Acrylic Painting Art supplies Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Virtual Paint-Out

Virtual Paintout Norway & Golden Open Acrylics

Norway farm landscape painting, Acrylic, 9x12"
Norway farm landscape painting, Acrylic, 9x12"

This month’s Virtual Paint-out is taking place in Norway. When I picture Norway it’s always snowing—silly me. I was amazed to wander the roads and see the beautiful summer light and perfectly maintained buildings and fields. There was so much gorgeous scenery it was hard to pick, but I couldn’t resist all the different greens in this scene.

Here is the original scene from Google Earth. I used Windows 7 cool “Snipping Tool” that lets you select an area of the screen to copy and save:

Google Earth photo with address
Original Google photo

If you click to enlarge the image you will see the address of this farm in the top left. I played around in Photoshop to compose and crop the scene. Then I used the “Content Aware Scaling” feature in CS4 that allows you to compress a scene without distorting elements such as buildings or people. I wanted to fit the image on a 9×12″ canvas:

Scaled in photoshop
Cropped/Scaled in Photoshop

What’s really exciting to me about this painting is that I used Golden Open Acrylics to paint it. I am in love with these paints! [SEE less enthusiastic UPDATE AT BOTTOM]. They have all features that I love about oils and acrylics with none of the features I don’t like. I’ve been struggling with both those mediums for months and was going through an artistic crisis, considering giving them both up.

The problem with acrylics

I couldn’t stand working with regular acrylics because I like to layout a palette of paint and work intuitively, mixing as I go. Acrylics dry too fast to do this. (Yes I know you can mist the paint regularly and that there are special stay-wet palettes but I found they turn the paint to soup and smell bad after a couple of days). I also like to blend colors on the canvas and to be able to wipe off a passage if it’s not quite right. None of this is easy to do with regular acrylics.

The problem with oils

Because I try to use solvents as little as possible with oils due to their toxicity and smell, I can’t start with juicy washes for the first layer as I like to do when sketching out the composition with oils. And even with the minimal use of the least toxic odorless solvent (Gamsol mineral spirits) I found there was an odor (probably from linseed oil going rancid that was left in the solvent) that bothered me anyway. And then there’s the cleanup up dozens of brushes after a painting session.

Why I love[d] Golden Open Acrylics

Golden Open Acrylics do not smell, stay workable about as long as oil paints [update: they don’t really], can be diluted with medium and/or water, clean up with water, do not dry on brushes (for 24 hours at least), blend nicely and are just a dream to work with. When I quit painting last weekend I stuck a small, damp sponge on the palette, and closed my Masterson “Palette Seal” box. I opened it today, a week later, and the paint was still in perfect working condition, better than oil paint would have been.

While I admire thick, expressive, brush strokes in paintings, it’s not really my thing. I prefer working more thinly and that’s just the way Golden Open Acrylics are meant to be used: in layers less than the thickness of a penny. They can also be mixed with regular acrylics to modify the texture or the drying time. Or they can be combined in different layers, although it’s suggested to use regular acrylics as the first layer(s) before adding the Opens or waiting for the layers of Open Acrylics to thoroughly dry (2 weeks) before applying a layer of regular acrylics.

I think these paints are also  going to transform my plein air painting. [update: they didn’t work for plein air; got tacky too quickly] I won’t need to bring solvent or a slew of brushes. I haven’t figured out what to carry for a water container or how much water I will need to carry for brush washing between colors.

Our first plein-air session of the new season is next Friday and I’m looking forward to playing with my new medium in a Non-Virtual paint-out too.

UPDATE June 30, 2010

After working the Golden Open Acrylics for three months I’m considerably less enthusiastic about them. The deal breaker is that the paint dries darker (about 10%, varies between colors) which requires guessing when mixing paint how much lighter to make it and makes it impossible for me to try to match colors I’m seeing . Other problems are the drying time which depends on the humidity and wind which makes painting outdoors with them next to impossible in my area. Unless there is no breeze and high humidity, even indoors, you have to work quickly before the painting starts getting tacky within an hour or so. But then it can take a really long time for the paint to dry completely. When trying to glaze on top of a seemingly dry layer, I’ve ended up lifting the previous layer instead and had to give up glazing.

I’ve now switched to Holbein Duo Aqua water soluble oils and so far and am finding them the best of all worlds. No color shift, artist quality pigments and pigment load, no toxics, no smells, easy clean up. I write about them here.

25 replies on “Virtual Paintout Norway & Golden Open Acrylics”

Hi Jana – I spent a couple of hours cruising around on Google maps, but haven’t yet found a good shot. That was to be my next landscape.
Yours really works – and thank you for the tip about golden acrylics. I’m working in oils for now, but had been thinking that while traveling acrylics is probably a better choice.
I love the soft subtle colors you’ve used on this.


Thanks Casey. You seem to have a natural talent for oils so I say keep at it! But for sure traveling with acrylics would be way easier, though with the Open Acrylics you still have the issue of carrying wet paintings. I can’t wait to see your Norway painting. Have you been there? What a beautiful country! Jana


Hi Chris, I tried the water soluable oils about 9 years ago and disliked them mightily but I imagine they’ve improved since then. I think there is some similarity, but I think the acrylics are less messy somehow and no smell of oil or yellowing of oil to worry about. Jana


Lovely painting, and interesting info on the “open” acrylics. Question–do they still darken when they dry, like regular acrylics? That was always the “dealbreaker” for me, I can’t stand it when the color changes after I’ve chosen it, mixed it,and laid it down. If these don’t do that, I’d really be interested in trying them.


