Education in a tube


Dear Artist,

This letter may sound like an ad. In a way it is, but it’s unsolicited — I’m not on the payroll. Golden Paints has introduced a new line called Open Acrylics. The idea is to offer acrylic painters a chance to really relax and take their time without the business of quick drying as in normal acrylics. The new product stays wet or tacky up to ten times longer than normal heavy-bodied acrylics. Further, they can be worked together with the standard products and made to speed up or slow down drying times according to percentages mixed.


Golden Paints Open Acrylics

I’ve been using them straight up and in various mixtures for a week or so, and I like them. Right out of the tube, or with the special thinner, you can be positively languorous–even in direct sunlight. I was blown away. They mix and blend like a dream, and false starts and boo-boos can be scrubbed into oblivion gradated away with a rag. They stay water-miscible, so you can get effects you can’t get with the regulars.

There are a few things you have to watch out for. The Golden Product Information Sheet is worth reading before you begin. For starters, the dedicated thinner contains no binders. It looks to me like there are a minimum of acrylic binders in the pigments anyway — but there is a volatile medium that is slow to evaporate. Golden recommends 30 days drying before final varnish.

I found that once things were going nicely I could force dry with moderate heat. This may not be advisable. Acrylics in general require curing rather than drying. Further, adherence or clouding problems may arise if you pile impasto or a regular glaze on an uncured surface. My advice is to consciously take a little longer between stages. This is good for the old creativity machine as well. Especially for those of us who multitask, the use of Open Acrylics takes the pressure off and lets you fool around more.

Because the Open Acrylics still have Golden’s trusted richness, you can cut down your palette. I’ve been working with a small kit of six pigments: Titanium White, Hansa Yellow Opaque, Phthalo Blue (green shade), Phthalo Green (blue shade), Pyrrole Red, Quinacridone Magenta. You can mix some mighty sophisticated hues, including gorgeous darks and earth tones, from this tiny outfit. It’s an education.

Best regards,


PS: “Due to the newness of this medium, some applications and uses have yet to be tested or fully explored.” (Golden Information Sheet)

Esoterica: Some artists think that salvation can be found on the shelves of art stores. But it’s a big mistake to think that tubes, brushes or other media hold the big moxie. Materials certainly contribute, but they ought to be tuned to the temperament and needs of the artist. Oft-repeated and varied playful acts are the true key. You’ll know what I mean after ten hours of experimentation. While this is mighty nice stuff, it ain’t just the paint.


Drying and darkening problems
by Jennifer Mason, Toronto, ON, Canada


“Still blue”
oil and acrylic painting
by Jennifer Mason

I’d love to use acrylics, but the quick drying time is so utterly frustrating that I only use oils. I tend to push the wet paint around — removing, adding, mixing a bit here and there. Some consider it mucking about, but it works for me. I’d dearly love to avoid the solvent toxicity issue inherent in oils. However the acrylics I’ve tried also dry noticeably darker. Do these new paints dry to the same value you mixed, and if not, how do you adjust for this?

(RG note) Thanks, Jennifer. As far as I can see they have about the same dark-drying characteristics as standard Golden acrylics. After a while working with any acrylics, this problem, which dyed-in-the-wool oil painters find so odious, is hardly noticed and automatically adjusted for.


Better blends with oils
by James Fancher


acrylic painting
by James Fancher

I’m sure you’ve received similar replies, but here I go, nonetheless. The 30 days to varnish seems offputting, as in, might as well work with oils. Not sure, you still find favor with the open acrylics over oil? Have you tried out any of the faster drying water soluble oils? I do paint really flat, no impasto whatsoever, sounds like I might be able to forgo a whole 30 days, but still have some better blends happening.

(RG note) Thanks, James. Yes, we did receive lots of similar emails, including ones that said simply, ‘Why bother when you have oils.’ It’s a valid point. There was something about the water soluble oils that bothered me, but beyond all that, the variety of effects and versatility of acrylics still fascinates me. I’ve not by any means come to the end of my acrylic education.


Golden enthusiast
by Jamie Grossman, NY, USA


“Morning at Sunset Roc”
Golden Open acrylic painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Jamie Grossman

I have been using Golden Open Acrylics for over a year now. I am not an employee of Golden, but have been testing the paints and providing feedback to the company as they went through the development process. For so long, I’ve wanted to get away from solvents in my studio. I didn’t realize initially how much these paints would do for me and my artistic process. I have always been an oil painter. Although slow drying, these paints do tack up faster than oils. That enables me to do more than I could ever do with oil paints. I get the benefit of the blending capability, but then after an hour or so I can already glaze and scumble. I can overpaint, bump up lights and darks, and use drybrush techniques. I’ve had a lot of them in galleries and shows, and although buyers cannot tell them from my oil paintings, the subtle difference of greater value range in my alla prima work has made them more popular with my buyers.

