I don't think it's a matter of snobbery as much as what effects you like and how you like to work. I think oils are more versatile and I like the glazing effects you can do, plus the fact that you can mix your colors and they won't dry before you can use them.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:55 PM

5. Try retarder medium and/or neo megilp. Also cover your pallet with foil overnight...

and acrylics will still be moist the next morning.

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Response to bif (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:45 PM

2. i think it is a part of the artist as hero syndrome.

risking your life for your art makes you a hero, dont you know.

when i was in art school in the mid-80's, people were starting to realize that a lot of the cutting edge artists of the 60's were dying from the materials they had discovered and found so interesting. fiberglass and epoxies were the rage. and not for no reason. but the brain tumors followed right behind. eva hess for one.
we had to take a class on material safety, and a lot of people left oils over the dangers of turpentine and other solvents in the kind of tiny spaces that artists tended to inhabit.
my favorite teacher, christine ramberg, succumbed to this. brain cancer.

that has sort of faded from consciousness.
my youngest is a gamer, and follows a lot of dice makers on twitter. i see them showing off their epoxy creations, and just have to sigh.

i think the return to oils is the same. there really isnt anything you can do w oils that you cant do w acrylics. anyone who thinks there is needs to do more homework.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #2)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:51 PM

4. Yes. Important info. There is also the story, maybe apocryphal, of the artist who died...

from moistening her brush with her mouth when using cadmium yellows and reds.

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Response to brush (Reply #4)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:59 PM

6. i'm sure it has happened to many. clay artists poison themselves

somewhat regularly. pretty much all of them who havent done it yet will eat in their studios.

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Response to brush (Reply #4)

Sun Sep 22, 2019, 05:23 PM

9. Actually, that happened to my dad

He was a commercial artist and after he cleaned his brushes, he would but the brushes in his mouth for his saliva to make a point on the brush. They cut out a sliver of his tongue making his tongue much shorter. He lived five yrs after that till the cancer spread. When I was a kid I used copy him by doing that but luckily I didnít do it for too long.

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Response to bif (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:46 PM

3. At some point you might want more texture than you normally get from quick drying...

and often flat, even dull acrylic. There is of course retarder medium to slow the drying of acrylic but there is also neo megilp which can add thick, interesting textures. Also gloss and gel mediums can spark up the dull, flatness of just straight acrylic.

With these mediums you can get the thick richness of oils but still have much quicker drying times.

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Response to bif (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 02:05 PM

7. When I was studying back in the 70s there was definitely oil snobbery.

Personally, I couldn't stand the smell of oils. And then there was the trick of transporting slow-to-dry canvasses back and forth to class.

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Response to bif (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 02:16 PM

8. Oils have a greater transparency

Light can pass through the color from the underpainting or ground resulting in a luminous effect that's difficult to replicate with acrylics even with similar glazing techniques. But an underpainting in acrylic that's then painted with oils can produce remarkable results in less time.
(just don't put acrylics on top of oils!)
Also consider Japan Dryer for speeding up oils drying time.
There are "water based" oils that can give oil-like effects with easier cleanup but I find the colors a bit subdued.

Then there's the fact that acrylics have only been around for a few decades, and their longevity is still unknown by comparison.

Most colors in both mediums are designed for long shelf life and most real snobs will grind their own pigments and control the color saturation themselves.

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Response to bif (Original post)

Sun Sep 22, 2019, 05:29 PM

10. There are no hard fast rules ...

There is a bit of snobbery about oils being "the real thing", but hardly any really. Acrylic paintings are just as respected and are worth the same in value as oils.

The finish of an oil painting does look better to me. It has more mass, presence, looks harder, has a beautiful sheen. Acrylics tend to flatten out when dry. Yes you can add things to acrylic paint to give it texture and density, but I find doing that a bit of a pain as it gets in the way of my process.

I find oils preferable for traditional, detailed portrait work. It's just so nice to work with them and you can achieve a level of detail acrylics don't lend themselves to.

I use oil for abstract work too, but waiting for it to dry can get in the way for me as I like to paint abstract paintings at a steady clip. Stopping to wait for paint to dry gets in the way of flow and spontaneity -- for me. I switch to acrylics depending on what I'm trying to achieve.

Acrylics are well loved by abstract painters. They dry fast and allow for many styles of expression.

Choosing which to use really comes down to which one works better for your method.

By the way, as far as safety, many oil paint manufacturers make non toxic alternatives to turpentine now. The solvents now available are what the old masters used before turp became available. Also, many artists now rinse their oil paint brushes in oil - safflower. It gets all the paint out, and the brushes are then washed with soap. I haven't used turp to wash my brushes in several years.

Enjoy your painting!

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