I am new to painting in general and wanted to use acrylics for the ease of clean-up and the versatility. I am having trouble with blending techniques and wet on wet since our humidity here in Arizona is only 22 percent. I use a stay-wet palette so my paint isn't drying out before I use it but even the slo-dry gel I bought get tacky the minute I spread it on the canvas so it doesn't help. I have tried mixing it in the paint also but to cover a large area like a sky it still dries too fast to blend the edges very well. Any desert dwellers with ideas? I may have to buy a humidifier just for my workroom.
I'm another desert dweller and resident of Arizona, so I may be of some help. Even though I paint in watercolor, I have used acrylics for most of my commercial career both in Ohio and Arizona.
I would like to know the brand and the type of acrylics you are using. It sounds like you are using standard acrylic paint, the original type of acrylics. For sake of clarity, I'll call it "stantard acrylics." (Golden paints calls it "heavy body" acrylics, as a paint type.)
If you are using "standard acrylics", much of what you have described is just the way they work—whether in Arizona or Ohio. "Standard acrylics" dry very fast. Soft, even blending has always been a problem. Some additives such as a slo-dry gel can help. Are you aware of "open acrylics"? Golden paint, in particular has introduced a type of acrylic that blends easier and drys much slower. You might experiment with it. Check out the Golden website:http://www.goldenpaints.com/products/color/index.php
Also, I have a hunch that you may be using your paint a bit thick for achieving as smooth a blend as you would like. Try adding a little more water to your paint as you mix it on your pallet. This will slow down the drying and it may help in blending.
There are many ways to work with acrylics. Don't expect acrylics to work like oils. Acrylic paint is a medium all its own. Another approach is working with more of a "dry-look" than the traditional smooth blend. Rather than pulling one color into another for tonal or color transition, introduce an intermediate color or tone as a new brush stroke.
As I have mentioned on other occasions, I started using acrylics just after they were introduced. Back at that time, they were only available in large jars. A respected painter and friend of mine suggested that I try to use them in a different way. He had me using a narrow house painting brush and working rough. At the time, I wasn't so much interested in how the paint blended—rather I was trying to get the paint out of the jar. It wasn't the easiest way to work. However, I eventually started getting the hang of it. One of the things I learned was a lot of blending could be achieved by glazing—with little more than thinned down paint.The "glazing" was more like a gouache wash. Later when mediums were introduced, a touch of medium could be added, creating a even better method of glazing. The glazing and dry brush technique is just one way of working with "standard acrylics'.
Hang in there—any other questions, just ask. If I can't help you someone else can.
Part of my problem is the quality of my paint. I started with two classes from Crafty that use Artist's Loft. I have discovered that they are worse than some better quality student paints. I can't afford to ditch them all and go to open paint until I have least mastered some of the techniques. I have replaced a few with a higher quality paint from Hobby Lobby called Master's Touch.I can tell the difference just with a swatch of both paints. I have been afraid to use too much water because of the quality. I have a lot of the mediums except for the heavy body stuff. The paints I have would be medium density. I think I can use up the Artist's Loft learning to do watercolor effects with acrylic. Most of them are very transparent.
It sounds like you understand that the problem is really the paint quality and not the climate.
You know how much you can afford to spend on art supplies. Stick with at least a good brand of student paints. Whenever you can, pick up a tube of Golden "heavy body" paint. I'm recommending the "heavy body" type that is comparable to the type of paint you have been using rather than "open" acrylics. I think it is good to get used to using standard acrylics (heavy body) first.
Rather than buying an entire set of quality acrylics you might try painting in one color plus white and a dark toner color. You would be painting in duotone— such as ultramarine blue, white and black. This would give a chance to get used to working with good quality acrylics without having to worry about color at the same time. When you can afford to, you might be able to add other colors. The best teacher is "trial and error".
Best of luckPaul