I’ve also discovered how much easier it is to prepare supports for acrylic painting than it is for oil painting. What a joy to be able to paint on paper, or just size some linen with matte medium! Since they dry faster than oils, I can get them off to galleries, shows, and collectors a lot sooner. With isolation coats and varnish, the finish on the end result is gorgeous.

In my opinion, this is the first acrylic that delivers on the long-drying promise straight out of the tube. For plein air painting, it’s hard to beat. I have been doing lots of plein air work on Canson matboard, sized with matte medium. It is so lightweight to travel with, easy to cut and prepare, and yields a great result. The paint stays wet on my palette and I can use all my mixed color piles without them drying out! An occasional water spray on a hot day revives them easily if they start to tack up.

I prefer the stronger and more opaque colors in the line — cadmium yellow primrose, cadmium yellow medium, pyrrole red (or cad red light) are “musts” for me to get this paint to perform the way I like, and I need the ultramarine blue for the dark side of my palette. But I also fell in love with Jenkins Green, though I have always mixed my own greens. Who knew?

(RG note) Thanks, Jamie. Readers can see Jamie’s methodology with this product by going to her blog.


Atelier Interactives
by Ronnie Romeo-Maziarek, Naperville, IL

Another line of slow drying acrylics is Atelier Interactive Artist Acrylics. I believe they actually came out with them a little before the others. I’ve been to a few of their workshops and recently started using their paints. I’ve found the colors to be rich and true, and the ability to go back and move a line or soften an edge is fabulous. Readers may want to give them a try as well as the Golden product.


Discovery of plein air
by Deloris (Lodi) Drane

For the past two years, I have been entering plein air painting events offered by various institutes in my city. Talking about being reawakened! I had been creating inside my studio for so many years that I didn’t even realize, I almost lost my touch at painting out of doors. One of my most prevalent problems has been, since I work in acrylics, the paint drying too fast to work and rework once the sun comes up. I can’t wait to try this new product, Golden Open Acrylics. I was about to pick up my oils again. While in college, I got very sick during our painting studios when we were required to paint with oil paints. After school, I totally left them alone. Maybe they won’t be a problem out of doors. Still, I would rather try these first. I love painting with acrylics.


The Universe never forgets
by Alev Guvenir, Istanbul, Turkey



I like to play and experiment with various mediums. I’ve ruined so many paintings for the sake of doing something that amounts to lab excitement. However, I learn a lot. The excitement of tying the new is a gain by itself. It re-charges the mind. Positively obsessing about a new project generates energy. Sometimes I give up. Then, I leave it aside for a while and forget about it. Surprisingly, I come across with the answers doing some other project. The Universe never forgets.


JansenArt Traditions
by Connie Pratt

After reading Genn’s letter about the Golden Acrylics, I was wondering if any of our readers have tried using JansenArt Traditions Acrylics by Deco Art? They are a new Non-Toxic Resin Acrylic that David Jansen son of JoSonja Jansen developed over 3 years ago. They can be used as Acrylics with an extended open time and then dried with a hair dryer. They also can be used as Watercolors with bright vivid pure colors using the watercolor medium. The watercolors have a smooth coverage and can be reconstituted. Also, they can be used to emulate Oil Paints by a process that evaporates the water out of the paint and replaced with extender, so you just have extender and pigment. They blend just like oil paints and will remain more flexible than oils and will not crack over time. They too can be dried with a hair dryer between layers for Old Master techniques.


Don’t want to be like my folks
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada


“Fallen Angel VIII”
acrylic painting, 30 x 36 inches
by John Ferrie

I am a huge fan of Golden Paints and have been using them for over twenty years. I find their pigment to be without a doubt the best… also the most expensive! One of my greatest fears is turning into my parents and being so stuck in my ways that I won’t try anything new. My folks still have a VRC, no DVD player, won’t use the fax machine I bought them twenty years ago and the concept of call waiting, let alone an answering machine is just way too modern for them. Therefore I’ll try this new fangled thing and pick up some of Golden’s Open Acrylics new glorious paint and give it a try.


There are 2 comments for Don’t want to be like my folks by John Ferrie

From: Edna Waller — Sep 09, 2008

John, you couldn’t just say you will try the paints without putting your folks down?

From: Amber — Mar 11, 2010

Edna, it’s the story of his parents that makes this comment more interesting! :-)


Limited palettes
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA

As an oil painter the interesting note for me about your experience was the use of the limited palette. I use three colors and white and have not had any problem. It causes you to really think about how to use paint, unifies the painting and you don’t have so many colors that you can’t seem to not go into. I have found that if there is a color on my palette, I want to use it. Similar to a kid in a candy store. Regarding the materials making the artist — “The image in a painting is not what moves us, it’s the shared emotion the image conjures.”


