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