traditional glazing technique with acrylics casusing problems
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    traditional glazing technique with acrylics casusing problems

    I have recently departed from the thick opaque painting style to experiment with layering transparent color. I started working on one in oil and one in acrylic, thinking that I would just work on the acrylic one while the oil was drying between layers. The oil painting is coming along, albeit slowly; however, I find myself coming up with any excuse possible to avoid working on the acrylic painting, while I wait, rather impatiently, for the oil to dry so that I can continue.

    I am finding that the acrylic paint is drying way to quickly, sometimes to the point where if I lay one brush stroke down then return to my palette for a new color or more paint, the initial stroke is dry by the time I return. Similarly, I find myself having to mix large quantities of color if I want to be able to be able to have access to a shade for more than a single brush application. This method is either wasting a lot of my time remixing colors for each brush stroke or wastes a lot of my paint as I sacrifice it to allow for longer drying times. So basically, I am finding it nearly impossible to have a pleasant painting experience when I have to deal with paint drying within seconds on my canvas, palette, and brush if I am not watching. I did not have this problem with the opaque painting style.

    I am using Liquitex Heavy Body paints with gloss gel medium which is supposed to extend drying time. I start by mixing my color, usually 5-10x the quantity I need, and adding medium to achieve the amount of transparency I want. Sometimes, if I feel I need a little more fluidity, I add a few drops of water to thin the mixture further.

    Does anyone have any experience with this problem? Any solutions?

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    My wife loves acrylics, but I don't use them for that very reason, they just dry too quickly for me. You'll have to either use a more heavy duty acrylic retarder to slow the drying time, or learn to work in a different way (back to ye old opaque style perhaps). When I used to paint with acrylics I would end up 'scrubbing' the paint around a lot to achieve coloured tints, which wasn't always easy to control and never looked as good as glazes to me anyway (and ruined a lot of brushes).

    My wife just uses Gel Medium as you do and always has an atomiser of water nearby to spray her palette to keep the paint moist. But even then, she does all her glazing with oils over the top once the acrylic is dry - as far as I'm aware acrylic paint is just inherently not very good at glazing. I'd like to know if there is a good solution to this as well.

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    Spray bottle for misting
    plus
    Stay-wet palette (or just putting you paint out on wet paper towels)
    plus
    Using gloss medium instead of gel
    plus
    Retarder
    plus
    Learning to use each medium for its strengths, and not spending all of your time trying to overcome its weaknesses.


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    Golden Open Acrylics.


    Also, gel medium really doesn't extend the drying time. In order to physically slow the drying process of acrylic paint you have to use a retarder or slow-dry medium.

    You might also want to try Golden's Acrylic Glazing Liquid. You can get some really subtle blending and glazing effects with it. It mixes with regular acrylic paint, much like retarder, but it adds transparency in addition to slowing the drying time. It will give you about 30 - 45 mins. If you need more time, go with the Open Acrylics.

    Last edited by Grendel Grack; March 30th, 2009 at 11:59 PM.
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    I have used acrylics in the thin, transparent style for over ten years. I have never painted in oils, other than a brief experience many years ago. I am used to the fast drying time, although I don't think of it as fast as I have never really used anything else. You just qet used to it.

    I think oil painters have a tough time adjusting to not being able to mix and work the paint on the support. With acrylics, you do your mixing on the palette in small amounts and then apply it immediately. If you don't like the result, then just paint over it.

    I think what oil painters call a glaze, an acrylic painter would call a wash. You mix up a wash, which is little more than tinted water, and apply it to your painting. At first it doesn't look like you did anything, but on closer inspection the colour of the area you washed has shifted.

    As a contrast to your problem, I think the slow drying time of oil paint would drive me nuts.

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    To repeat someone above...

    Don't use gel as a color thinner. Use glazing liquid or gloss medium (the matte medium isn't transparent enough upon drying).

