Rant Alert

Rant Alert

Why are people snobbish about acrylics still?


First blog for a while, hoping the formatting works now! That's not the rant - I COULD rant about it, but that wouldn't be fair. No. What has ruffled my feathers is a remark an oil painter has made on the Forum - her friends, she said, criticized her for using acrylics rather than oil. Now, I may have misunderstood this of course, but it's not that unusual. People have said acrylics are inferior to oils; not a proper artistic medium; 'they're plastic, aren't they?'; and all sorts of other cobblers' awls. It's not surprising that they used to say it, when acrylics were in their infancy, and the colours (arguably) brash by comparison with oil or watercolour. But to say it now is just ignorant. There are, to start with, many ways of painting with acrylic - you can use them to resemble watercolour, if you want to; you can paint alla prima, as you would in oil, or most would; you can built them up, as the old masters did with their oils - from a monochrome base, you can add layer after layer of glazing, without having to wait a day and an age for layers to dry; you can use them with water, or with medium, or trowel them on with a painting-knife. What's 'inferior medium' about any of that? Whence the snobbish preference for oils? A painter's preference for oils is of course something else again - I fully understand the joys of playing with rich, lustrous, thick oil paint, exploiting its 'disadvantages' - like slow drying - as well as its advantages - like the sheer physical pleasure to be derived from it. I would never want to do without oil paint. But then, I wouldn't want to do without acrylic either - to debunk myth, no, it's not 'easier' than oil, or watercolour (they say you can cover things up with it: well so you can with oil, or gouache; you've still got to go back and get the thing right in the end); they say it's plastic - no it isn't: it's colour bound in resin - as oil paint is bound in oil, as watercolour is bound in gum arabic, among other things; they say the colours are brash, not subtle - that might have been true once: it isn't now. And finally, I can't very well paint my mum's birthday card, which I'm about to do for her 94th this month, with oil paint: whereas I can easily do that with acrylic (she wants a pig - again). Haven't the time for it to dry..... and as she'll probably spill her tea on it, watercolour isn't suitable either (OK, I'm fishing for reasons to like acrylic here). But anyway - acrylic paint takes as much skill to apply as does any other painting medium. And if your friends are telling you it's not as good as the others, or too 'easy', or all the rest of it: they don't know what they're talking about. You tell 'em I said so....

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Just catching up on this post Robert. Lots of reasons to love Acrylic. Above all for me it is the convenience. I don't have a large studio and Acrylic is much easier to work with in a smaller space. If you have any issues re. breathing its also much easier to work with as there are no turpentine fumes to deal with. Its also incredibly forgiving and whilst I agree with you that it is not necessarily "easier" than other media it is very very good for those who do not have experience.

Just catching up Robert, really enjoyed this post. I did use oils for a while but migrated back to acrylics a couple of winters back when I couldn't get the wretched paintings dry! I agree with your comments, good quality acrylics are a joy to use. And when looking at paintings in exhibitions I have mistaken acrylic for oil (and vice versa when a rather "dry" technique has been used.

A good read, Robert. I don't use oils or acrylics for failings on my part (my messiness, impatience etc), not the mediums. I've promised myself to try acrylics this summer...when I can get out into my dilapidated shed. A few paint splashes in there would be an improvement. There's a certain general 'sniffy-ness' in some circles about art. One wonders if they ever make any. The acrylic naysayers are similar to those who knock digital. We all have preferences, but that doesn't make everything else rubbish. A cracking painting by the way.

I have found oil easier than acrylic, because the acrylic dries so quickly it is hard to blend. I use oil but because I dont like the smell of even the lo odor thinners I use baby oil to clean my brushes. Does anyone else do this I wonder?

The inability to use paragraphs - or anyway for them to be included in the final formatting - is indeed a perishing nuisance, Alan. Particularly when you CAN paragraph the Comments!

I’ll be brief Robert, interesting thoughts here, difficult to digest it all in one go, particularly as it’s a swine to read without paragraphs (I know it’s the new site, not you!). I’ve never considered them inferior, I love all medium but I’ve settled on oils as my main armoury. Unlike most of the complaining on here regarding the slow drying time of oil paints, this is what I like most about them, not to mention that gorgeous, nostalgic aroma that permeates my studio! A reminder of my best early days which were at college. Going back to acrylic, my preferred way of working is actually exactly the same as with oils, nice thickish mixes which show my brush marks and so on. Definitely not an inferior medium. Love the painting by the way!