David Hockney pointed out that the great advantage of acrylic paints, and an ideal use to which they could be put, lies in the historical and present practice of glazing. Because acrylics dry so fast, whereas with oil you have to wait a while, acrylics can take glaze after glaze, with hardly any time between coats at all.
And so it has proved for our hero (c'est moi). A Cobalt Blue glaze over an otherwise over-dominant bright red will cool it down beautifully without turning the colour into purple (unless you really want it to). A bright red glaze over a strong opaque white can indicate the sheen on fabric subtly, without worrying overmuch about blending.
And even an opaque colour, eg Cadmium Red, can be used as a glaze over a strong light - especially opaque white or yellow - just don't lather it on, apply it gently over the light colour/tone. I'm not at all sure that acrylic can ever really match the blending characteristics and subtlety of oil paint, and it may be unrealistic to expect it to. But rejoice in its difference - glaze after glaze can be applied, without muddying the colour, or, if you tried this in watercolour, lifting the previous colour and mixing into it. I'm a very, very slow painter, especially when I have other things on hand - but waiting for oil paint to dry before applying a glaze; and then waiting for that to dry before applying another .... well, it makes you realize why alla prima is so popular. Who has the time?
Acrylic can seem harsh and dry by comparison with oil, and hard and unsympathetic compared to watercolour. But what it can offer is impact - and the glazing possibilities can soften the harsher elements. So if you've avoided it because it seems unsympathetic to your approach, which I can understand: keep trying with it - push its potential; just don't mistake it for oil or watercolour, because it's a medium in its own right: and if pursued with that in mind, not as some second-rate substitute for the traditional media, it offers its own rewards.
Yes, I absolutely agree that the advantage acrylics have if you want to glaze, is their fast drying time.
However, that can also be a disadvantage, and probably the primary reason that my first preference is to paint using oils - not withstanding the fact that I only ever painted in oils during my college years, so I suppose I feel more competent with this medium.
Also, I like to work into the wet paint at times, often the next day, it’s all depends on your style to a great extent.
I generally reserve alla prima for my outdoor painting excursions, rapid oil sketches of say around an hour at most - it’s a really exciting way of painting, but things can get a little muddy if you apply too many thick layers over wet paint!
Going back to glazing, I don’t do a lot of it but I do like the effects of multiple layers of basically thin almost transparent layers of colour.
You need several paintings on the go which I generally have anyway, it’s a slow process but the results can often be worth the wait!
I will have a go at glazing with acrylics next time I paint in acrylic. I will try out some of the colours you have mentioned Robert. As you know, I've used a bit of glazing on the oil paintings I've done. It's a process I really enjoy.
I've not really done much in the way of glazing when using acrylic Robert and think I must try to be more adventurous. In a recent commission to paint a locomotive however, I had to glaze a little to describe steam flowing out over the engine - something I found quite tricky. I will post the painting at the end of the month, after the recipient's birthday!
I think the really big danger with acrylics is that they can encourage an extreme amount of fiddling - because one can do so much with them, other than blending (which is very difficult to do with the classic acrylic paint), the temptation is to do far too much - what started out an an impressionistic picture can turn into an overworked plethora of detail. Given my worst failing is a tendency to nag at pictures, and keep adding little bits where I should stop and just not do it, I have to be particularly careful with acrylic - i.e. to take the care not to take too much care.
I think though that I just haven't painted enough over the last year - I didn't always labour pictures into an early grave; it's a question I think of keeping things simple; the glaze method is helpful if it encourages attention to tone and colour - not if it leads one into adding little bits, glazing little bits, adding more little bits, and glazing again. You really could do that forever with acrylic - the paint lies more or less flat, even using the heavy-bodied acrylic; use more fluid paint and you can have one layer on top of another in a perpetual loop of repainting: there's no real need to stop: you could work on one painting for a year or more. Whereas with oil - sooner or later you have to say you're done: because it has body and texture.... a painting can turn into a virtual sculpture; there was a painter who did just that.... in fact I can think of two, one was Fred Cumin, the other is one whose name escapes me: very, very thick paint, building shapes with it. To do that with acrylic, you'd really need texture paste,,,
Diff'rent strokes..... The answer as always is to keep practising your chosen media until you learn how to balance a picture without detailing it to death, or conversely leaving a swirl of meaningless brush-marks and calling it 'impressionistic': I have done both!
Robert, if you are referring to the exceptionally talented Fred Cuming RA, (one of my favourite living artists, along with Ken Howard), he’s written an article which is coming up in the Summer edition of TA, which may be of interest to yourself and a few of us here.
I’m not aware of Fred Cuming using glazing, or impasto style application of paint in any of his paintings - I’ve got his wonderfully illustrated book, ‘A figure in the landscape’ (which I bought directly from him and is signed), and also two of his DVD’s, which give an interesting insight into his approach to plein air painting, plus his studio working practice.