    I've been painting in acrylics for nearly fifty years, and I work either opaque and direct, in drybrush, or in glazes, rarely under 30" x 24" and usually much larger, with no problems at all. You aren't using fake oils, you're using a completely different medium with its own idiosyncracies and advantages/faults.

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    Don't forget to use a properly primed surface.
    If your surface is too absorbent (like un-gessoed illustration board), your strokes will dry almost immediately.
    Make sure you lay down a few thin coats of gesso before starting.

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    Every medium has its own unique voice. Find and work with that voice. If you find yourself beating your head against the wall of that particular medium maybe your own personality and the voice of that medium are not a great marriage. Wow, Mr. Metaphor. I work with and really enjoy acrylics. My method involves glazing almost exclusively and I use mostly water. The only time I use any glazing medium (gloss medium) medium is if I want those translucent, reflective layers that I achieve with oil paint. It's a beautiful effect and creates a stunning surface but can be a problem in reproduction. So I'm with Elwell and Ilaekae with this. Discover what a medium does well.

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    What all the guys are saying above is extremely fine advice.
    However, I particularly like what bcarman has just said about each medium having its own natural voice, its own accent if you will. To know this voice you must first listen to it, watch it and see how it naturally behaves. Get to know and love its cadences, its rhythms, its own particular harmonies. Don't fight them, understand them, make friends with them. Let them teach you what they have to give and what is theirs alone and unique to them. Because when you do this it will do the talking on your behalf and communicate whatever it is you want it to say.

    Thought one: It dries fast. That is telling you something is it not?
    Thought two: The paint looks kinda flat. What does this suggest about how it might be used and thought of?

    Last edited by Chris Bennett; March 31st, 2009 at 03:07 PM.
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    Using Acrylic paint requires a different approach than oils. You should really look into a stay wet pallette. Its really just a dish, a sponge and a pourous piece of pallette paper. With this piece of equipment, the paints you mix on your pallette can stay usuable for weeks (with proper care). When you're using acrylics what you ought to try is to plan all of your mixes ahead of time on your pallette. A lot of artists use a color value system where they mix all the values of a color they need before they start painting. Then you more or less optically mix those colors together on your painting to get even, subtle blends. Think hatching, and start with that. Also a flat, or angled brush, will allow you to blend the paint more easily. But its always dry. You blend the paint as you apply it not afterwards.
    Now the effect you're trying to produce will change your materials. If you're trying to build of the painting will all transparent glazes, think of the acrylic more as watercolor. Use watercolor paper and experiment with the paint. If you're trying to produce results that are more like oils, try putting opaque color down first, then glaze over it. Glazing can be tricky though. Make sure you're only using paints that are really transparent and don't be afraid to use mediums to help you.
    What I do to make my paintings is paint the whole image in greyscale so that its a finished greyscale image. I use the value system I mentioned earlier with 7 greys, black and white. After the greyscale is 100% done, I glaze the color on using Golden Satin Glazing Liquid plus I have a seperate container of water with a flow additive in it. The glazing medium allows the paint to go on more smoothly and I use it to thin the paint to the proper strength also. The flow additive allows the paint to be spreadable and prevent the color from clumping up, so to speak. Now, the glazing medium will slow the drying time of the paint, but it does not increase its workability. It goes "dry" about as fast as plain paint. But if the glaze isn't working, that extended tackiness allows me to remove it. I use a hairdryer between layers to make sure each is set and just build up the color this way.

    This was a little long winded but hopefully a little helpful.

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    Thanks for all the advice. I will pick up some golden acrylic glazing liquid, a stay wet palette, and a mister today and give it a try.

    The surface is hardboard with 3 coats of gesso and an opaque monochromatic underpainting, so it should not be absorbing anything.

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    Glazing Liquid

    About the glazing liquid. Golden makes two varieties: Glossy and Satin. The Glossy will work better as a glazing medium, but it makes scanning a big pain, you'll get lots of reflections. The Satin doesn't work quite as well as the Glossy (it does work though), but it allows the painting to be reproduced easier with less reflections on the scan.

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