Hi Kathryn and Sherry, I think they do dry a little darker as a result of the acrylic medium/binder being white until it dries clear. I hated that about regular acrylics too, but I like so many other features of this paint I’m willing to put up with it. I’m trying to use the opposite mantra one must do with watercolors (acrylics: “dries darker, mix LIGHTER” vs watercolors: dries lighter, mix DARKER”). I’m so used to this with watercolor it’s automatic.

I did find that when I returned to the dry Norway painting I’d blocked in with Open Acrylics last weekend, it didn’t seem darker than I remembered it. If it does dry significantly darker it could be a real problem since it takes days to dry completely. You’d have a painting finished just the way you like it and when it dries it’s too dark. Golden has a really good technical support line with wonderful “paint geeks” (as the one I spoke to professed to be) who will answer questions and provide guidance so I will call and ask about that on Monday and let you know what I find out. I’m curious whether they have less of a tendency to dry darker than regular acrylics, which is how it seems to me. Jana


Your posts are always interesting Jana. I knew nothing about Golden open acrylics, and like the other commenter I wonder if they darken as they dry. If so, then I think I’d stick with the water mixable oils, probably over an under painting of acrylic.

I think your shot might be on the same road as mine. I remember a green barn – or perhaps they are common in Norway? There were lots of interesting things on that road – sheep, horses, three kids on a trampoline in a field, and the shot I chose with a dog trotting down the road. At any rate, your interpretation is warm and peaceful looking. Makes me want to get back on an airplane, almost. 🙂


I am thrilled to know about the acrylics! I have lots of Golden Fluid Acrylics but nothing called ‘Open.’ I must go shopping!!!


Carol, I found that for experimenting I was able to mix just about every color I needed from 3 colors. So if you want to give them a try without buying a full set, you could get by with titanium white, hansa yellow opaque, quinacridone magenta, and phthalo blue green shade. The thinner is supposed to be helpful for keeping paint wet longer (like if you’re working outdoors) but so far I haven’t really needed the mediums. Jana


Wonderful post, Jana! I love hearing about the different media, pros and cons, etc. Have you tried water-mixable oils? If you have, how do they compare? Also, showing us how you picked your scene and then modified it was very helpful. I’m a member of virtual paintout but have never posted because I keep searching for the perfect scene right off google. I hadn’t thought of the manipulation to get it the way that I want. And, I love your painting!


So far I haven’t had the need to try the Open acrylics. I use a lot of acrylic ink and fluid acrylics, sometimes diluting them considerably with water. Will have to give them a try. Golden should use you as a promoter–sounds like a great endorsement of their product.


Jana…this was a REALLY good post. Just what I love about blogs…a chance to experience and LEARN from each other. Your experience with Golden Open and your comments about how you use photoshop to help you are both GREAT ideas and very very helpful. I am basically a watercolorist but have been “playing in acrylics” for about two years now. When I attended an Golden Demo (put on by the company) last year I really got into the Golden paints more. I also really enjoy using Ateliers Interactive artists acrylics as well. Have you tried them? My goal has been now to extend my acrylics out to en plein air. I have joined an en plein air group in Wi for the summer so when I go back north, I want to be prepared to paint with them using acrylics. My sealable Masterson palette is wonderful for the studio but I find it too bulky for en plein air and am trying to find a smaller version. I also find things like disposing of paint water on site to be a problem out of doors. I also use a lot more paper towels in acrylics. Let’s keep talking about this subject more!!!


Thanks for the tip-off about the Golden acrylics – they’re even sold at my local art shop in Turnham Green! I am frustrated by standard acrylics for exactly the same reasons as you and as I live in digs shared with three other people and so have to paint in my bedroom the stink of oils makes using them a no-no, too!


Jana, it’s beautiful! That cloud is intensely luscious and the colors and the composition! I’m so glad you found the Golden Egg, er, Open Acrylics. Very cool thinking about using Photoshop to make the scene. I am pretty lost in that area.


This is a really lovely painting, Jana! Reminds me a bit of old impressionist work that I’ve always been so in love with. It’s got a timeless quality, I think. I am especially impressed by the sky, which you have depicted wonderfully (clouds are my personal nemesis, you see!). Great job 🙂


Louise, Thanks so much for the very nice compliments! I clicked over to your sites and totally love your work! I can’t imagine any subject being your nemesis–if you can draw pigs and typewriters like that, you can draw anything! I was trying to guess whether you work with pen, ink and markers or paint, or if your work is digital. I’m guessing ink and markers but I’d love to know. Your style is really wonderful! Jana


Jana, what a joy to see your paintings, too. Thanks for the review on your frustrations with acrylics vs. oils. I have been wondering about acrylics, but had your same thoughts. I’ll have to look into the Golden Open Acrylics you mentioned.


Jana, I love the idea of a virtual paint out. Thank you so much for the inspiration. As far as the paints, I have been using Holbein water-soluable for 3 years and love them. None of the odor and quite lovely colors. I recently used Golden Open as an under painting and was told that this could be a problem. Golden doesn’t have anything on their website and I wondered if you (or anyone) knows of possible problems. I have waited a week to let it dry and suspect that I should wait another week for it to cure before applying my oils.


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