Wax palettes, acrylic drying time - "Kookaburra mugshot" WIP5-7
How do you overcome the problem of rapid-drying acrylics? What palette should you use with acrylics?
It's been a few days, so I thought I should share my recent acrylic painting discoveries as I work through one of my first ever acrylic paintings - "Kookaburra mugshot" (see previous posts for work in progress shots).
Acrylics are totally different to what I'm used to with watercolours. You can put out a palette of watercolour paints one day, blend some beautiful neutral colours, and keep coming back to the same palette day after day (pretty much indefinitely). Not so with acrylics. At first I found it so frustrating to have my colours drying in only a few minutes of starting my painting session. So I looked around for mediums that might 'slow' the drying time, so at least I could keep my palette from drying up so quickly. I bought some 'slow' medium (Atelier acrylic medium), but it didn't seem to do the trick - the colours on my palette still dried much too quickly.
Then I realized one of the great features of Atelier acrylics which is their ability to remain open with the regular application of water (using a spray-bottle), because they dry differently to other acrylics and don't form a 'surface skin'. Atelier even sell a special 'fine mist' water sprayer for the purpose (you might not be able to see it clearly, but in Fig. 1, the water sprayer is a dark blue smallish bottle on the top right). I suspect they probably aimed the sprayer to be used to wet the surface of the canvas itself, but I've found it is excellent for keeping my palette colours open while I'm working. I just spray the palette, and as soon as the little beads of water evaporate (roughly 10-20 minutes in my environment), I spray it again. I can keep the palette colours open indefinitely using this technique (although sometimes I forget to spray and the thinner edges of the paint dollops dry), which means I can work in fine details without constantly having to open more tubes of paint.
Something else I have found particularly useful lately is the wax paper palette. Since I always used the same palette with watercolour painting, reusing colours day to day (re-wetting them when they dried), I didn't really encounter the problem of washing palettes, except between paintings. But when the acrylic colours on your palette are drying rapidly, you need at least one fresh palette each painting session. That's a lot of palette washing, and acrylics are sticky! They're not that easy to get off the palette! I saw a video lately where an acrylic artist was using a waxed paper palette, and thought to try it out. You can see the palette on the left of Fig. 1. Basically it is a pad of thin waxed paper which both resists absorption of the paint as well as water sprayed onto the surface. It's just fantastic, and the best part about it is that they're disposable with minimal fuss (and very affordable too) - you just tear off the sheet of dry colours and start afresh on the one underneath. Since I'm not working with very watered paints, nor mixing large amounts when I do detailed work, a flat palette is perfect for me too.
Anyway, with these two great discoveries to hand, I continued adding details to the kookaburra painting I was working on (see work in progress shots; WIP 5-7), and eventually finished it. I decided towards the end that the background was simply too garish with the bright green, and I covered it with titanium white tinted pacific blue.