I began using acrylics in high school and continued through college (20 years ago...shh!) Whenever I am asked why I would choose acrylic over oil, an my answer is always, why not? They have always provide the results I wanted so I never had a reason to change. I realize that there is some controversy in the battle of acrylic vs oil. Choosing a painting medium is personal. And I am not here to sway you one way or another. I am here to give a little insight into why I choose to use acrylic and the tools that are my favorite.
Acrylics vs. Oils
Many feel that oils are superior to acrylics and that oil paintings should be valued higher. This is an outdated philosophy stemming from the 1940s and 1950s when acrylics were introduced. At that time, oils were in fact superior. However, this is no longer the case. In fact, it has been proven that acrylic has a tendency to last longer due to the lack of organic materials in the formula and that the organics in oils will break down over time. Another though it that oils have more fluidity and sheen than acrylics.
Luckily there are a variety of mediums and gels that allow acrylics to function just like oil paints, without the drying time, smell and mess. In addition more artists are concerned with the toxicity of working with oil paints (environmental and personal) moving away from them in favor safer options.
My suggestions for the acrylic user
- Use rich, pure colors. Purchase paints with the highest pigment and least amount of water.
- Use professional grade acrylics.
- Experiment with different tools to get the look and feel that you want.
- Invest in your tools.
What are my favorite brands?
Finally, paint and use what you are comfortable with. The advancements in varnishes, mediums and tools have put acrylics and oils on a level playing field. If you love to take your time and spend weeks on a piece then oils are probably the better choice. If you like to move fast and lack the patience (like I do) than consider acrylics. Ultimately, what is important is that your style comes through; that your talent as an artist is what you are judged on not the materials that you use.
When I asked the acrylic artists of the Contemporary Artist Coterie why they chose acrylics all said, "Time, they are great if you like to work fast." Andreina Bates stated, "My strokes are very expressive and messy so my layer has to be dry to go over again."
My final thought...
Paint from your heart and put your best work forward. That is the true secret.
Here are a few shots of my acrylics in action. When I want my acrylics very fluid I will mix water and the Liquitex Slow-Dry Blending Medium in a mixing dish in order to use the amount I want, when I want it. I will also add the acrylic color if I have to cover larger areas.