I have always avoided oil paints in favor of acrylics. I like the richness and instant gratification of acrylics because they dry almost immediately. More importantly, however, is the fact that they require no noxious chemicals are are thinned only by water and acrylic medium. This is a huge practical consideration because I have a small home studio. I live with a lovely, tolerant woman, however; she would put her foot down when her clothes and hair were constantly permeated with the stink of paint thinner and turpentine.
That’s why I was so excited earlier this year when I found out about water-soluble oil paints. These oil paints function exactly like traditional oil paints, but they are thinned with water. They are mixed with a detergent, the molecules of which allow the oil to bind with water droplets. You can thin this paint with water or an oil medium, you can mix the paint with traditional oils, if you choose, and the paint dries exactly the same as traditional oils because the detergent evaporates along with the oil and water. No fumes!
I had been working on an elaborate acrylic commission when I ordered my first set this summer, so I reserved their use as a treat for myself when I finished.
I did the small oil painting reproduced in this post in about two days. I’ve found a huge advantage to oils is that you can achieve the same effects with more fluidity, translucence and veracity than acrylics in just one layer of paint.
Consider the flesh tones of the boxers in the painting pictured: If I had painted this with acrylics, this would have taken me at least four layers to achieve with drying in between. With oils, however, you’re working in a single, three dimensional slick of oil, and you insert the pigments at different points within that medium. With oils, in other words, you can sculpt the form as a whole rather than layering colors in two dimensions.
I have a dozen or so small canvases and panels I’m going to paint in the coming weeks in order to get used to the new medium — including a nine-panel series of 8” X 8” nudes I plan to paint using the models at San Clemente Art Supply’s life drawing sessions.
Once I’ve completed these, I plan to start on a major, 4’ X 8’ work in oils depicting a huge ancient Roman battle scene, or some similar subject.
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