Mark Golden on Paint

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Acrylic Denial

25 January, 2006 (19:37) | Plastic Arts

Why are the Acrylic paintings in some of our most important museums labeled as Synthetic Polymer Paint? They don’t improperly label Oils or Watercolor or Gouache (which are just opaque water colors). I understand that in the past it was difficult to judge what particular paint system might have been used to create a work. Yet, today this is a fairly simple matter of testing that can be easily completed to confirm the artists’ recollection or attribution.

I think enough time has passed with significant numbers of great artists having worked their entire careers within this medium. It is time to allow this paint to stand besides other historically significant mediums.

Okay… I’ll catch my breath, but it is clear to me that the Museums have not recognized the true value and importance of this medium. The acrylic medium is by far the most innovative material to formulate with and I would suggest painting with. It is still being invented anew by artists to this day.

It would do a great service to all the painters who are working in this medium to celebrate the works completed in acrylic… and to correctly affix the appropriate label.




Comment from israels etxatxu
Time: January 25, 2006, 11:14 pm

i think this is a great point you bring forth. Lots of my teachers use acrylic paints, and their work is some of the greatest. My teachers are the chicago imagists(Karl Wirsum, Jim Nutt) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Their work is some of the greatest and its always labeled as acrylic painting, so I think that acrylics are getting attention. Its probably that synthetic polymer paint just sounds better or more proffessional.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: January 26, 2006, 8:59 am

I think you’re right about the name. I’ve often thought that if the name was sexier maybe it would have had greater respect. I think it is for a number of reasons that some museums and still a few artists continue to suffer with “Acrylic Denial”.

The early acrylics consisted of only a small palette of colors. They dried to exactly the same finish. There were limited choices of consistencies and mediums. When we started making acrylic paints most major brands had only 20 or 30 colors in the acrylic. Those that had more were simply making mixtures with white. It was considered a hobby product by many within our industry. And probably most damaging to the early acrylics were that they were often treated as cheap replacements for oils.

Acrylics are not a replacement for oil. They are a paint that has its own characteristics and own beauty and challenges. Acrylics really came into their own when a few artists started to work within the unique properties of this paint. Artists began to approach these materials from a new point of view, recognizing the possibilities of this incredible medium.

The modern acrylic paints were developed by artists who demanded more from this material. So many artists have shared stories with me that they were already creating their own mixtures of mediums to make the material do what they wanted. That’s part of the amazing versatility of this binder. It allows for so much variation and experimentation.

But old habits die hard and it will probably take several more decades for these materials to truly gain its due respect in those institutions that find change difficult. It took about a hundred years for the oils to gain the same level of status as the traditional tempera paints. Maybe we can speed this up…

Thanks so much for the post

Comment from Orazio Salati
Time: January 26, 2006, 9:20 am

All I need to add to this statement, as an international artist, my aryclic paintings fooled some of the greates painters. to quote” art these oils your most recent?” “I love how you manipulate yoiur underpainting and glazes in your oil pantings”.

I have been painting in acrylic paints for over 20 years.

Comment from chris
Time: January 26, 2006, 10:26 pm


You are a work of art yourself.

Comment from chris
Time: January 26, 2006, 10:28 pm

ok, just one more, i can’t help it…I swear…
(well, for tonight anyway)

A rose by any other name is still a rose.

Comment from Brian Larkin
Time: January 27, 2006, 2:09 pm

I paint in Provincetown, MA where being innovative is a given…but I’m still amused by the “cognosenti” who mistake my work for oils. As far as I’m concerned, the acrylic medium’s time is long overdue on all fronts. Golden’s quest for new products has kept many of us on our toes. I remember a Ptown teacher – Richard Baker (from NYC) urging me to try absorbent ground with watercolor. I did and loved the results. People still ask me “how’d you do that?”

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: January 28, 2006, 9:48 am

Chris, I’ve mused about other names for the acrylic, trying to come up with some more natural sounding name. Maybe using the chemical basis for the material. But since acrylic is a majority of a product of natural gas… it seemed that acrylic was probably a better name.
Regards, Mark

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: January 28, 2006, 9:56 am

To Orazio and Brian, you both clearly speak to the same issues I’ve heard from artists for over 25 years. I love the fact that this material has such a changeable and malleable form. It is so close to the original meaning of the word plastic, from the Greek ‘plasticos’. I used to be quite jittery about the word plastic, but looking at the fine arts traditions of the ‘plastic arts’ I am very comfortable and even excited about reviving a much more encompassing and forward looking position for these materials.

