When it comes
to putting additives into your paints, it just isn't the same as eating a
Twinkie or bag of Doritos. Additives are necessary in some cases, especially
for landscape artists who work with varying conditions when painting outdoors.
They can open up whole new aspects of your paint if you are willing to
experiment a little and--most of all--don't get too carried away with them.
|Taos Mountain, Trail Home by Cordelia Wilson, oil painting,
undated, ca. 1915-1920s. Wilson obviously enjoyed the thickness
of her paint. For artists who want thinner paints, additives are available.
Most often you
use additives to change the way the paint will look at the end of the process
or to adapt the paint to your painting environment--to deal with issues of
environmental temperature and humidity. The latter is especially pertinent if
you create landscape paintings. Out there in the elements, whether you are
making quick sketches or full-on plein air landscape art, you may have used
additives in the past to deal with the elements and get what you need out of
the time you had to paint.
there are binders to lend transparency to the pigments, speed up drying times,
or prevent color fading or changing--poppy or safflower oil is often added to
white and light colors because they are less prone to yellowing. Plus thinners
like turpentine (not the household kind!) and mineral spirits to, you guessed
it, thin your paints down. Mediums also can improve the flow of paint, change
its consistency, and give a matte or gloss finish to the paint. Some speed up the
drying times, others slow it down.
paints, there are fewer rules because unlike oils, acrylic additives don't need
to be more flexible or "fat" than the layers beneath it. My favorite is gloss
medium--it makes the paint thinner and slicker, and makes the colors more
luminous. Matte medium, meanwhile, dries to a nonreflective finish, and you can
also combine the two for a semi-gloss appearance. Gel medium is also useful if
you combine collage techniques in your work. It thickens paint so you can build
up the surface impasto-style, and increases the adhesion ability of the paint.
There's also retarding mediums for reduced drying times, texture paste to build
up the surface of the paint, and flow improvers for
|Watercolor painting by Hsuan-Chi Chen of a bulb of garlic, created using masking fluid.
additives can increase color vibrancy and luminosity. Iridescent mediums can
make a finished painting look glossy or leave a shimmer on the surface. There
are additives that "thicken" the paint--slowing its flow--plus ones that leave a
granular finish or make the paints more opaque. Masking fluid is also popular, although
you don't apply that to your pigments, just the surface you'll be painting on.
I'm still new
to all of the ways you can add things to your paints to make them do things
that are new and novel and useful. Terry Harrison on the other hand is an old pro at it. Harrison
is a sought-after workshop instructor and artist who has written a reference
book--Terry's Greatest Tips for Acrylic
and Watercolor Artists--filled with tips and techniques for watercolor and
acrylic painters. It has a whole section on using additives but goes far beyond
that, delving into all aspects of the painting process. It's perfect for taking
with you when you are out there landscape painting or making quick watercolor
sketches on the go. Enjoy!