Painting with Acrylics

The Canadian artist Robert Genn is discussing the use of acrylic paints in his latest newsletter, and how some people look down on them. He mentions that it is artists that use oils that do most of the criticizing.

I personally wish I did like acrylic paints as they are so much more convenient, but they just don’t excite me. Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time with them, but any acrylic paintings I have done have come out flat and lifeless.
The biggest issue I have with acrylics is that I love texture, but it just doesn’t come out the same as oils. The drying time between layers also suites my way of working, as I like to slowly build up a bunch of paintings at once.
And perhaps the history of oils plays a small part of my love of oils. Even the smell of oils is comforting..

Acrylic snobs
“Most of the bad attitude you hear about acrylics comes not from collectors, but from other artists. This is unfortunate because the same narrow views can work against other media–watercolor for one. As an acrylic painter myself, I get around the problem by praising oils. I’m on solid ground here–I worked in oils for thirty years. I tell folks that nothing will ever beat them for texture and workability. Only occasionally do I mention oil-based problems: darkening, yellowing, oxidizing and sinking in, etc. It’s not the pigments, it’s the medium–traditional thinners, drying oils.. particularly linseed oil. Also, because of technical ignorance and creeping amateurism, oils can require early restoration–some after only a few years. Interestingly, decaying oils these days are restored with acrylic.” Acrylic Snobs
See more of Robert’s newsletter archives over at Painter’s Keys.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. says:

    As someone who now uses acrylic nearly all the time I find the medium second to none and recently joined the on line group:
    I’ve also read several magazine articles on use of acrylics explaining techniques such as use of contrasting layers of colour (one article was by an artist mentioned before in blogs – Nicola Slattery). This produces effects and depth of colour that can not be achieved simply by mixing colour on the brush, etc.

  2. I find the whole discussion ridiculous, some will prefer some mediums over others, it’s nothing more odd than people prefering different types of clothes. One type might be more expensive than others, so what? One type might have been more used in history, but so what?

    I don’t see the problem, the ones that look down upon other mediums obviously have some sort of self esteem issue. If they find them inferior to them because of the way they work, they are entitled too. Just as the person from the acrylicpainting group finds nothing beats acrylics, one painting with oils will find oils in the same way. That’s why they chose either one.

    Live and let live already :D

  3. I think it’s probably more about what artists feel comfortable with, rather than snobbery.

    I love oils as I like how they feel, but I wish I liked acrylics. Especially now that I don’t have a proper studio to work in! They would make much more sense, but I just can’t warm to the medium.

    But yeah, whatever tickles your fancy. We use what feels right for us.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Acrylic paint, like all media needs to be used in the right way. In the hands of a good artist a burnt stick can be used to make great art and the very best oil paints in the world will not look like much in the hands of an incompetant. Shakespear asked if a rose would smell any different by another name. Do they look any better painted in one media rather than another?

  5. I’ve dabbled in all types of mediums and there are good and bad with all of them. It’s all a matter of preference. But I can understand how some people can be really “set” in their ways :)

  6. I have worked with both mediums. I always worked with oils until this past year. I find acrylics much more challenging due to the drying time. Getting a good blend with acrylic is not as easy as it is with oils.And I am sorry to say Mr. Genn that my paintings with acrylic are bright, vibrant and FAR from flat. Don’t be so intimidated by something new. I know we all can get intimidated by something that is not in our comfort zone.

    Ellen Creates

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ellen, it wasn’t Robert Genn who said acrylics are flat; it was the owner of this blog who said that. Robert Genn uses acrylics and his paintings are anything but flat!!!

    Happy painting everyone :)

  8. Thank you for the correction. I obviously read a bit to quickly.

  9. I used oils years ago, but I could never get my paintings where I was really happy with them. I discovered acrylics and have never looked back. My friend who also used oils, loved my new look, so she tried acrylics. They just didn’t work for her, so she went back to oils and her work is beautiful. Oils suit her style of painting better than acrylics, and acrylics suit my style of painting better than oils.
    Just to add another twist to this. I have another friend who does wonderful things with pen & ink, but as soon as she touches paint it all goes out the window.
    I’m glad there are so many different mediums.

  10. Try a stay wet palette to keep acrylics workable for days and weeks. Also use contrasting layers of colour. Acrylics need to be used as acryilics and not as a substitute for oils.

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