Comment from linda Champenois Kertzman
Time: January 29, 2006, 11:47 am

I’m not a painter per se, I’m a figurative sculptor and doll artist but I do use your paints and we in this form of art have had the same questions about acrylics for the last twenty five years also! We are still considered second class citizens as opposed to oils and thanks to you at Golden I do see this changing.
I’ve actually felt the respect growing for those of us who paint with acrylics and in my case those of us who sculpt with acrylics!!
I’ll be doing a beautiful gallery show in Soho in just a few more weeks. Magnum Opus 2006 with figurative sculptures from all over the world, many working in both acrylic paints and acrylic materials!
It’s been a loooong road, I’ve been in this over thirty years, and I just want to tell you how much I respect the work that has gone into building up the desire and the need for the paint that you create!

Comment from john ros
Time: January 30, 2006, 11:28 am

it is interesting that in college, acrylics were looked down upon by most. there was one professor that really encouraged the use of acrylic and encouraged the use of golden acrylics in particular. after my first trip to the plant in new berlin, i decided to really focus on the medium as i would oil or printing. it became a release for me, learning a new medium while maintaining my training in oil. i too have had people ask if my acrylics are oils when in the studio. i have grown quite fond of the malleability, drying time, workability and spontaneity acrylic paint allows me.
i want to thank you mark, one, for a phenomenal product. and two, for creating this venue online… it is an increasingly important tool in today’s world. i too try to bring the arts to a broader community via,
i continually rave about the superiority of golden acrylics. they are truly amazing.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: January 31, 2006, 5:24 pm

Linda, I am so grateful for your comments. I have found so many artists feeling the same as you. The lack of recognition comes from so many sources that are simply outdated or just pigheaded.

The conservation community is just starting to do the work to understand the value of these materials. We are so delighted they have embraced us and allowed us to participate as well. The materials are by no means perfect… none are. But they do provide a measure of permanence and robustness that I’d put against any other paint system used by artists.

Thanks so much for the support

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: January 31, 2006, 5:27 pm

John, I find it very encouraging when an artist is able to move freely between mediums. Acrylics are not meant to do some of the things that oils do and visa versa.

Thanks for all the encouragement and giving me a chance to look at the site. Not being a painter my thrill is seeing what these paints can do… so thank you. Mark

Comment from chris
Time: January 31, 2006, 10:15 pm

I think acrylic is a good name. I was pointing out that as Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name is still a rose, so no matter what a body calls it, it is what it is. I think there is nothing wrong with calling something what is is by its inherent properties…I agree that it seems silly to call something a synthetic polymer when it is really ACRYLIC…like that president of Mexico in his striped sweater, he is very proud to wear it, and proud to tell folks it is acrylic, everyone in the country wants them, 1,000 were made and 1,000 were sold expediently…so you know…stripe, acrylic, hmmn…golden!

Comment from chris
Time: January 31, 2006, 10:16 pm

Hmmn…is that like the illuminati?

Comment from chris
Time: January 31, 2006, 10:21 pm

Plastic is the way of the future…the face of America…especially in Hollywood..and the currency of our country and…soon…
not only paint, but everything will be made of…

I(solated elements)
C(hemical combinations)


Comment from chris
Time: January 31, 2006, 10:25 pm


Congrats on briding the gap between art and craft!
There is a new movie out called Bubble where real people are the actors and the main set is a doll factory…you have to see it! The African American community has a long and illustrious history of beautiful, meaningful, and skillfully made doll history, have you ever seen the dolls made by the folks that were made by these wonderfully talented people? The acrylic beaded doll shaped sculptures of Joyce Scott are contemporary and especially inspirational. When is your show? I’d love to see your work.

Comment from chris
Time: January 31, 2006, 10:27 pm

Jon Ros, you are truly a credit to the artist within us all! Whatever your medium is, you are a skillful manipulator.

Comment from chris
Time: January 31, 2006, 10:33 pm

what is the natural gas acrylic is made of? Or is it called acrylic?

Comment from chris
Time: February 1, 2006, 8:22 am

oops…I got distracted and forgot to write the end of the sentence…skillful manipulator of your media…meaning medium…artistic that is…ack.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 2, 2006, 4:10 pm

Cris, most of the current processes that create acrylic start with propylene. Many companies previously used acetylene. They could also use methane or ethylene. All of these are a product of either natural gas or oil refineries or cows… as in the case of methane.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 2, 2006, 4:33 pm

Chris here’s hoping that we’re using all the tools we need to create… It’s just been too easy to dismiss these materials in the past as not up to the level of Fine Artists Oils.

It’s also easy to lump all of our suspicions of plastic together. I have enough appreciation for the damage that unbridled use and waste of these materials has caused. But I also know enough that some of these materials are critically important to our lives. We don’t need to shy away from them.

