View Full Version : Acrylics and Outdoor Painting

04-16-2011, 02:40 PM
I am having trouble finding a thread on this subject.

Over the last few months, I have been trying to switch from pastels to acrylics. I used acrylics years ago but never outdoors, and much has changed since then.

At home, I have been using tons of water to clean my brushes frequently to keep from ruining them. Plus, I have been using a cumbersome Stay-Wet Palette to keep my paint moist and usable. It seems a problem to me to carry all this water and the Stay-Wet into the field.

I have thought that slow-drying Golden Open Acrylics might buy me the time and help solve these problems. Anyone using Golden Open Acrylics for Outdoors Painting have any tips to get me started?

Any other suggestions unique to acrylics. I have read many general threads about easels, etc.

Regards, Gary

04-16-2011, 03:37 PM
I don't use acrylics myself, but I'm impressed by the way Roger Bansemer handles acrylics plein air. See his onine videos. (http://www.bansemer.com/painting_demonstrations/painting_videos.htm)


Ian Bruce
04-16-2011, 06:54 PM
I have used acrylics outdoors. Atelier Interactives are good. They do not dry as quickly as regular acrylics and have excellent pigment load and wonderful colors. If it is a nice sunny, dry day, with a bit of wind, they can still dry annoyingly fast. You will need a mister. Some few people have mastered the use of acrylics outdoors--even in desert conditions. But it aint easy.

I have also used Golden Open. These paints are seriously slow drying by acrylic standards but have a rather soft and sloppy texture and a fairly low pigment load. They lose moisture very slowly--and in cool damp conditions will actually pull moisture out of the air and become wetter and looser on your palette. Golden Open are very usable in sub-freezing temperatures. Even at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, their texture is pretty much unaffected. Your brush-cleaning water is the limiting factor but if your container is large enough the water will not cool down all that quickly and so long as there is no skim ice on the surface, it serves.

I did switch to oils, however, though I will give my acrylics another try sometime. I hope that helps.

04-16-2011, 07:28 PM
Doug, I have watched one of Roger's videos. It was filmed in Santa Fe, a typically dry climate, much like we have here in Utah. I noticed that he seemed quite indifferent to passage of time and the possibility that his paints might dry out. That video did not discuss which brand he was using.

Ian, I got another recommendation for Interactive on the Acrylics board. I may chase down a source and buy a couple tubes to try. Utah is fairly dry for about 6-8 months a year so either Interactive or Golden Open might work. I get out plenty when it is 20 F but I do not think that you will find me painting, too much a wimp. There is a nearby Utrecht store that sells the Golden Opens so I will likely try them as well.

Thanks to you both.


04-17-2011, 11:26 AM
I started with acrylic paints in the 60s, when there were no 'extended life acrylics'. Old timey acrylic painters like me have learned to paint quickly, so painting outdoors is usually no greater challenge than painting indoors. In short, there is no such thing as acrylic alla prima with conventional acrylics. Personally, I do not believe that the added cost of extended life acrylics is a trade-off for the experience of learning to paint quickly.

At a paint-out yesterday, a day that was in the mid 80s, with lowering humidity, brilliant sun, and a 30 mph wind, I manage to paint half-a-dozen 8 x 10s. None took more than an hour. Two of the pics were painted with full sun on the canvas board.

Misting certainly helps, but using only very small amounts of paint on the palette helps even more. When the paint dries, I scrape it off with a plastic razor blade and squeeze out more.

Regarding toting water. Most acrylic PA people use dry palettes (see Roger's videos). My PA outfit is very simple - a camera tripod, a 3 ft long, 1 x 2 that has a fitting that mounts to the tripod 1/4 x 20 thread and has holes spaced 1 in apart for wingnuts that clamp canvas panels, and a tray that fits over the tripod legs that contains a brush holder, hooks for acrylic tubes, and a cut-out for a plastic trophy cup. The trophy cup is the reservoir for my brush water. I carry two plastic bottles of water - one for me and one for the brushes. My palette is a polyethylene coffee can lid that I pinch-clamp to the end of my tray. Everything is completely portable, with the long stuff in a discarded lawn chair cover and the paints, water bottles, brushes in a brush tube, canvas boards, and paper towels in a discarded kid's backpack.

