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.

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