“Cow Study #9” and oil vs acrylic paint differences

Cow Study #9, ©2012 Tracy Wall

Cow Study #9
6″ x 6″
acrylic on panel
©2012 Tracy Wall

Here’s the partner to the painting in last post.

As to the differences between oil paint and acrylic paint…
Yes, both come out of a tube, but they have vastly different properties that (for me) make working with each of them a whole different animal.  Here are my observations…

drying time – Drying properties matter as this will determine if I can work with the paint for several sessions while still wet, or if paint dries and I should plan on painting separate additional layers on top.  Acrylic paint dries quickly (in 5 – 30 minutes depending on thickness), while an oil painting can last a few days still wet to the touch and a few months to completely dry.  I can also use an acrylic gel additive to slightly slow the drying time to an hour or so.

forgiving – Because oil paints do take longer to dry, I find them more forgiving.  Spend a day working on a part of a painting and still don’t like it?  Wipe it away and try again without jeopardizing what works.

solubility and toxicity – Oil paints are oil-based, which can make clean-up more complicated. You need some kind of solvent (I use Gamsol – less smell) or turpentine to clean your brushes. These are flammable and more care needs to be taken in their use.  Acrylic paints are water-based and conveniently wash up with soap and water, but must be cleaned right away before paint dries.

color fade – Acrylic paint dries slightly darker than when wet.  this can making it difficult to not only predict the color you want, but hard to mix/match the other colors already dry.

texture: Oils can be used thickly creating a texture you can feel to the painting.  Acrylics usually dry flat even though they may have texture when wet.  Again, I can also use a gel additive to acrylics to help create a little more pastiness that can offer texture.

Being that I like to slop around while the paint is still wet, I prefer oils. However, the more I work with acrylics the better I get at planning how to use them within the limited time.  I was pleasantly surprised when I tried working with acrylics again, and I’ll certainly give it a go again!

About Tracy Wall

I'm an artist and massage therapist living in Denver, Colorado.
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2 Responses to “Cow Study #9” and oil vs acrylic paint differences

  1. I always love the effect you get from the red under-paintings. Beautifully done! I have never dabbled in paint before but I learn quite a bit about colour mixing and harmony from your pieces.

  2. Tracy Wall says:

    Thanks Vanessa. I went from pastels to oils, and I think the application of color concepts is similar. With the color underneath, I liken it to working with pastels on rougher, cold press paper that is red.

    Isn’t it fun to explore different media? Have a ball!

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