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Acrylic or water based Oils? (help me decide)

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I want to start painting again. I'm partially doing it to express my creativity but, I must admit, that I'm doing it mostly for the money. I'd like to sell my paintings again. This time, I will aim higher and try to get my paintings in higher end galleries.

However, the local galleries are only accepting oils. Not acrylic. I'm used to acrylic. It's what I know.

Is working with water based oils much more different than acrylics? Will I basically need to learn to paint a whole new way?
Are water based oils more toxic than acrylic? Will the fumes be awful?

Sorry for so many questions. I really want to make the best decision.

Would love to get opinions from people who have used both mediums.
post #2 of 31
I may not be much help because I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaate acrylic paint. BUT I do have experience with both media. Overall, whether you will need to learn a whole new way depends on your technique. There could be subtle or enormous differences. If you prefer glazing, then the differences will be less than if you prefer impasto. 'Fat(=more oil) over lean(=less oil)' applies to oils (making each successive layer you add 'fatter' by mixing in more linseed than in previous layers so that the paint on top takes longer to cure than the paint underneath, so that the top layers don't crack as the whole thing cures), and oils stay 'wet' longer, so these affect how you paint as well. I used a quick-dry medium once and I don't know how effective it was because I abandoned the painting.

Oils, whether water mixable or not, require ground preparation, little of which is necessary for working in acrylic.

My usual medium is gouache/ink/watercolour, but I am also thinking of getting back to oils for similar reasons to yours. I love the texture of the water mixables, and there's just no way I could cope with turps for traditional oils, and I also find that acrylics hurt my airways and cause swelling. The wm oils smell like linseed oil, which to my olfactory sense, is far preferable to acrylic emulsion, but it is definitely different. I still needed ventilation though because it still filled the air. I find the same with gun arabic sometimes too, and it's edible...

If you are not spraying them, wm oils are less toxic than acrylic because they are just pigment+linseed oil (chemically changed to accept water). Winsor Newton has a decent overview of wm oils here. The toxicity of oils is mostly due to turpentine needed for cleaning, and of course certain pigments are toxic, but these are standard fare for paints- the cadmiums, cobalt, etc..., so in that way, oils are no different.

I used WN because they had the largest range and excellent quality, but if M. Graham ever makes a water mixable oil, I would likely switch; their paints are fabulous (and they use walnut oil, which doesn't yellow and smells much better imo).

You'll have a learning curve for sure, but going from acrylic to oil couldn't be more stressful than from watercolour to acrylic, as a local artist here did. Now that is a big switch!

And, btw, I don't care what anybody says, there is no shame in receiving remuneration for your art. Making art is real work. Not only that, but it's your life and if you want to support your life and further artistic pursuits by selling your art, then that's completely valid. Nobody is entitled to your art; it's from your skill and labour that it exists, just like any other commodity, so if they want it, they can pay for it just like they do for milk and cars and movie tickets- without complaint. And if your art is more like creme brulee, mercedes benz and opera tickets, then they should expect to remunerate you in kind.

This site is awesome for the business end of things, in case you had not come across it before.

And , you're making art!!!
post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
You'll have a learning curve for sure, but going from acrylic to oil couldn't be more stressful than from watercolour to acrylic, as a local artist here did. Now that is a big switch!

Thanks for your reply! I started with watercolor and switched to acrylic. Watercolor is so easy but the result is too 'soft'. When I would have art shows, people would constantly request that I start doing acrylic or oil. And since people tend to pay much more for oils than anything else, I'm probably going to do it. I didn't add anything to the paints when I used acrylic so going to oil is going to be different for sure.

There's a WN set that I have my eye on. Not sure when I can afford to get the paints, easel, and brushes though.
post #4 of 31

acrylic vs. wm oils

Awesome! Do you have a web site with your work on it? It's great that you have experience with galleries and with selling your work. I haven't sold my work but I hope to one day.

When I started painting again (with kids in the house) I was concerned about toxicity, and I'm still somewhat confused about it. I started with acrylics, which I like. I choose the AP nontoxic pigments. I tried some "open" acrylics, which didn't seem that much different to me. Then I tried the WN wm oils - they've been great. The WN line is not a professional grade. I didn't know that when I bought them, I might have gone for another brand. Now that I have these, it's hard to switch, as I don't think the brands are all compatible with each other. Someone recommended Holbien Duo. I don't know much about that line, though.

I have paintings in both mediums at http://debrha.wordpress.com/. I think alla prima painting in oil is similar to painting in acrylic, at least the way I've done it.

Happy painting and good luck!
post #5 of 31
I completely forgot that Artisan is not professional grade. It's been that long since I've used it. I promise if you ask me about gouache, my info will be more complete!

I did find this site that compares the various paints anecdotally.

