In Praise of Alkyds

Still life painting in alkyds on canvas board

These days I like to vary the media with which I paint, in turn embracing the unique qualities of oils, acrylics and alkyds respectively. I’ve been working with Winsor & Newton alkyd paints for over 20 years; most of my pre-2010 work (and around half subsequently) labelled ‘oils on canvas’ on my website (www.birtall.co.uk) was painted in this media.

To me, alkyds offer a happy medium between acrylics and what you might call ‘pure’ oil paint. They generally dry overnight (depending on the thickness of the paint applied) without the need for drying medium, have a consistency comparable to pure oil paint, and offer a richness and naturalness of colour. Though comparatively quick-drying (in relation to pure oils), alkyds still allow adjustments to be made for several hours whilst the paint is still workable (in the manner of oils).

In my experience, the majority of casual artists are (perhaps surprisingly) unfamiliar with the alkyd medium. For this reason, I was recently asked to give a demonstration on the medium to Neston and District Art Society. The demonstration took place last night and pictured here are the results.

Demonstration in alkyds

I’m a relative novice with demonstration evenings but had a thoroughly enjoyable, productive and overwhelmingly positive experience, for which my thanks go to the society, whose kindness, warmth and interest was greatly appreciated.

Working within set time limits I sought to create something of an Impressionistic interpretation of the subject matter. The painting was produced over around an hour and a quarter either side of a tea-break. It depicts a still life arrangement of ranunculus, hyacinth and moss in a decorative bowl and was painted on 20” x 16” canvas board. Also pictured in some of these photographs is an earlier attempt at the same still life (on a green background).

Painting in alkyds

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