Jury duty
by Hazel Moore, Australia

I have been asked to judge a painting section of the Spring Exhibition at the local community art centre. I am an artist of some forty years experience and also teach but have never actually judged before, so would like to ask if you have any strategy when you judge shows that would give me some guidance. I have carefully read your notes from 25 November 2005 (Ignorance) and 11 August 2006 (Mastery or Spark) and they have certainly given me some ideas. Do you think that visiting lots of local art shows and seeing what type of paintings other judges have chosen would help me get my eye in or should I rely on my training and instincts as to what is good work?

(RG note) Thanks, Hazel. You have undoubtedly been chosen for your forty years experience. So it is your intuitive gut feeling that will be valuable, not your ability at culling other artists choices of ‘types’ of paintings. You need to look carefully at each work and weigh what you know and make judgments based on your own perceptions of quality. I prefer to act as juror when there are other jurors involved, but I don’t believe in consulting with them during the jury process. This way the game is fairer and juror prejudices are better nullified. These days, as well as composition, drawing ability, colour sense, a host of technical concerns, as well as the communication of emotional impact, jurors are more and more called upon to detect cloning and copyright infringement. In the case that something is suspected or detected, this should be brought up with fellow jurors. Jurors, like artists, need to think on their own.

There is 1 comment for Jury duty by Hazel Moore

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Sep 09, 2008

I was interested in Robert’s comments about copyright infringement and cloning being seen in art shows in spite of rules against such things. I have been involved in organizing shows for several years and have seen problems of this type often enough to make one very observant. I teach my students to be careful what they submit to shows. I was shocked once at an obvious copy hanging on the wall. Didn’t he think we read the same books?



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Education in a tube



From: Marianne Mathiasen — Sep 04, 2008

Thanks for telling about Open Acrylics. I had decided to try to paint in oil, but this sounds very nice. I mostly work in watercolour so I will have to learn new ways of painting. I signed up for a oil/acrylic painting class at The South Danish Art Academy in Soenderborg.

From: Faith — Sep 04, 2008

It all sounds to me a bit like the story of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Of course, the advantages of acrylics are obvious: brilliant colours, no toxic additives (who said that?) and short drying times. Recent research has improved acrylics beyond recognition, but there is no long-term record of their sustainability – respected art restorers are not entirely happy that paintings done in acrylics are often in need of repair not long after they have been hung/sold: Oil paints crack, whilst acrylics peel off in chunks. Maybe that’s because the supports haven’t been prepared properly. And in that, I suppose there are parallels with modern oil paintings.

But now the drying factor has been solved. Hurray! Acrylic paintings can stay as wet as their oily peers.

And if that’s the case, why not use oil paints? No need for toxic solvents and thinners (overrated). Oil paints have a long tradition. The invention of toxic-free hues has taken away the lethal effects of using them, and there are oils that can be worked with water, so the problem of washing brushes has also been solved, if indeed you have that problem.

There is nothing to surpass oil glazes, in my view. And drying times are relative, as we can see from the open acrylics.

Happy painting, whatever you use.

My tip, for a fast turnover, use pastels!

From: Karen L. Alldredge — Sep 05, 2008

I’m happy to hear of the new Golden paints, but was more interested in your limited color selection. For about 15 years now, I have been using acrylic indoor/outdoor paint from the local hardware store. I buy one quart each of magenta, thalo blue, and yellow. I also purchase one gallon of Neutral Tint Base. Then mix each color in a 1.5:2.5 ratio of pigment to Neutral Tint Base. This gives me one quart each of the three physicist’s primaries plus one quart of ‘Medium’. Each quart of pigment renders approximately four quarts of each color.

Because of their transparency, their brilliance and ease of use for layers of ‘glazing’ is quite nice. I haven’t found a color that cannot be made by mixing these three colors.

Since the pigments are rated for exterior use, I have every confidence that they meet a credible lightfastness. As you can imagine, though the iinitial outlay is moderate, the savings is enormous.

From: Brad Greek — Sep 05, 2008

It sounds like the new stuff gave you some small troubles Robert LOL. I enjoy changing things up with new medium, color pallet, and subjects. It sounds like you get 2 out of 3 on this exercise. Keep going, it’s bound to get easier. LOL

From: George Perdue — Sep 05, 2008

FYI am art store here in Ontario has stopped selling this line of paint. They found some bad interaction effects and would not let me try them.

From: pd — Sep 05, 2008
From: Jon Rader Jarvis — Sep 05, 2008

For the past few months I have been testing a combination that has many of the same properties, but works with other acrylics. I mix the golden liquid glaze (gloss) with the Golden retarder in equal amounts, & use it as a medium, this extends “open” time & allows for scraping back to the canvas as in oils. I have been using it with Utrecht heavy bodied acrylics & they are wonderful together.

