Golden girl


Dear Artist,

On Wednesday a “Golden Girl” dropped by. Teyjah McAren is an acrylic specialist who  lectures and does workshops. As her brand happens to be Golden Acrylics — the one I mostly use — I was interested. I’ve always had a lot of respect for their standards of quality and pioneering research. Teyjah gave me a sample kit and a pile of printed info. She also offered to demo heavy-body acrylics, liquid, iridescent, interference, mediums, gels, GACs and molding pastes. Teyjah is a graduate of Golden U in New Berlin, N.Y. It turned out that she’s a fountain of Golden lore.


Teyjah McAren

“The main thing you have to remember in acrylics,” she said, “particularly when using heavy-body paints, is to make sure you add a binder, either in the form of gel or medium. A gel is simply a thicker polymer medium.” Teyjah recommends working with glossy mediums or gels as they maximize the beauty of the colours. Matte mediums or gels tend to dull down your colours due to the addition of matting agents.

I asked her about isolation coats. “You can isolate during the painting process if you care to,” she said, “but you must give it at least one coat before you put on the final varnish.” I told her that I put my isolation coats on with a rag (acrylic medium gloss cut fifty-fifty with water). She didn’t think that was so hot. “Two parts of soft gel gloss to one part water is best for a brush application. It’s better to have several thin layers than one thick one. It’s generally best to spray it on.”

The old computer of my mind was archiving the possibilities. Even though it’s “just paint,” the nuances are remarkable — the differences and values of some of these products. The effects on different supports and grounds. The specific application of specific products. How they can make difficult jobs easy. Apart from the toxicity of some pigments, is there anything toxic about the mediums? “Only the one with formaldehyde — it’s marked.” Is it okay to force-dry acrylics? “Not a good idea.” — (force-drying interferes with the formation of the hexagonal shape of the binder molecule) What about glazing? “Try acrylic glazing liquid or acrylic flow release. Our Research Department has made up custom flow releases for Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis — you can try them if you want.” How long should I wait after my final isolation coat before putting on my final varnish? “One day for proper curing.” Should I take more time? “Yes.” Her advice was quite golden.

Best regards,


PS: “In acrylic, you can paint pretty well any way you want, but if you’re serious about the future of your work you need to put in a little conservation effort.” (Teyjah McAren)

Esoterica: I don’t know about you, but I’m in a living parade of serendipity. Ten minutes ago I happened to be talking on the phone to a young girl who wanted to be an artist. I left her with a simple idea: “Just paint.” Now I’m noticing the little sample kit of goodies that the Golden Girl left with me. Printed just above the Golden logo are the words “Just Paint.”


Acrylic gels experiment
by Karen McConnell


“Chasing the Blues”
acrylic on canvas
by Karen McConnell

I’m currently doing some experimental work involving attaching relatively large printed sheets of paper to primed canvas. I have been using an acrylic gel medium and have had major problems getting a flat smooth application. The gel medium seems to ‘grab’ far too quickly and there is no opportunity to make any type of adjustment when applying. Yesterday, on the internet, I found a recipe for ‘collage glue’ which consists of 2 parts gel medium, 2 parts gloss medium, 2 parts matte medium and 1 part water. I realize that there is a different consistency to the gel from the other media, but I am wondering why a mixture of the gloss and matte… what are the differing qualities in regard to gluing, I wonder.

(Teyjah McAren note) Try the recipe and see if it works otherwise try a heavier matte gel depending on the thickness of the paper. From the amount of medium and water, it will be fairly runny and will curl thin paper even though it is a gel. You’ll obtain a semi-gloss mixture. The thickness of the paper will dictate the type of gel: soft, regular, heavy or extra heavy gel. If you like the feel of the tube or jar paint, try regular gel. It is unclear to me when you put gel medium. Is it a gel or a medium. Gels thicken, mediums thin down paint. Matte dulls down colors, glossy livens up the hue.


Curing times for Golden
by Ron Stacy


“Harmony of Souls”
acrylic on canvas
by Ron Stacy

According to the specs put out by Golden Paints it’s actually 72 hours curing time for a standard style of heavy body (tube) acrylic paint application. Too soon and the paint can bloom. If the paint is really thick and textured, it can be as long as 6 months, just like oil paint. All of this info is on their website and is downloadable.