I love artist oils, but I don’t lump them together with my motor oil for my car, or corn oil for my deep fryer. (Actually, I don’t have a deep fryer…)

Comment from chris
Time: February 4, 2006, 12:41 pm

neat, cows…so that’s a natural gas…could call it…moo…moo-vers and shakers…funny…I learn
new things on this blog every day.

Comment from chris
Time: February 4, 2006, 12:43 pm

Totally right,

I was wildly free associating. I actually really love acrylic paint…rarely do I have the patience for oil,
and drying time. I do really appreciate the difference…I like word association, didn’t mean
to lump!


Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 5, 2006, 10:02 pm

Hey Chris, did I start going over the top… Seem a tad too defensive???

I’ve enjoyed your comments Chris. Keep them coming and I’ll try to keep a thick skin.

Warmest regards, Mark

Comment from Marion
Time: February 10, 2006, 1:36 am

>I think you’re right about the name. I’ve often thought that if the name was sexier maybe it would have had greater respect.>

I don’t believe ‘oil’ is any sexier a name than ‘acrylic’. Or maybe I’m just adverse to slimy textures?

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 10, 2006, 7:33 am

Marion, I think oils have such a rich and long history. It is this powerful resonance that creates such a wonderful mystic.

For acrylics it’s battling acrylic floor finish and sweaters. I think it’s the same problem with Polyester. Once you combine it with Leisure suits any of its positive attributes get lost! It’s why microfibers (polyester) have gained great acceptance with designers and the public once they renamed it.

On an aside, I think that for artists, one of the absolute best support materials is a polyester canvas. It does not move in response to changes in humidity. It has great strength and the polymer is quite lightfast. The only drawback to this material is that it will retain a shape once it is stretched. Meaning, if you lean your canvas against a protruding object for a long period of time, the polyester will conform to that shape and you can’t use typical conservation measures as you might do on typical natural fibers.

We’ve had good results with the material in all of our accelerated aging tests.

Comment from Marion B-E
Time: February 10, 2006, 11:01 am

Hi Mark

Perhaps with more time acrylic will replace oil paints like oils replaced egg tempera? Or maybe it will indeed take a more sexy name — such as the fruit I grew up called a granadilla which is now sold as ‘passion fruit’? Maybe you should hold a contest for a new name, with the winner receiving a lifetime’s supply of paint?

I must admit to never hearing of polyester canvas — and certainly never seen a ready-made one for sale. Can you use any fabric that’s “100% synthetic” instead of the standard cotton or linen then?

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 10, 2006, 12:37 pm

Marion, I think you’ll find some companies offering a polyester canvas for sale. I’ll find some brands for you that should be available to you locally.

As for using just any synthetic…. Please don’t. Their are so many fabrics out there that would be disastrous for painting on. Not only would the paint not adhere, but potentially the fabric itself might degrade. Remember all synthetics are not created equal!

Comment from Marion B-E
Time: February 10, 2006, 1:11 pm


Unfortunately, being based in South Africa, art supplies are rather limited unless you mail order from overseas. Which is why I was wondering if there was a particular type of polyester, so I could mention it to the person who makes up canvases locally from what I assume is canvas they source here.

Comment from Mark D. Gottsegen
Time: February 11, 2006, 2:46 am

Speaking of sensitivity, it’s time to go to and run thy cursors over SYNTHETICS. Eh voila!

Comment from Kathleen Marie Collier
Time: February 11, 2006, 5:28 pm

I started painting in oils in the early 60’s and switched to acrylics in the early 90’s. Acrylic paint has come a long way and my art work is often mistaken for oil. I’m proud to say that I use Golden Acrylic Paint. Thank you and keep up the good work. You have a great website.

Comment from John Fitzsimmons
Time: February 15, 2006, 5:55 pm

much better than the now prevalent “sythentic Pigment” or “oil based Pigment”, what is that confusing clap trap?

Comment from Janet
Time: February 17, 2006, 10:43 am

That is so cool to think of the polyester retaining shape! Think of the possibilities! Thanks!

Comment from Janet
Time: February 17, 2006, 10:53 am

In England there is the Plastiquarian, the Plastics Historical Society. A thick & meaty site with detailed info on all sorts of plastics, who discovered them, what they were/are used for, etc. Goes into great detail.

Comment from chrisbahr
Time: February 18, 2006, 9:40 pm

Oh, I forgot, I was pointing out the fact that plastic lasts. Not an ecological comment.

Comment from chrisbahr
Time: February 18, 2006, 9:43 pm

Don’t worry, I can’t help making comments, as you have probably figured out…aha. Also, hmmn, probably good not to have a deep fat fryer although it is kind of exciting to watch everything get crispy and Golden…no pun intended…I thought that was funny, don’t think you are defensive, just serious about your product. Definitely a good thing.

