Acrylic v Oil

I have started to experiment with acrylic. I have always hated acrylic since I discovered oil paint. I also have a perception that I paint badly in acrylic and see it as inferior to oil.
However, there are some distinct advantages to using acrylic as I discovered yesterday…

Drying Time
Acrylic dries quickly – an advantage when it comes to layering and backgrounds. It dries too quickly for large backgrounds – so the first couple are streaky and inconsistent. The third one I diluted with water in a bucket and mixed with gesso primer – seems to be better. I can make a painting in one day if I need to!
Oil dries slowly – you can move it around on the canvas and wipe it off. You can be less sure as it is easier to edit.

This is possible with acrylic but has less of a glazed effect. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I think you can buy medium that you can add to acrylic so you can recreate the effect of oil. Why you would do this when you can work with oil I’m not sure. Acrylic on acrylic layers don’t move – this is good – and you can rub our pencil on top of acrylic without it moving.
Oil layers and glazes have a more glassy appearance. I previously did a lot of experiments with combing different media in layers on primed and unprimed canvas. The ‘white’ paintings have a combination of printing ink (which doesn’t move when you apply subsequent layers, whereas oil on oil does) and oil paint. This is probably a cardinal sin of working with oil but I wanted a material which would create a gestural, loose stain without the crust from oil. Rubbing out pencil moves printing ink.

Acrylic seems duller than oil. I thought that the colour mixing was more limited but discovered after mixing one colour for an hour that i can achieve the colours I need.
Oil seems purer – the colours brighter. Ironically, with my new moves with colour it may prove better to use more muted colours as this will introduce a greater sense of something disconcerting.

Acrylic is transferable between surfaces – this is definitely an advantage.
Oil on paper saturates the surfaces – I quite like this effect but it tends to dull the colour which is one of the plus points of using oil.

I need to experiment more with both but from my experiments so far, the acrylic may support me in working within time frames. Again, I am having to confront my making habits and make choices to move my practice forward and work outside my comfort zone.

First experiment with acrylic on canvas

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