Golden in Oz
by Margaret Coxall, Western Australia

I am very keen to source a method of buying the Golden products in Australia. I live in West Australia which is fairly remote even from the big cities in the East Coast. Can you advise me as to how I could get my hands on these products as the web site seems to only refer to shipping things in the USA. I do a lot of demonstrations and teaching around art groups and there is a lot of interest, but right now I am relying on a student of mine who is currently in Alaska to bring some samples back with her.

(RG note) The American supplier, Dick Blick, will ship Golden and other brands down under. New Zealand suppliers who handle Golden products are Gordon Harris and Tanjis Art Supplies.


Adhesion to supports
by Judi Gorski, San Francisco, CA, USA

When your Golden Girl recommended adding a glossy medium as a binder, did she mean to mix that right into the paint before you apply it to the canvas? I paint in acrylics and that new heavy bodied stuff doesn’t adhere to the canvas the way the old Liquitex products (that you can no longer buy) used to.

(Teyjah McAren note) First you need to get good adhesion by putting on a couple of coats of Gesso (sandpaper in between if preferred) and then you can put the binder on the canvas directly only if you want to or just mix the Acrylic Glazing Liquid (directly into the paints). Not knowing if you prime your canvas makes it difficult for me to tell you what to do. If you want a transparent gesso look, purchase Acrylic Ground for Pastel and work on top of an unprimed canvas and have good adhesion and a host of other benefits.


Isolation coats on paper?
by Nanette Jones, Northern Florida, USA


Fluid acrylics on paper
by Nanette Jones

I too love Golden acrylics and have used them for the past several years. I usually use the fluid acrylics and not the heavy body. My question is: I had never heard of putting on an “isolation coat” — is this necessary with fluid acrylics on paper or is this necessary for just heavy bodied acrylics? What does a person use for an “isolation coat?”

(Teyjah McAren note) The isolation coat is necessary because if ever there was damage to your varnish coat the conservators would be right on your top paint layer if you did not “sandwich ” an isolation coat between your paint and varnish. An isolation coat is not removable and is minimal protection. Mineral Spirit Acrylic or MSA varnishes spray great for UVL protection. If you do both an isolation coat and varnish, you don’t need to put behind glasss. Does not matter if fluids or heavy body. Isolation coat most important — minimum protection. See the Golden technical sheets for more information.


Mattes while working
by Lorion Korkosz, Schenectady, NY, USA

I am into acrylic collages. I was pleased to find that I am using the Goldens (my favorite brand) properly, tho’ I do like to use the mattes while I’ m working (less glare), using the glossy gel and varnish layers at the end. It’s always an “aah” moment when those gorgeous colors just “pop” at me!

(RG note) Mattes have a slight advantage that they take glazing and scumbling a little bit better while the painting is in progress. Also, if you use molding pastes of any kind you will notice that they pick up a lot more pigment during the glazing process. I find it best to use more granular effects later rather than earlier in the painting process.

(Teyjah McAren note) Better to use gloss medium throughout process but if wanting to achieve a special technique with the matte do so, then return to gloss as it will enliven your colors far more. Matte dulls down color and if too many layers are done with matte medium you are losing color intensity throughout the painting process. Make sure to use an isolation coat 2 parts soft gel gloss: 1 part water (a couple 2-3 of them if thick painting) then a glossy varnish first then if too shiny dull down the painting with matte varnish and then he can put down some more gloss varnish if so desired. Better to play with “matting down” and enlivening at the varnish stage. Could also try semi-gloss or satin products of same as there is less matting agent in them and you would not get glare when painting.


Salt water
by Brad Greek

I use Liquitex mostly but also have Alexander, Winsor & Newton, and Daler-Rowney paints. I have no preference other than the tubes of the Liquitex I like for their easy opening. Right now I’m breaking all the rules and have a piece that I’m watching for reaction to the salt water I used out of the Gulf of Mexico. So far so good and I couldn’t tell any difference in painting with it than with tap water.

(RG note) I’ve used salt water on occasion too. No adverse affects that I’m aware of. The point the Golden Girl is making is to use water — all water — sparingly. Acrylics need binder (mediums or gels) not water. Unbound pigment goes chalky with time. by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA


Just take pictures
by Doug Nealy


“Vancouver after the storm”
Art photography on paper
by Doug Nealy

Being a photographer who displays and sells his work I often get people asking what courses to take, etc. I tell them “take pictures, see your work, get feedback, start now.”