Comment from chrisbahr
Time: February 18, 2006, 9:44 pm

You are funny

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 20, 2006, 5:28 pm

Mark, thanks for giving acrylics its place on your list. It’s at least a start. Where do you have water-borne oils… in synthetics or water colors? I’m starting to get so confused.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: February 26, 2006, 4:48 pm

Hey John, I’m not sure what you mean by oil based pigment? Are they trying to describe organic or inorganic pigments?
When I describe organic pigments, people typically think I’m talking about granola, or something of that sort. Organic in the chemical world just means made from a complex carbon backbone…. like us. Inorganic refer to those mineral or mined pigments like the umbers, siennas, ochres, etc.
Synthetic pigments have been described and recorded since Cennino Cennini. I believe some of these new synthetic pigments are so superior to previous products. So… needless to say, I’m not turned off by synthetics, they’re really okay.

Comment from John Fitzsimmons
Time: March 9, 2006, 12:29 pm

Mark. I was agreeing with you. The use of “sythetic based pigments” on gallery lables instead of “acrylic” reminds me of “resin furniture”, ie, it is for the benifit of people who think resin is better than plastic, of more likely if they don’t understand it it might just be good…. Pandering to the niave [good name for a rock band]

Comment from Luke zeme
Time: January 1, 2007, 5:43 pm

Hello Mark,
your knowledge on synthetic polymer ( acrylic) is quite consoderable. I know this thread hasn’t been used in a long time but had some obsevations of my own to add. I wanted to comment more on the qualities of acrylic.

While studying the works of Ian Burn I have found his acrylic work to consist of almost layered pieces of tape. The paint on the canvas has acute sharp edges, and you can actually see each layer as if it has been layed down like a piece of tape on top of each other. How do you think he achieved this effect ? bc I am perplexed in the matter. can acrylic be made on say one surfaced, then a desired shape cut out and transfered to the canvas ? also no brushstrokes are visible in his work, he quite possibly uses some sought of spray method.

anyways if you do reply to this :)

art is the thrilling spark that beats death, brett whiteley

Comment from Jason Pagura
Time: May 19, 2007, 1:42 am

While I’m not familiar with the work of Ian Burn, to answer your question, Yes! The layered effect you describe can be achieved quite easily with acrylics, and I can think of at least two methods right away. As you noted, it could have been sprayed, if any masking material of a reasonable thickness was used, and the paint was allowed to dry before it was removed, the paint would maintain the thickness of the masking material along its edges.

One can also spread acrylic paint on a hard, non-porous surface such as plate glass, peel up the resulting hardened film (cut to shapes, if desired) and apply that in layers. A little liquid acrylic between the layers would help fix them in place, but the cohesive properties of smooth acrylic paint films are so strong that even that is not entirely necessary.

Of course, this is also why you don’t want to stack acrylic paintings face-to-face.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: May 27, 2007, 11:00 am

Thanks Jason, Sorry to miss the post Luke. For larger shapes I’ve just used polyethylene sheeting used for drop cloths or garbage bags. You can get this in any hardware store. Although the acrylic will stick amazingly well to itself, the adhesion would be greatly improved with some acrylic inbetween.

Another way to get this hard edge effect is to apply color to your canvas and then apply tape. Seal the tape with the same color as underneath, as this will maintain your sharp edges. Then apply your next color and next tape and so on… The painting is actually made in reverse this way. The finished piece will maintain very sharp edges.

You can apply dozens of layers this way and at the end remove the tape. To avoid the paint wanting to stretch instead of breaking when you pull the tape, you can modify the acrylic with GAC 200 to harden the paint, or use of the matte colors will also improve the breaking of the paint at the tape lines. Regards, Mark

Comment from linda Kertzman
Time: July 12, 2007, 9:06 am

Hello from Morris!
I’ve now had three artist friends tell me there is something special going on today or tonight at Golden paints!!
I love your paints and would love to go, but no one seems to know the time!!
Could you let me know and I’ll call those artists back!
Magic and Peace always, Linda

Comment from Lord_Scorpius
Time: July 13, 2007, 11:24 pm

There is simply an equal degree of arrogance needed to combat those who would deny us our peace and rights as artists. Pontificate on the finest qualities of Acrylics and make them sound as if God himself created them for a blessed and superior generation. That’s what the Oil snobs do and in truth, it is they who influence the weak minded and newcomers. Stand TALLER. Be more proud than they to triumph. Laugh in their faces over the debate with the assurance our choices are the wiser. I know. I’ve been to galleries where Acrylics stand toe to toe with Oils and we are the best! Our colors are the richest and our time is NOW!

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