Friday, March 29, 2019

Can you create great paintings using cheap craft acrylics?

I began my acrylic painting adventure a little over a decade ago. Well, actually, I created my first painting when I was much younger, but about 11 years ago was when I started to take painting a little more seriously. One day I picked up a few 50¢ bottles of acrylic craft paint and I never looked back.

I found myself painting almost daily in my sketch book, mainly using illustrations and photographs from books as reference. I then graduated to painting on canvases and continued to improve.
A couple of my early paintings from 2009 and 2008 in my sketch book.
I later began painting on canvas, but continued to use craft paint (below).

I learned so much about painting during those few years using cheap acrylics - how to blend colors, how to mix colors, how to create the look of fur, in what order the tones should be applied, and more - and I didn't feel held back by the cost of the paint, so I didn't stop painting and, thus, I didn't stop learning. That is until I began to read more about professional artists and the materials they use. It was when I learned about lightfastness I realized that I probably should be using the "real stuff" - the stuff that is made to last longer, the stuff that is made for professional artists.


So I got a few tubes of artists' acrylics to try out and I found that they just aren't the same. I became frustrated with the artists' acrylics because the consistency and colors were not what I was used to and I kept going back to using the craft paints. But the more paintings I created with the cheap paint, the more I became worried that the art I was working so hard to create might not last more than a few years.

Eventually I pushed myself to learn to only use artists' acrylics and I am glad I did. I may not paint as often as I used to due to being afraid of wasting paint, but those lightfastness ratings on the sides of the tubes give me peace of mind. AND now I don't have to deal with the other downsides of low quality paint - the dull, flat, poorly-pigmented colors, and all those bottles full of lumpy dried acrylics! There is, however, one thing I really miss about craft paints...they're cheap...really cheap.

Acrylic craft paint vs. artists' acrylics
So, is it possible to create great paintings using cheap craft acrylics? The answer is yes. Would I recommend using craft paint to a complete beginner? That depends on the individual, but I'd probably say yes. Buy a few bottles and try it out. Gradually introduce tubes of artists' acrylics to your collection and use them together with the craft acrylics to compare and get used to them. If you end up not liking painting in acrylics, then be happy you didn't spend all that money on a set of better paints. If you end up loving it, then after you have learned the basics you can move on to using all artists' acrylics and feel confident that your work will last.

P.S. I am relieved to report that I have not yet noticed any fading in my old craft paint paintings (that were kept indoors). 😌

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Random Project of the Week - Robin cartoon

I painted this American Robin singing its cheery song for the first day of spring. I used Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle watercolors and Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens on Bee Paper.