Paint Safety and Acrylic Painting Tips

Posted on February 17, 2009

Following on from my post on paint toxicity, I have a few tips for working with acrylic paint. A lot of people seem to find the fast drying time an issue, and it can be. I find drying time to be extremely unpredictable – in winter my paint dries pretty slowly but in summer it can be dry almost before the brush stroke is finished! It all comes down to humidity and temperature, although, in my experience, the heat here in summer outranks the high humidity and my paint still dries fast. However, it’s probably far faster in Arizona.

Before I start however, a twitter contact, Edward Kinnally, let me know about an article he wrote on art material safety which covers the standards applying to paint. Ever wondered what “non-toxic” really means? That one was a shocker for me.

Perrier Bottle

30″x40″ acrylic on canvas

2007 Caroline Roberts

So, how can we blend when the paint dries so fast? Here I painted the base of a perrier bottle in the (attempted) style of Georgia O’Keefe. I used acrylic paints and in some areas I managed blending that I am very pleased with. My ‘trick’? I mixed the main hues that I needed ahead of time and worked one small blending area at a time, blending my paint as much on the palette as on the canvas. I also keep a spray bottle on hand and regularly mist the palette and the canvas to keep the paint workable. When I feel the paint dragging at my brush I stop work on that area – the dragging means that a skin is forming and continuing to work will only make the paint textured and lumpy. If I have to stop before I’m happy with the blending then I simply come back after that layer is dry and repaint the areas that didn’t work.

For a palette I mainly use a piece of glass with white paper taped underneath. I spray it regularly with water to keep the paint from drying and i cover it with plastic wrap (or cling film in the UK) to keep it from drying between sessions. I also use freezer paper which is the same as those disposable paper palettes but much cheaper. I have a stay-wet palette but I don’t often use it because I find the surface a little small. It’s good for studies and smaller canvases. Depends how big, or messy, you work really. For large quantities of paints or glazes I re-use paint pots, glass spice jars and plastic medicine pots. I am probably stating the obvious, but if you restrict the surface area you slow down the drying, so these little pots can keep a glaze workable for weeks if I close it up after use.

Now, I freely confess, I have very little experience with oil paint because I don’t like the smell of turps and I have eczema so have avoided mineral spirits (this was before I learnt I should wear gloves whilst painting). What a career-long oil painter might see as restrictions on their normal way of working I see as normal limitations of a media.

Which is all another way of saying that I am making assumptions, based on the blog posts I read about acrylic paints, on the issues people find when they are new to acrylics. I would love to hear your questions so I know the real issues, and I will answer them as best I can. I am always learning something new about acrylics and I know there is so much more out there to know. I will share any discoveries I find to be repeatable.

One Response

  1. Arpita
    August 17, 2009

    Great! I am so impressed by these tips! These are really very effective. I like to paint. 🙂 Right now, I am learning about acrylic painting. One thing that I really like about this paint is, it dilutes in water but become water resistant when dry. Other aspects I like is that it’s odorless, anti-allergic and allows artist to use multi-layers.
    I have found a website http://www.mazzoldi-best-acrylic-paintings.com/painting-with-acrylic.html where the painter Aurora Mazzoldi shares her paintings and the stories behind the art. I like her ideas very much.

    Reply

Leave a Reply