Painting with Acrylics

by Marcia Burtt

updated 9/14/19

Why I use acrylics.

I use acrylics because I love the quick drying time.
I want the freedom to change things immediately, no waiting.
If I’m in the desert or it’s extremely windy, I use glazing medium instead of water to thin my paints.
This slows the drying time down to about 30 seconds — just right.I ignore the value shifts. If I look carefully at what’s in front of me and mix that exact color/value, it doesn’t matter what happens to it when it dries.
All the colors will work because I am not measuring my mix according to what’s on the canvas — I’m matching it to what’s in front of me.
Ergo, all the colors are fine together.
It was years before I found out acrylics actually do tend to dry somewhat differently from their wet color.
But I bet oils do too — just no one notices it because it’s such a slow process.

I use Golden heavy-body acrylics. I’m very loyal to them. The pigments are intense and beautiful.
They surely are the equal of any oil paint. I wouldn’t change anything about them.

I like New Traditions AC14 linen panels. They are super-light, cut to any size, and you can’t beat the texture.
It survives ten or twenty repaintings without losing that slight irregular tooth.
They make me a better painter.

Acrylics are perfect for painters like me that don’t want to make a thumbnail, draw in the scene, paint the darks first, etc., etc., etc.  in a careful predestined painting.

I like being able to rearrange, repaint, smudge, rub, scrub, or do whatever I like with no penalties.
Acrylics are the medium for adventurous painters. No need to plan ahead, no need to be careful.
Stop when you are satisfied and no one ever knows the wrong turns you made on the way to the finish.

Here is a brief description of how I use acrylic paints.

Acrylics dry fast and thin, enabling me to continually repaint areas without losing freshness. When my first thin wash works, I can leave it alone and enjoy almost the brilliance of watercolor. If, as usually happens, I want to rework or adjust shapes, I am able to paint over the dry layer immediately.

I’ve been a landscape painter for over 30 years and am still crazy about acrylics. In order to adapt to the special requirements of painting on location, I’ve devised a simple paint-and-time-saving system for taking acrylics into the open air—and, in fact, I use this system in the studio.

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Painting for Beginners

by Marcia Burtt

Painting for Beginners

Great news! If you’ve never made a painting before you won’t be hampered by all the “dos and don’ts” that confuse and constrict people who have studied art.


  1. No one but you can make a painting just like yours.
  2. Don’t worry about what anyone else would say or do.
  3. If something bothers you about your painting, change it.

Art is the one activity in which you make the rules. Because they are quick drying and opaque, acrylic paints do not demand planning. Changing your mind constantly is not a problem and in fact can add to the spontaneity and freshness of the end product. Continue reading