From: Frances Poole — Sep 05, 2008
From: Mercia, NM — Sep 05, 2008

I was linked to this site by a posting on’s acrylics forum. I’m in the process of getting acquainted with OPEN. As someone who paints in 13% avg. humidity, these are a godsend! I’d rather be painting than spritzing and brush-washing! Some of the comments above refer to Atelier Interactives… there is an excellent thread running on the above forum, dealing with the considerable differences between the two, and the forum is searchable for more threads on the subject. In the final analysis, we all ‘attach’ to the medium/mediums which best fit our personal way of working. Keep an OPEN mind! ;-)

From: Denise, WA — Sep 05, 2008

It sounds like a pretty complicated route to getting more open time with Golden acrylics. I have used Daniel Smith acrylics with no hassle since they released them about 7 years ago. They have a 20 minute open time, which can be extended with their “extender”. They have no color shift from wet to dry and no odor. I use them with all the Golden acrylic mediums with great success and they have a great range of colors.

From: Anonymous — Sep 05, 2008

Interactives have been around for quite some time and I think most of us have been there, done that by now. Although I found them an improvement over traditional acrylics, they dried out on my palette and no amount of spraying would revive the paint. They were therefore not a workable alternative to oils for me. Golden Open does live up to its name, remaining open and workable on the palette for a full painting session, and enabling me to use a wide variety of oil, watercolor, gouache, and acrylic techniques that I cannot do with any other single medium. And for the record, I am not employed by Golden.

From: liz — Sep 05, 2008

I think you CAN find salvation on the shelves of the art store. I want to touch everything, try everything. Experimenting with different materials in my studio is one of my greatest joys, and has produced some of my most successful work. OK, i concede, it’s not the media, it’s what you do with it. but i know a viewer likes my painting when they ask me questions about the media. : > )

From: Lynne Elkins — Sep 05, 2008

I have tried the new slow dry paints. Being used to the regular acrylics I tried to be patient, but I got all out of sorts, especiallly when mixing with the fast dry acrylics. I use lots of paint so it does not work well for me.


From: Rick Rotante — Sep 08, 2008

Endorsements of new products isn’t always about commerce. It’s good to have the experience of someone who uses the product and pass the information to others. It helps keep ones costs down. It sounds like you are moving toward an “oil” format Robert. I tried acrylics years ago and never liked the stiffness of the medium nor the drying time. I always got a “pasty” looking result. I like to use impasto effects and cracking was inevitable with acrylic. Also painting isn’t a race to the finish line that acrylics lends itself to. So this may be the answer for acrylic artists to experience some “freedom” while painting so to speak.

From: Robert Goldberg — Sep 08, 2008

I’m laughing almost too hard to type, as I read and re-read Mary Ann Gerwing’s “more time to schmuck around with.” “Schmuck,” as many of your readers will know, is Yiddish vernacular for the male generative organ. It also idiomatically means a stupid or clueless person. “Putz” is a similar word with both usages, and I have heard the expression “to putz around,” so perhaps this is what Mary Ann meant. But “schmuck around” gave me my best laugh of the day. Thanks, Mary Ann. You really schmucked around with my brain on that one!

From: Tatjana M-P — Sep 09, 2008

Regarding the darkening of acrylics upon drying, I find that my brain compensates for this so I don’t even notice that any more – I unconsciously paint lighter so that the values are correct when they dry. However, whenever I switch from acrylics to oils or watercolor I notice that I paint too light, and it takes a bit of time for my brain to re-adjust back and forth. As long as you give yourself adequate time and keep painting for at least a few days in one medium, you should be fine.

From: PENNY — Mar 06, 2010







Golden Hour – Big Sue

oil painting on canvas
by Ned Mueller, NJ, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Gretchen Markle who wrote, “The ‘environment’ excuse doesn’t cut it. Properly used, oils are no more damaging to the environment, and often less so because nobody cleans their oil brushes directly into the waste water stream.”

And also Elizabeth Concannon who wrote, “It’s all right to love them all, isn’t it? And it is fair to have a favorite and/or to be able to say that there is a material you prefer not to use. I recommend the same openness to the rest of art-making.”

And also Jeanne Lafferty of Cambridge, MA who wrote, “I’ve tried the Atelier Interactives and they are pretty nifty. You have to change your head around when you use this stuff. It’s a challenge to remember that the paints are not fast drying acrylics, so when you go back to something you are working into the old paint.”

And also Mary Ann Gerwing who wrote, “Atelier Interactive is somewhat less expensive. It’s quite buttery and has intense pigments. I find it dries slower and therefore gives more time to schmuck around with.”

And also Cindy who wrote, “I recommend you send folks over to Mark Golden’s blog. He’s really good about answering product questions and he will take the ‘stumper questions’ to the research team.”




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