Nancy Hagin’s acrylic and watercolor paintings explore color symmetries and repeating patterns to deconstruct familiar objects into harmonious planes of color. In this free excerpt from The Artist’s Magazine (March 2013), she shares tips for acrylic painting.
The Acrylic Difference
By Nancy Hagin
• Polymer-based acrylic paints are water-soluble and have shorter drying times than oils.
• Acrylic eliminates the need for turpentine and gesso and can be applied directly onto raw canvas.
• Acrylic is more opaque than watercolor and dries as quickly.
• Acrylic appears one shade darker when dry than when wet; mixing it in large batches is advisable because mixing a new batch to match a dried area on a painting is difficult.
• Acrylic paintings are waterproof when they’re dry. They can be washed gently with soap and water, but the wooden stretchers should never become wet.
• Some acrylic pigments, like the alizarins, dry with a more glossy finish; others, like the earth colors, dry more matte. I occasionally mix gloss medium into the paints that are more matte, so the colors within my paintings will be more consistent.
• Painting wet into wet with acrylic must be done quickly, which makes this method harder with acrylic than it is with oil.
• Color mixing with acrylic differs from that with oil only in that acrylic dries quickly on a flat palette surface. This prohibits mixing a large quantity of a color ahead of time on the palette. That’s why I mix colors in deeper containers like plastic ice cube trays or small jars. Between painting sessions, I spray the trays with water and cover them with plastic wrap. There are commercial retarders (agents to extend the drying time), but I don’t find them to be helpful. It’s the same with mediums. I don’t find much use for them, but they do make good glues.
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