Oh, and one other thing. After you watch a number of Roger's videos, you will note his restricted palette. He works with three primaries, warm and cool temps of each. [Technically, this is not a three-primary palette!] The more colors you tote, the heavier your load. Besides, a lot of colors on your restricted sized palette can lead to a mess! BTW, I usually use only two or three bristle brushes, a #12 flat, a badly splayed #8 flat, and a smaller flat. The splayed brush works great for tree leaves, grass, and marsh reeds.

I get out plenty when it is 20 F but I do not think that you will find me painting, too much a wimp.

Now there's something you WILL NOT be doing with acrylic, simply because it is water-based. Acrylics cannot be used at temps below about 45F.

04-17-2011, 12:31 PM
Here's an annotated example of my set-up.


04-17-2011, 09:02 PM
Hobbyist, thanks for the complete run down on your set up. I will bookmark this thread and check back with it.

I work slowly with lots of breaks. It is just my nature. I painted with acrylics in the 70's and threw a lot away as it dried on me. So, I am use to putting only measured amounts on the palette. The Stay-Wet Palette has probably saved me a bit of money at home but I would not want to carry it to the field.

Thanks again for your help.


04-17-2011, 09:41 PM
There's a very good painter posting here in WC who often uses acrylics, HankB. Hope he'll chime in here.

www.jerrycampbell.blogspot.com (http://www.jerrycampbell.blogspot.com)

04-17-2011, 09:49 PM
I love painting plein air in acrylics. I use Golden Fluid Acrylics with the Golden slow drying Acrylic Glazing Liquid. That usually gives me as much open time as I need, but if it gets to be mid-day and they're tacking up too quickly, or it's an exceptionally hot day, I switch over to the Golden OPEN paints and I'm home free. The OPEN paint is lower in tinting strength, so I find I have to use a lot of it to make it work for me. I love that I don't have to worry about cleaning my brushes really well until after I get home with OPEN. It truly is the only slow-drying acrylic paint out of the tube. Depending on where I'll be painting, I don't always need to carry a lot of water. If I'm painting water or waterfalls, I just take from the source.


04-18-2011, 02:43 AM
I use atelier ... but in pots ... they don't dry out. Natch tho, it is a good idea to
have atelier's spray bottle to wet the board or canvas. I just use a garden
variety palette ... the results tho of my plein air extravaganzas tho leave a lot
to be desired but the paints in pots just don't dry out and the spray bottle is a

04-18-2011, 11:21 AM
My wife and I both like to paint PA and her medium is acrylic. She uses Liquitex heavy body with the small Sta-wet pallete. Using a mister she does fine here in SoCal. Her entire outfit (except the easel) fits in a Kelty pack.

04-18-2011, 12:44 PM
Thanks to everyone again. Lots of ideas to consider. I need to get started when this rain finally stops and try some of them.

Mike, I am just curious. Does your wife use the sponge or just spray the paper? I remember Thousand Oaks as hot and sometimes dry; I use to run a race (Carrera de Locos - sp?) there in the summer on firebreak trails.


04-18-2011, 01:26 PM
Unless it looks like it will be hot out, say upper 80's, she'd use the sponge. Otherwise, she finds she does fine just misting.

04-18-2011, 09:24 PM
There's a very good painter posting here in WC who often uses acrylics, HankB. Hope he'll chime in here.
*blushing* Thanks Jerry. I appreciate that. I haven't been around here in a while and just checked in to see what's new. :o

I usually use Golden OPENs. I'll use heavy bodies and soft bodies in warmer weather sometimes because they have some unique qualities that can be fun. I've used OPENs over top of regular acrylics because regular acrylics dry so fast and work well for an underpainting while working plein air (a nice advantage of acrylics if you like to work with an underpainting). The OPENs do seem a little pigment-light sometimes, mostly noticeable to me in the white.

I paint all winter with the OPENs and have been down to around 7 (and windy). As long as I can keep the rain and snow off of them their only real enemy seems to be wind. Wind gums them up. They never failed for me at low temps. Regular acrylics stop behaving for me around 50. If it's windy I'll go with water-mixable oils and save myself some headache.

