Yeah, no. I’m not actually going to tell you what to do with your life, let alone your art supplies. Just not that kinda girl. You got your paints, and you gonna do what you wanna do… but here’s what I’ve found out about these three mediums over my extremely varied and almost entirely unprofessional artistic career.
Acrylics dry very quickly (I’ve never used oils, so I can’t speak to comparisons between those two, I am afraid), especially in my dry, mountain environment. I use water in a spray bottle to keep my palate moist. I read once that painting with acrylic is like painting with plastic. If you’ve ever peeled a sheet of dried paint off your palette, then you know what I’m talking about.They are opaque, they can be thinned down with water, and they go on canvas like mac on cheese. They are as close to oil paints as you can get without going all smelly and turpentine on your housemates. Sometimes you can paint with a beret on and pretend you’re in Paris during Le Belle Epoch, best used when you want to paint epic landscapes or portraits. They come in big tubes (or sometimes jars, I’ve heard).
Acrylic on canvas board.
Watercolors come in two basic forms: tubes and cakes. Cakes are classic. Tubes are fancy. There are also watercolor pencils (which are awesome and the best thing ever for traveling with art supplies). The principle of watercolor is to soak a brush in colored water and go from there. It’s less about the paint and more about the water. The techniques are different, too. Watercolor is, by its very nature, translucent. Not opaque. It’s layer upon layer, blocking out lighter areas because there are no do-overs. Watercolor is tricky like that. If you make a big boo-boo – it just kinda sits there, glaring at you. You might be able to put a tree or a space ship on top of it, but this is where watercolor is far less forgiving than acrylic. If you mess up with acrylics, you just slap a coat of paint on top of it and try again. Not watercolor. Personally, watercolor intimidates me unless it is used as an accent like in this piece:
Watercolor and brushpen on paper.
I probably just need to actually practice, read my watercolor books, and practice some more. You know. Like how a normal, sane, logical human being approaches a task with which they aren’t proficient. If you want to check out a swell watercolor-ist, look no further.
Gouache is the happy medium between the two. It comes in cute little tubes. It’s opaque like acrylic but behaves much more like watercolor. You have to be careful because it dries quickly. Thin with water, and you’re good to go. The water thinning can result in somewhat inconsistent opacity; I like to use this to my advantage. I haven’t tried any major pieces with the paint, but it is an absolute marvel at small things. I like to think of it as putter-paint. It’s low pressure. It can be used in an armchair with a sketchbook on the lap. It’s for puttering around with color.
Take a look at the elk I was able to do with it – it shows off both the watercolor aspect and the opaque aspect:
Gouache on gray toned paper.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little expo on art and paints.