Isolation coats
by Norma Greenwood, New York City, NY, USA


“The Fortune Teller”
oil, alykd on canvas
by Norma Greenwood

You make several references to isolation coats — what is that about and why do you use them? I’m very curious to know more about the technique. (I am an oil painter interested in “unorthodox” combinations with acrylics and latex paints.)

(Teyjah McAren note) I will direct you to our website as I’m not sure what kind of surface you are working on and since you like to experiment (as I do) it is best for you to look at our Varnishing Technical Information sheet. An excerpt: “An isolation coat is a permanent, non-removable coating, that serves to physically separate the paint surface from the removable varnish. This will help protect the surface if the varnish is removed during conservation. It will also seal absorbent areas which will result in more even application of the varnish.”


Conservation worries
by Carol Barber, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Life Out There?”
acrylic on canvas
by Carol Barber

I have been having a blast painting this year with Golden acrylics. I have painted on raw wood, been putting rice paper into my canvas paintings and sometimes putting oil pastels on top. My favorite thing to do is spray alcohol into wet acrylics. I have been finishing the paintings with various parts water and Golden satin varnish. It just struck me that I don’t know what I am doing in terms of conservation. I have sold some of the works so I am concerned. This is the first year I have done acrylics, I formerly worked in oils and was a digital illustrator. Thanks for any advice.

(Teyjah McAren note) Why isolate? So that if ever there was damage done to your varnish surface, the isolation coat(non-removable), would prevent the conservators from landing directly on your paint surface. If you have sold some work and have simply varnished it, you are at least going in the right direction (just hope nothing happens to the varnish). If you have not put on varnish then you can do a couple of isolation coats then varnish. Since you are spraying chemicals that destroy the film surface it is imperative that you restore the cohesiveness of your paint surface after the flinging of the alcohol by putting some medium or gel on your surface or at the very end of your painting session by doing an isolation coat.


Collage techniques
by Marie Turner

I teach a class in acrylics (mixed medium) and have often wondered what is the best technique to keep the acrylics and the other materials to bond together permanently. I always use a gel medium in my collages. We make our own collage paper by pouring the acrylic paint on a thin drawing paper, sealing the paint with gel medium and then soaking the paper in water to get the backing off. This results in a very thick coat of beautiful paint.

I find that the Golden Acrylics works best for my procedure of painting, dripping and pouring on paper or canvas. The result looks like a stained glass window, which we then seal with another coat of gel and a coat of pumice gel. Our images are then painted on this prepared surface with pastels. I have 15 students dripping, pouring etc. so my advice is to always wear rubber gloves.

(Teyjah McAren note) Never hurts being secure especially if you are a nail biter like me. Although they are not toxic when used in a normal painterly fashion, paints can enter into your system by inhalation, absorption, and ingestion. Watercolors and acrylics are considered the safest materials to use but use common sense. It is best to treat every material as if it could be chronically toxic. Sounds like great fun. Try Tar Gel for another stained glass effect. It has a self-leveling quality to it and is great to play with, write with and create funky animals or anything else you can think of.


Hooked on Golden
by John Ferrie


“Luminaries 1”
acrylic on canvas
by John Ferrie

This information is invaluable to me. I discovered Golden paints when I was doing a  commission in Hong Kong. I had no idea what they are about. But they are incredible paints to work with. The pigment level is the best and the colour fast quality is vastly superior. However, they are not cheap. Good art supplies never are. I have now painted with Golden paints exclusively for the past seven years. I buy every colour. Now I am going back into my studio with all sorts of new combinations and things to try. I have painted my entire new collection “Luminaries” with these paints.



Winsor and Newton
by Doug Purdon


“Queen of the Garden”
oil painting
by Doug Purdon

Winsor & Newton and Liquitex also provide artists and educators with up to date technical information on materials through their EDAD (Educational Advisor) programs and the companies’ websites.

I have been an EDAD for Winsor & Newton for the past seven years. The focus of our program is with the colleges and universities, where the company conducts over 400 presentations each year in North America. When I was selected to be an EDAD I was given intensive training by the companies’ technical staff in the history, properties and proper working practices of art materials. The training however didn’t stop there, as every year all EDADs brought together to receive additional training and to exchange information. This training is often in conjunction with the conservation departments of major art museums, along with our technical personnel. In March we spent a week in London working with technical personnel at the factory and with the conservation staff at the Tate Gallery.

Winsor & Newton also offers an excellent website dealing with all matters relating to materials and painting. One of the many items available is “The Oil Painting Book” from







acrylic painting
by Ron Hicks, Colorado, USA


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