Acrylic vs Oil - A Love / hate relationship

The two simple paintings were done from the same subject - one in oil and one in acrylic. I wanted to really know how well the medium adapted to the subject and only by doing the same painting at the same time could I judge my true feelings about the mediums. I worked on both at the same time period outside, working on each independently. Very few people can really tell which is which and usually people just guess for one reason or another. I use both oil and acrylic and have been experimenting more and more with acrylics this winter- 08.

There is no doubt in my mind that the heritage of oil painting is a major force in the overwhelming choice of mediums for many artists. I find that if I want to use paint thinner to put in some details, I can hold more opacity and color using thinned oil paint than acrylic and I think the flow is better. There seems to be a softer feel to oil in it's out-of-the-tube consistency and once again, it seems to suspend color better. I sometimes like the slower drying properties of the oil but many times I use dryers to speed up the process. However there are times when I just wait a day to finish some things because the oil can be more than a challenge to paint on top of.

The Acrylic has enormous advantages of water clean-up, no fumes, no toxicity, no fire hazard and a dry time that is hard to beat. I think I can do any of my work with either medium successfully if I really want to, but I like the saturation of color that I believe the oil delivers and It 's easier to get soft edges. I have experimented with acrylic drying retarders and gels and they can be a great asset in getting soft edges and blending but for me, it's still more of a chore than with oils. One frustation with Acrylics is color and value matching once dry since they dry noticably darker than when wet. The more I experiment with Acrylics the more I welcome the challenge and achieve good results. A lot of the predjucice against acrylics is that fact that beginners gravatate to it and some intro to painting classes use only acrylic and it gets a reputation of beginner junk painting.

I find acrylics outside in the hot weather almost impossible without constantly spraying your pallet and work. A large part of the freedom of choices seems to disapear for me since so much energy has to be put into keeping things fluid. No lunch break allowed with acrylics unless you do some major conservation details with the pallet.

It's interesting that in some ways, oil paint manufacturers have come up with ingredients to make oils more like acrylics with drying additives and acrylics have come up with drying extenders and gear their advertising towards their likeness to oils. I think there is a lot of non-substantial prejudice against Acrylics for many reasons having nothing to do with it's ability to be a workable artist medium.

So which is which. The one on the right is oil and many people who have seen them live pick the other - usually because there are some thicker areas on the one on the left. I don't consider these great paintings but a fun learning experiment for me.


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