I'm feeling a bit inspired to take on oils again, but I have lots of gouache/ink paintings to complete before I can justify the new/further expense. It's more than difficult to make time to paint with five dc, one of whom is 3 months old, a dp with severe adhd and shift-work that is on-call, and all the rest of what I do.

If I don't make art, even being as even-keel as I am, I become chronically ill. It took me a long time to figure that out, but there it is.

Anyway, I'm always totally in awe of mamas who actually successfully find time to make art. If I do figure it out, I may offer a class on this at the college. I'm sure I'm not the only one in this situation.

How do you mamas do it?
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post
How do you mamas do it?
I haven't painted in years. I miss it. It's going to take a lot of self discipline on my part to make myself paint. There's always something else that I 'should' be doing instead.

I didn't know WN isn't professional grade. Bah.
post #7 of 31
I was reading one of the links above (about rating wm oils), and the site author has a bunch of solutions to the solvent problem. It's my sensitivity to turps that has kept me from using oils, but I can just use walnut oil to clean my brushes. I don't know why I haven't done that. I made my own encaustic paints last year, and used manually de-fatted oil colours to mix into the beewax. Then I washed my hands and utensils with clean salad oil. My father used mineral oil to clean his hands of engine grease and I used olive oil this past summer to clean my feet and hands and those of my children from roofing tar guck that had exploded out of a tube applicator from the heat, at our neighbour's pump house. Duh.

I have professional artist grade oil colours, so I'm going to use them! I have plenty of seed/nut oil, and Dr. Bronner's bar soap to clean out the oil.

That's so much easier than I'd thought! And of course it doesn't really matter that it's taken me this long to figure this out since I've not seriously painted since 2001. Sigh. I reeead about it a lot though. A book is easier to put down (over and over and over) than a palette and a mind full of focus.

DaughterofKali, I've been waiting on bated breath for your comprehensive tutorial on how to actually physically enter into a studio space without a child or partner thinking the universe has just exploded- and then making it do just that.
post #8 of 31

regular oils vs wm oils

I've read that too, that if solvents are your only concern, you can use regular oils and just clean up with soap and water. And then your range of colors is bigger, and I've heard wm paints are more expensive. I want to try Gamblin oils, eventually.

Things that help me find the time to paint:

- Having something started. It's momentum. If I get some time and don't know what I'm going to do I freeze up and end up cleaning something instead. And I hate to clean. But if I'm working on a painting it pulls me like a magnet. One artist I read about always has 4 paintings going: one in sketch phase, one in block-in, one in finishing, and then thinking ahead to the subject of the fourth.

- Painting with the kids. Whenever I start painting they hunt me down and attach themselves to my ankles. But then I have only two (6yo and 3yo), and they like to paint. They are amazing artists .

- Setting goals and blogging. It's a tangible record of my efforts. I made a goal last year to do one painting a week and put them on a blog. I didn't paint that many, but the blog made me feel accountable. And it was a tiny taste of getting my work out there, which I hope to do more of this year.

post #9 of 31

I usually ask dd if she wants to paint whenever I do, then I set her up next to me.  I show her which paints are "mine" and which paints are "hers".  It works ok, but really I've only started painting much since she turned 3 years old (she's 4 now).  


No advice on acrylics vs. whatever.  I used to do acrylics (and oils once in a while) but now I'm working in watercolor, pencil, pen and mixed media.  I like it better, as it's more portable.

post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 

I only wish I could paint with my son around.  He has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum.  No way would that work.  My paintings would look very dark and disturbed.  orngbiggrin.gif

post #11 of 31

I go to art shows all the time, my partner is an artist, his mother is an artist and all 3 of us are art teachers. I think what you paint and how you paint it is more important than what you use. Ive seen many many paintings done with acrylic that are mind blowing. I think whatever YOU the ARTIST wants to use is most important. If you are true to yourself, you will be just fine. Ive never heard that oils sell better than an acrylic.. Its usually the skill of the artist that people are paying $$ for.


I would use whatever is at hand, what you can afford at this time in your life, what fits into your life/budget/space etc... If you are authentic, creative & original (what ever that looks like for you) people will see the value in that. NOT what brand or type of paint you use. Just paint!! Have fun!! Enjoy the process!!!

post #12 of 31

I agree that painting how you want will reflect who you are and that will shine in your work, so pick whichever medium you end up resonating with.

I also love painting with oils so I would say jump in and play and be curious about learning something new. winky.gif

It's been a while since I've been painting but our dd is almost 2 and I've played with the idea of painting time together but haven't gotten the guts to do it yet...she's very much into painting but wants to paint over what I paint. irked.gif good thing she's cute.  

best of luck and enjoy it whatever way you decide to go.

post #13 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Monkey pants View Post
 I think what you paint and how you paint it is more important than what you use

While I agree with you as far as potential buyers are concerned, I've already been told by local art galleries that they are only taking oils paintings at this point.  (I live in a posh area and I guess oils are what sells here.)