When using OPENs I take no water with me whatsoever. I just don't need it. I clean my brushes at home. Use multiple brushes and you don't have to worry about washing the brush in between colors. That was something that was a big hurdle for me when transitioning from the studio to plein air. If I want to thin the paint I use the OPEN thinner or medium. In the summer with regular acrylics I'll need a spray bottle though and a jar of water.

I use a plexiglass palette spray painted primer gray on the back. Dried on acrylic comes right off with hot water or rubbing alcohol. I use those with my pochade boxes and my french easel.

Good luck with the acrylics!

04-18-2011, 10:46 PM
Thanks Hank. With Jamie's recommendation and yours, I will give Opens a try.

I am interested in your comment about Open Thinner. Thinner is necessary (as opposed to water) mainly because the temperature?

Regards, Gary

Skip the question. I went out to Golden's website and found the information that I needed. Thanks again.

04-19-2011, 12:16 PM
Here's an annotated example of my set-up.

? Did you make canvas bord sopprort you self if so how did you make it.

04-19-2011, 03:41 PM
Joey63, yes, I have a complete woodworking shop so I made it myself. The canvas support board is my absolute favorite part of my outfit.

The thread on a standard tripod is 1/4"-20 tpi. At your local hardware store, ask for a 1/4-20 hanger bolt. Drill a small hole through the 1x2/36 piece of wood at about 18 inches. Screw in the wood screw end of the hanger bolt, leaving the other end accessible for the tripod thread.

I have drilled my 1x2 canvas panel support with holes every inch. I use #8 x 1 inch machine screws with washers under the head and wing nuts on the threaded end. I clamp the canvas panel between the screw/washers and tighten it in place with the wing nuts on the reverse side. no extra parts!]

The flat board that is my workstation is a piece of perforated masonite.

I glued L shaped arms to the bottom of the board so that the board would be supported against the tripod legs.

I used a hole cutter to cut the circle for trophy cup. [Hint: get the cup first, then cut the hole smaller than the rim of the cup!]

I bent a piece of stiff wire into a U shape and threaded the ends to accept nuts. The rod supports the two jeans pockets, which are threaded onto the rod thru the belt loops.

The holes in the board are about the right size for S-shaped hooks that you can pick up at a hardware store. [Get a bunch of them. They are great for holding down the tripod in a stiff wind.]

After I worked with the board for a while, I noticed that brush water was softening the masonite. So I put a coat of paint on it to protect it from falling apart.

BTW, the brush holder is nothing but a rubber band! I was lucky enough to find a cardboard mailing tube that fit perfectly into the tube of the paper towel roll. I use some discarded crutch ends as stoppers for the tube. BTW, as you can tell, I use short-handled brushes. They fit perfectly in the mailing tube.

All in all, it takes me about 3-4 min to set up and take down. This is important for PA, particularly if rain or gusty wind is forecast!

Hope this helps!

Ian Bruce
04-19-2011, 06:56 PM
Now there's something you WILL NOT be doing with acrylic, simply because it is water-based. Acrylics cannot be used at temps below about 45F.
You are ABSOLUTELY wrong on this! Golden Open is probably an exception to to the rule--but it WILL NOT FREEZE.

I had heard on the acrylic forum of this property of Golden Open. As I go on a camping trip in Northern Maine every October, I pre-tested this by putting my palette in the freezer. That convinced me. I imagine that it freezes or at least stiffens up at some temperature--but my freezer cannot do it--nor can frigid Maine mornings in October.

I have not used Atelier Interactives in freezing temperatures that I can recall--so I don't know if this is a characteristic of slower drying acrylics, generally.

PS--I love your setup! Truly minimalist--and shows signs of having developed naturally over time and long usage.

04-20-2011, 05:12 PM
Ian, I am sorry for having completely misspoke about the freezing issue.

I believe I said that I am from the old school of acrylic paints and have never worked with the extended service acrylics. Having stated that caveat, I still believe that true water-based acrylics freeze at standard water freezing temperatures.

I would be interested to learn whether these extended service acrylics contain glycerol or ethylene glycol derivatives to inhibit freezing. [And if so, why?] Golden's MSDS does not report freezing points on any of their paints but they report 100C boiling points, implying that the vehicle is just water.