Acrylics vs Oils

After using exclusively acrylic paint for several years, I was recently inspired to take up the oils once more. I have only done a handful of paintings with oils, and my reason for ditching them was due to impatience. I reasoned that acrylics dry faster, so you can paint over the top creating layers of colour for interest. Oil paints are far more sumptuous colour wise in my opinion, however. For some reason I never realised that you can simply wipe away areas with a turpsy rag or brush, making paintings easy to renovate just like in acrylics (one of my reasons for turning to acrylics).
Oil paints seem to cover large areas of canvas more easily and you feel a bit like a sculptor when using thick paint (note to self: buy a pallet knife, a very useful tool for scraping back paint, adding sharp areas and cleaning the pallet!)

For those colourists who are concerned with detailed accuracy ( that’s me only sometimes), acrylic colours flatten off and change to be slightly lighter. I have noticed this when doing skies or faces, but because my style is somewhat expressionistic, this factor has not really bothered me. I often work on textured recycled canvas anyway, so I see it as part of the overall effect akin to varied brush strokes. The flattened effect of acrylics is something I address using loads of glossy varnish. The reason oil paints don’t change in their colour or consistency is because oil paint doesn’t actually dry, it cures.

I was confused about the mediums to use to thin oil paint down, but after asking a few knowledgable people, I decided to keep it simple: odourless artist quality turps to was brushes and wipe back areas of paint, and the Art Spectrum no.1 medium for mixing. The mediums are a mixture of linseed oil and artist quality turps, so it’s just more convenient than doing it yourself. The no.1 medium is the thinnest (paint will crack later if you apply to much linseed oil under thinner applications).

So… The verdict? At the moment I am in love with oils but not inclined to give up acrylics either. If I do plein air work, I will go for oils because you don’t need water, and you don’t have the problem of paint wastage due to speedy drying. Acrylics are wonderful when I want to paint lots of layers quickly… And just when the mood takes me, they lend themselves to different marks, and are great in mixed media operations.

Acrylic paint. I use atelier interactive, usually. At times it’s anything I can afford. I bought some cheapies recently (global) which were not very opaque, so a bit frustrating to use. I’ll probably use them with my kids.




My oil paints. They are art spectrum mostly.


image a close-up of an acrylic painting. You can see how it ‘flattens’ when it dries (especially in the darker areas)

image a close-up of an oil. I used heavy brush-strokes. Colour and shine holds. Although I will probably still varnish, because I love shine!

Unearthing Old Stuff

My latest goal is to convert our bedraggled old caravan into an art studio. I spent a couple of hours today getting rid of some of the clutter that had been stored in it. Amongst the rubble was some artwork from 5 or so years back..not so long ago, I know, but long enough to bring a bit of nostalgia. I particularly love the Lino print I did, with the words “productivity kills art” scrawled on it with an artliner. This was part of an inner protest against the industrial world’s way of mass producing everything, including “art”. I believed then, and still do, that our creativity is borne more from ‘being’ rather than frantic ‘doing’. Creativity will flourish when we slow down enough to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Looking at my old, and I guess ‘rejected’ artworks helps me appreciate even more my inner yearnings to be the person who can see the amazing, the divine, amongst the ordinary things (I’m not there yet). It makes me realise once again how much I long to create and to ‘be’ an artist. This is a desire that has been in me ever since I can remember. The motives may have been differentiation or perhaps passive rebellion at some point. But whatever…the dream has clung tenaciously all these years, and I must give it credence as I meander along my way. The endless flurry of ‘activity’ is the enemy to my dream.

I read something recently that said that successful people say “no” a lot. I guess that’s because they have certain objectives, and they guard it as precious….they will not agree to anything that does not further their goal or vision. food for thought, I can hear an echo in that famous old Shakespearian adage “this Above all : to thine own self be true”


A work in progress, and some thoughts on artists block

Here is another work in progress. I am slowly wading through my artists block, and am hoping to create a body of work that shows the spiritual world interacting with the temporal…or at least creating landscapes that fuel the imagination for things that we don’t see with physical eyes.
So…on the topic of artist block, something that I have been mulling over a lot, to the extent that I sought advice on Google (sigh). The most worthwhile thought has been, ‘just show up, sooner or later your muse will too”. Good advice…but still not without frustration and self doubt; these re-occurring feelings as the artist waits for and searches for his or her illusive muse.

On the flip side working through this block has helped clear up old cobwebs. I am starting to have much more clarity and focus- this is a very big nod towards creativity being a healing agent. I’ve been thinking about a book I used to read quite often; “Art Heals: how creativity cures the soul” by Shaun McNiff. In this book the author likens creativity to a kind of priestly and intensely spiritual engagement, capable of bringing profound inner healing. This is relevant to creative block in the sense that it puts it in its place: we are all creative. Our creativity moves us beyond the temporal and into the spiritual- a place where the subconscious reigns. Therefore to be blocked artistically is akin to being caught up in the cares of the world. Our creativity, our muse beckons us beyond this. To find our muse is essentially finding connection with God, since (I believe)it is a force beyond ourselves that heals, nurtures and awakens.
I am not implying that overcoming creative blocks simplistic in a “just get in touch with God” way. It’s a precious process, we wrestle with our own psyche and who we believe god and creativity to be. When I look at art history it’s like a living pictorial story of how we have tried to understand the divine, the universe, ourselves. Creative blocks are perhaps the chopping board of ideas and deeper thoughts. It’s a very precious place.
On a lighter note. Below is a little painting I created tonight on a scrap if board, totally unconcerned about the final product; just enjoying applying paint, leftovers from my pallet. It’s a great example of how #1 working on more than one artwork at a time is good practise #2 when you are relaxed and don’t care if things work or not, things seem to work well!


Painting Revamped

This painting is one I did earlier this year. A portrait of one of my favorite actresses, Vivien Leigh. I experimented with heaps of leaf prints and texture, but was unhappy with the colours and overall look of it. This is the before picture (right) and after (left)….its kind of apt for Vivien, seeing these side by side, since she was very theatrical, a true artist who played many roles. Painting is 61x76cm, acrylic on textured canvas.

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A work in progress: my muse

If I could personify my muse, I think it would be someone who finds joy in colour and whimsical fairytale lands, where there is the whisper of possibility.After so so many (wonderful as they are) commissions and requests, my muse has gone underground a bit. It’s funny how art is something that people often assume us an effortless gifting. Nothing can be further from the truth in my case, I work really hard. I need the guidance of my inner muse to give me a sense of purpose and peace as I create. The last few days have been frustrating. But I am determined to find some kind of authenticity in my work, so I am posting a work in process, heavily inspired by the symbolist painter, Maurice Dennis; but also true to the style of so many of my “dreamscape” paintings.

I don’t tend to see or hear much from the spiritual, dreamscapy world, so painting is like a portal to the unknown. It is here where my own subconscious finds its voice. It is here that my inner muse gets really excited, and I lose track of time, yet find myself and just maybe, in my more noble moments, a sense of calling. Because I really believe art is for everyone, and has the power to heal the soul.