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March 13, 2009

Slow Drying Acrylics: More Testing

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Recently I posted that to speed up my painting self-teaching progress, I was temporarily (probably) switching from water-soluble oils paints to a slow-drying line of acrylic paints from Golden. I posted the result of an early attempt.

I'm still painting human faces ('cause it's pretty obvious when you get things wrong -- we know faces better than any other subject). And I'm reaching the point where I'll zoom back and include more of the body and perhaps add a little background.

The acrylics have definitely improved productivity. I can complete a painting of a head in three days or so. But I'm encountering the acrylic color-shift problem. After couple of days of drying, the colors will have turned darker. This means one has to paint things a little lighter than what is desired and hope that the picture will darken just enough to yield the intended effect. Not good, which is why I'll probably return to oils after a while.

I might add that I'm using regular acrylics along with the slower-drying variety. Sometimes this is when I already have a seldom-used color in a regular acrylic and wish to save money by not buying a slow-dry duplicate. Other times, I need to paint a small passage that I want to dry quickly, so using the fast-dry alternative is useful.

Below are two more recent paintings. The surface is cheap, rather rough canvas board which isn't the best for portrait-type work. The photos are by my little digital camera using natural light. The results are not as good as the actual paintings. Colors are off, and the texture of the canvas board is more apparent than what one sees when viewing in person. At least they offer a rough idea as to how things are going.



Both paintings used photo references, but are not slavish copies; I used photos mostly to get the facial lighting patterns and then altered the images as I saw fit. The top painting was done first. The subjects are actually the same actress and two photos were used. The reference photo for the lower picture was from a clothing catalog.

I have quite a ways to go, but at least I'm cranking out stuff that's better than what I did when in art school those many years ago.



posted by Donald at March 13, 2009


Good looking work, thanks for sharing it. Looks like you're contending with the challenges of your acrylics very successfully!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 13, 2009 1:39 PM

Donald, I criticize with trepidation because it is so easy to wound. That said, my problem with these portraits is not that too little care is taken but that too much care is taken. Let me back up. You do hair really well. I noticed that in the first painting you showed and especially in the lower painting of this set. My guess is that this is because you are more relaxed about tackling hair than you are about tackling facial features. It follows that your treatment of hair is looser, which gives a sense of life; as opposed to the rigidity that comes with getting the eyes and mouth exactly right. Exactly right is at odds with lifelike, breathing, even slightly blurred. You clearly understand and convey the underlying bone structure of the face well. I just wish you would take chances, loosen up, with the eyes and mouth, the kind of chances you take with hair.

Posted by: ricpic on March 13, 2009 4:00 PM

ricpic -- As I indicated in the previous posting, I've probably attempted perhaps 20 or two dozen paintings since taking up painting again -- that's not nearly enough practice to be much good at it. And it's only been recently that I've ramped up production, thanks to those acrylics.

That said, you are entirely correct about the eyes-mouth situation. I find them difficult and need to keep at it in order to learn how to paint them convincingly. Part of the situation is learning how to make the transition from large brushes (which I've been using for everything except the mouth and eyes) to small brushes needed for the eyes. (Or I could stay with large brushes and learn to indicate those features -- something that also will take more practice.) Also, the rough surface of the typical canvas board that I use for practice work makes detail painting difficult. By the way, the painting of the smiling women is only the second one I've done showing teeth in the last three years.

I clearly have a lot of work to do, but I also sense that progress is being made. The unknown element is what my ultimate limitations are, which was an important reason for my trying this in the first place. The likely answer is "pretty good, but not gallery-worthy." We shall see.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 13, 2009 6:49 PM

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