Replacing old acrylics

I was recently able to actually get out to an art supply store, instead of ordering and then waiting two weeks for my stuff to arrive. It’s one of the first times I’ve been outside of the house for anything other than food (or medical), in…months.

Everyone at the art supply store was friendly and helpful. Even though extra crew members did have to come along to staff the registers, it was really nice. I did have to dip in and out to get some stuff which people were standing too close to, for too long (I call it “butterflying”; maybe it’s more like “hummingbirding”), but that was minor.

As well…it looks like the job market is picking up. I’m not sure what it means for me that so many of these jobs are service positions, but we do live in a service economy, after all. Family has said that I actually could work at an art supply store. Although I did have a tough time with customer service in prior positions (who doesn’t have a tough time with customer service), at least the people at the art store knew to step up when they were needed (and actually did, which matters). There was a team element there which I appreciated. Recognized, and appreciated, maybe I should say; we had a similar ethic in my last two jobs. It was hard, but we had each other.

I also appreciated the fact that they were cleaning the checkout counters between customers…not to mention that I’ve got a lot of (functional) paints now, to replace the ones that were so old that they were beginning to cure. I mentioned before that the newest of these was probably six years old.

What’s interesting is the fact that one of the decades-old paints, survived better than some of the ones that were closer to a quarter of its age. Despite the fact that I opened (and had to discard) a tube which looked like it had clear tar medium mixed into it (or rather, separating out of it), I also found one which had to be at least two decades old, which had a better consistency than the newer versions (an old Liquitex Dioxazine Purple, which, from the design of the tube, I gather was likely from the 1980’s or 1990’s). Granted, that’s the only one out of all of them which lasted so well (granted that I did not get into the student-grade paints, or the craft paints — or the metallics, for that matter).

I’m not sure why the ones which survived, did survive, and the ones which gummed up, did so — but I’m learning to discern when a paint is going bad, by looking through all of them and testing their consistency on a disposable palette. In theory, they should be smooth; many of the older ones, aren’t.

The older heavy-body acrylics we have, which are mostly Liquitex, have had a tendency to turn viscous over time and hold together when I try to draw them out with a brush (they’re elastic and springy, in other words, like bread dough: they shouldn’t be). The worse they are, the grainier and bumpier they are, instead of dispersing smoothly. A stiffer brush — like hog bristle — stands up to them better, and if they aren’t too far gone, you can break up the clumps with a brush which has first been dipped in water or glazing medium. The worst of all the tubes I tried was an Ultramarine (Red Shade), which was so clotted as to be unusable.

I assume this is not how they were intended to function, fresh from the factory. But then, I say this without yet having tried out the newer paints: even if they are from the beginning of the pandemic, however (which is appearing unlikely), they’re still much younger than what I had.

The only variable which I could control with the older paints, is how tightly the lids were screwed onto the tubes. Now that I think about it, there may be something in the paint formulation at the factory that influences paint consistency. Not all paints are made the same way, because not all pigments have the same properties.

Out of all the paints that I got today, only Yellow Medium Azo appears questionable (from a quick look). It appears drier than the rest, which all appear creamy and smooth and shiny in the tube — like the paints which I know, still work.

The thing is, I didn’t want to jump for a Bismuth (Ortho)vanadate (PY184, or Pigment Yellow 184) even though it was a direct replacement, because of its potential to irritate basically everything (skin, eyes, nose/sinuses, lungs — which is, basically, everything that might come into contact with it, unless you’re eating your paint). If I had been strictly after replacing what I had (an old Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Cadmium Yellow Light [?] Hue: it’s no longer being sold under this name [Liquitex now has a “Cadmium-Free” line as versus “Cadmium Hue(s)”]), I would have gotten a PY184 pigment…but I’ll give the less-toxic option a try, first. (The “Cadmium-Free” Liquitex Professional Heavy Body paints have proprietary formulas…so with the replacement for Cadmium Yellow Light, I really didn’t know what was in it, or if it was even less toxic than cadmium: this is the reason I left it.)

The thorn here is that Bismuth Vanadate paint, as Golden calls it — at least in acrylics — seems to mix really well for a yellow, especially when I get into trying to mix greens and brighten earth tones. It’s opaque, and it’s a really lovely color. I hardly ever use the term “lovely”.

I think the last time I used that term was in watercolors, with M. Graham & Co.’s Ultramarine Violet Deep…which reminded me of the color of fringed gentians. (Then I looked up fringed gentians online and saw they were a different color than I recalled.) Ultramarine Violet Deep (PV15) is a much more delicate version of violet than my standard of Dioxazine Violet (PV23), the latter of which can easily overpower a mixture. I took a chance on the Ultramarine Violet (there were no especial indications of what color it actually was, at the store), and was pleasantly surprised. I suppose M. Graham & Co. knows that their quality is so high that they don’t, actually, have to advertise.

Anyhow, it’s a pain to try and mix realistic greens — a lot of yellow pigments are either transparent, or poorly-tinting, or toxic. With acrylics, it’s even difficult, unless you start with a convenience mixture and/or use some of the paints that look super ugly on their own, but work miracles in mixes and glazes (like Winsor & Newton’s Green Gold watercolor, which is comparable to Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold watercolor, both containing PY129: which looks, to my eye, pretty bad by itself — but it punches up the yellow content in a blue or green considerably, while adding relatively little to dilute the vibrancy of the resulting green). This last time around, I did get a Green Gold in acrylics. We’ll see where that leads.

I’m also finally trying out a Hooker’s Green Permanent Hue this time in acrylics. No more beating around the bush. Just go for the classic: it’s a classic for a reason, and it isn’t toxic, this time. No drawbacks.

I’m also fortunate that my family is encouraging me on the art front. I’ve reached the point of realizing that painting isn’t just about reproducing 3-D space on a 2-D surface; it’s also about realizing an external version of an internal vision. That latter part was something that we never got into, in my classes. I wish we had — I might have tried harder to hang in there with my practice, after I had other pressures on my time.

I’m thankful that I have the time and support to be able to pursue this. And, I’m apparently good at it. I haven’t posted any images here yet because I at least initially intended this blog to be more about books and libraries: this is why it has the layout it does, at the moment. Nice typography can go a long way towards readability…and I don’t, at this point, have an image-heavy blog; I have a text-heavy one.

Though, you know, with a name like “kodecy”, it kind of begs the angle of sequential art…(the name is derived from, “codice,” which is Spanish for “codex,” or an ancient manuscript [these were often illustrated]).

But I might look into other options in the future, as regards the CSS and Web Design. Not that I love taking pictures, but people love seeing pictures, so there’s that…

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