I could go to lesser places to show/sell my paintings but I wouldn't get nearly as much for them.  Probably 3/4 less!  Yes, I should paint because I love it but I also NEED to make good money. shy.gif


Thanks for all the replies!  I admit that I haven't bought any supplies yet.

post #14 of 31

While I am an artist, I am more moved in the 3 dimensional world than 2-d art.


I have painted with both acrylic and wateroils.  I have not painted in regular oils or watercolor.


I found after working for years with acrylics that wateroils were much nicer to work with.  Unlike acrylics they are forgiving and you can correct easier.

They are slow to dry but not nearly as slow as regular oils.  Much easier clean up than oils.

The color drys truer than with acrylics that dry darker.


While I use acrylic for mixed media painting and projects if I paint in the future I will definitely paint again in w/o's.


I strongly suggest buying a white/black/red/blue/yellow only and testing out the waters.  You can make anything from that combo and the start up cost is minimal to get a good feel for yourself.


Good Luck.

post #15 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much!  I think I will give water based oils a chance.

post #16 of 31

I know this thread is a bit older, but thought I'd barge in anyways!


There are ways of using regular oil paints without solvent.  I keep pet birds (they are my studio assistants and live in the studio!) so I'm extra careful.  Although I was trained using turpentine while painting (mostly to keep the brush clean, our instructors weren't fond of using it as a medium for various reasons).  I've since switched to using walnut oil instead of turp to clean brushes.  It works great--it's just *slightly* more effort.  I'm currently doing a glaze painting and using black oil as the medium (it has no solvent or varnish in it).  It works well.  Gamblin has some glazing mediums which are supposed to be non-toxic, which I'm going to try soon.  Anyway, it's very possible to be varnish/solvent free in the studio and still use regular oil paints! 


I've previously painted with acrylics, and I prefer the oil smell of oil paints to the acrylic smell. 


I do go outside if I have to varnish a painting.

post #17 of 31

Where can I buy walnut oil? I recently tried my old traditional oils after a year of using water soluble oils. I like the traditional ones better, and I'm carefully using Gamsol odorless mineral spirits. I use the Gamsol to rinse my brushes between colors and before I clean the brushes with soap after painting. I'd like to try walnut oil, though.

post #18 of 31

I actually bought mine at an Indian grocery store :) it was pretty cheap.  I imagine it's available at higher end grocers as well.  Since I'm just using it to clean my brushes and not as a medium.

If I was using it as a medium, they do sell it on art sites like Jerry's Artarama and Dick Blick Art for the professional grade.


I keep a small jar of walnut oil beside my palette.  If I need to clean the brush, like to switch colors, I wipe the brush off on a paper towel or rag, then dip it in walnut oil, then gently work the oil into the brush by rubbing it on the palette, then wipe it again with the paper towel/rag.  This is the same thing I was taught to do in art class, except using turp.  If I'm done for the day and trying to get the brush really clean before I soap it up, I might dip it in the walnut oil a couple times to clean as needed.  The walnut oil is a very thin oil, not sticky, and works well for cleaning.  And it smells nice.  I came upon this method after googling "solvent free oil painting" and reading peoples different techniques.  I thought this was one of the more simple methods.  Since I'm somewhat lazy, the simpler, the better!!

Originally Posted by panda View Post

Where can I buy walnut oil? I recently tried my old traditional oils after a year of using water soluble oils. I like the traditional ones better, and I'm carefully using Gamsol odorless mineral spirits. I use the Gamsol to rinse my brushes between colors and before I clean the brushes with soap after painting. I'd like to try walnut oil, though.


post #19 of 31
Thread Starter 

Sadly, I'm allergic to nuts.


Can you believe that I still haven't started painting again?  Something always comes up (rent, utilities, clothing for ds, etc) and I never get a chance to buy supplies.

post #20 of 31

Real oil paints are not toxic.  There are some options for alternative solvents.  I used to be afraid to use oils in my home and around my children even though they are my super-duper-favorite in handling.  I don't want to use the water soluble oils.


I think from talking to others the WM are sort of in between acrylics and oils in handling.  They dry faster than real oils but not as fast as acrylics.  I love having the long dry time of oils--the fast dry was one of the reasons I hated acrylics.


I find oils come naturally to me.  I felt I was fighting the acrylics.  I can be very relaxed with oils; I can make adjustments later if I like, I am in control as much as I want to be, and spontaneity is all there as well.  The smooth handling and open time of oils are exquisite if you get to know them.  Oil paints can be intimidating, but their weaknesses can be advantages and once you get to know them they are not complicated unless you want to be that way with them.  I think they are considered to require more painting skill to handle, that's why the galleries are drawing a distinction, and I think you can develop those skills if that is the market you are aiming for.  



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