Acrylic Paint Surfaces

One of the properties of acrylic paints is their ability to stick to nearly any surface that is free of grease, oil or wax.  I've painted on a variety of surfaces with acrylics including regular cotton canvas, fine mesh cotton canvas, canvas board, smooth MDF board, mat board (all primed with acrylic gesso) and watercolor paper. I find that time and time again my best results happen using unprimed cold pressed watercolor paper.  Watercolor paper provides both a small amount of "tooth" on the surface as well as some absorbancy that is not offered by any gesso primed surface. This allows me to do very thin gradational wet on wet washes as well as having intense vibrant thick colors produced using a painting knife. I also can mix watercolor and acrylic paint on the same surface so long as the first layer is watercolor.  Since I do  a lot of painting of water scenes I find that I can get the illusion of wet surfaces far more easily by painting wet on damp using watercolor paper. I've tried using absorbant ground on my gesso primed surfaces, but the resulting surface still provides insufficient absorbancy. Acrylic placed onto a gesso primed surface has to be put on thick in order for the color to "stay put" on a brush stroke. The underlying surface is just too slick.  This results in very amateurist looking blocks of solid color unless one works very rapidly to blend in differing colors before the paint sets up. Generally I prefer to make many thin layers as opposed to a single very thick layer. I suppose this comes from my background as having first been a watercolorist.

When plein air painting I prefer to use gesso primed surfaces, either mat board or MDF. In this case I need to work very fast to keep ahead of the changing lighting conditions. I don't have time to wait for multiple layers to dry. Instead, I make a quick underpainting of the major value blocks then apply very thick paint and blend colors on the panel as I go, more like an oil painting approach.  I should add that acrylics work only as long as the air temperature is low and I'm not working in direct sun, especially in the Southwest. 

Posted by: lknight
Posted on: 9/15/2010 at 11:41 AM
Categories: Tips
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