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  • Sylwia Herbst

Why I Never Use Silicone Or Water In My Fluid Acrylic Paintings


Nature of Life, Fluid Acrylic on Canvas, 10in x 10in

Since I became a professional artist and began to sell my artwork, I decided to create archival quality pieces that will last.


When artists say “archival,” usually they mean “durable to the standards of permanent art.” I definitely wanted to ensure that my artwork will not yellow, crack, or peel over time.


If you’re painting as a hobby or don’t need to pay much attention to the quality of your work, by all means have at it and experiment. But if you intend to sell or buy art for that matter, this might be of interest to you.


One of my favorite techniques is working with fluid acrylics. This means, taking acrylic paint and thinning it with a medium that makes it flow. A medium is something that you add to paint to make them easier to work with or acquire a desired effect. Some of the products being used out there by artists for this kind of painting might cause some damage to the artwork in the long run.


When it comes to a thinning paint, a professional thinning medium for acrylic paints works best for me.


Why not just thin acrylic paint with water?


Yes, acrylic paint is water soluble, but it is also a perfect mixture of pigments and binders. When you dilute the paint with water, you not only thin the pigment (the color) but you also thin the binder. In other words, you are decreasing the paint’s ability to stick to the surface you’re paining on. So, if you want it to hold onto a canvas or wooden panel, it needs to have some adhesive qualities. (Who knew I would be studying up on chemistry as an artist?!)


Why no silicone?


I never use silicone in my paintings. The reason for this is that silicone is a greasy, non-drying oil-like substance. Some artists add a drop or so to each ounce of color as they are mixing and preparing their paints. Once the paints are combined and poured onto the canvas (or whatever substrate is being used), the silicone rises to the surface creating circular holes and revealing the layers underneath. The results can be dramatic and beautiful, but the silicone never dries and it leaves a greasy film.


I found some helpful advice from Michael Townsend, a representative of Golden Acrylics, who says this:


“At this point in time we do not endorse the use of silicone oil in painting mixtures that are expected to last. There are many reasons for this stance. Most silicone oils do not evaporate out of the paint, therefore they stay within the matrix of the paint and could potentially cause film formation issues. At the very least, the silicone oil will impede the inter-coat adhesion between the surface of the pour and subsequent product layers, such as mediums and varnish. As an artist, you are free to do what you want to make your artwork, but until we gather enough evidence that there aren’t any long-term issues, we won’t suggest artists add silicone into paint.”


This made sense to me so I stay away from silicone.


All in all, I like to keep things basic and simple as I find these give me lasting results.

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