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The flexible medium


I thought at some point in time that it would be appropriate to display my own work as example. Therefore we can start the use of acrylics with criticism of my own painting skills. Go ahead and critic my work. I can take it

The subject is from a 1945
WWII   B&W photo of
T Master Sgt. H. B. Garrison
from the
HQ ETO  Communication Zone.

40″ x 30″   “Unforgotten”   1997
Acrylic on Masonite panel
Maurice Garson


Unforgotten Maurice Garson

It has always been my belief that, before venturing out on a project  you should be aware of the properties of the materials you’re working with before you start. Acrylics are a mixture of pigment and an acrylic resin polymer emulsion suspended in water. When the water evaporates it leaves the resin particles to fuse forming a paint surface.  Manufacturers claim that the chemical composition of acrylic polymer emulsions in comparison to oil based paints are superior in regards to adhesion, flexibility, stability to UV light, color retention, durability, as well as water and mildew growth resistance. I am not 100% certain of these claims since in all fairness acrylics have only been in existence since 1955. Not nearly as long as oils, which have proven “after a few hundred years”  to harden as they crosslink with oxygen in the air and become brittle and cracked.

Preparation for Artist Acrylics  is not as complex as other mediums. Most acrylic gessoes posses the same chemical properties as the paint. I would however emphasize that does not mean that you should skip your preparation. Acrylic paint adheres well to porous organic foundations such as  Wood and Canvas, which should be prepped as previously described. Paper is somewhat flexible because it can be painted wet on wet the same as watercolor or as I prefer painted after lightly primed with sizing or gesso. Although there are acrylic compounds that are developed specifically to paint on metals, painting on none porous surfaces is not something I would recommend.

The beauty of working with acrylics is that they dry rapidly, and you can work quickly to blend color strait for the tube, using a Transparent medium gel, with an Golden Acrylic Mediums Gel  or Liquitex Modeling Paste to produce impasto effects or paint a series of  transparent glazes thinned with water.

Depending on the properties and consistency of the gel or paste that you use, it will dry clear or opaque, matt or gloss, and will change the color mixed with it. Opaque pastes and gels are much like mixing your paint with white. Clear gels have a tendency to look whiter when applied until they dry clear. Keep in mind that unlike oils, acrylic colors dried are never the same as they are when wet.  Basics: Darker colors dry lighter and lighter colors dry darker. Be ready to start experimenting until you get it right.

There are also advantages to painting wet on wet. To work with thin glazes paint can be applied like watercolor with an advantage. When your first wash dries, it’s permanent and insoluble, unlike a watercolor it can be painted over without effecting the under painting and your work will have a resistant surface once completed. Combined with watercolor the acrylic can be also used as a permanent mask where the watercolor line can be easily washed or rubbed off. . If you decide to try the wet on wet technique with acrylics keep in mind to that you have to work quickly due to drying time. And be careful of over thinning as this breaks down the adhesive properties of the paint.  In contrast ad some transparent medium or Flow-Aid Fluid Additive  to the paint then thin if you are trying to achieve a transparent look.

Additives can be utilized to create special effects in your painting. Interference Colors are lightly pigmented, transparent colors  made with titanium coated mica flakes.  They appear to have a metallic look and shift in color when changing your viewing angle. The visual effect is much like a thin coat of oil floating on water.  Iridescent Tinting Medium , Pearlescent Tinting Medium.  ,  Interference and Metalic Colors and Metallic Acrylics have a metallic appearance. They are great in use to replicate the metallic look of  objects in your subject.

Although red sable brushes are my personal favorite because you can utilize them for almost every medium, I have found that acrylic paint responds better to Nylon and Taklon Synthetic Brussh filaments and they are easier to clean. Not unlike any other medium though, you should keep your brushes clean and don’t let them soak in water. It damages the ferule and handle as it absorbs the water. Clean wet brushes with soap & water. Clean dried acrylic brushes with acetone or denatured alcohol. Additionally acrylic paint performs well without the complexed hazards associated with oils and lacquers when used in airbrush techniques.

To seal off your work and establish a uniform luster (Gloss, Satin or Matte) on your work there are many varnishes to choose from. There are Archival Aerosol Varnishes which are designed to be able to remove to make repair if necessary.  There are self -leveling polymer varnishes that can be brushed or diluted to spray on and can be removed with ammonia or turpentine. And then if you are 100% certain that you have completed your work on a panel (inflexible surface) and it has had adequate time to cure, you can finish it with a water based urethane. This  finish comes in matte or high gloss luster that adds no amber tone and dries crystal clear. However, it can not be removed with out damaging the painting.

Links related to Acrylic Paint

National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society, USA
FARP : Acrylic Painting
Golden Artist Colors
Liquitex Artist AcrylicsDaler Rowney
Winsor and Newton


Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was.”...  Jackson Pollock


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