They say oil and water don’t mix. Well it turns out they were a tad wrong about that theory. Over 20 years ago, two very successful artists I knew and represented, largely worked in detail using acrylic paint,. Both over the course of a year made a switch to MAX water soluble oils by Grumbacher.
To be fair, they both either did so in whole or part, by first working in acrylic and then working over that layer in oil. It frankly caught me off guard, because these were not two big names in the art business back then, they were technicians of the acrylic medium, and this was a very unconventional path. Water soluble oil, what the heck is that?
H2O Oil paints as they are also commonly referred to, essentially eliminates the need for traditional solvents and instead clean up is all done with water. Water also can be used to thin the paint and there are special mediums to use as well. Truth be told, I’ve used them for years myself and love them. The results they have given me have been pleasing, not to mention not having to smell thinner, which can be a deal maker or breaker for those with sensitivities.
These oils are specially formulated, but make no mistake, they are real oil paints and actually they can even be mixed with traditional oils, but I find it pointless to do so. They also work like traditional oil and once the water evaporates, there is no difference between the two. The one thing you have to do though is play with the different colors across the different brands to see what you like. Of the three brands I frequently use, MAX - by Grumbacher, Artisan - by Winsor Newton, and Cobra by Royal Talens, I find that MAX most often fails the consistency test. “Some” of their colors feel dry and even hard in the tube. For instance, I can’t use their titanium white, I have to use Artisan or Cobra. Of course the other things, like the fact that each of their Sap Greens are different and so colors like this have me working across the three brands. Actually this can be a plus, but anytime you switch up materials, you know you’ll be open to some experimentation and adjustment.
Some may say that these water soluble paints dry faster and that make be true, but I find that different colors of oil paint in general dry at different rates and at different times of the year. For me it’s just not an issue. Brush work fits my style, they still blend just fine and dry with the look and feel of traditional oils. Perhaps if you to try them, I would say order one tube of the same color across each of the three brands I’ve mentioned and to see if you can be comfortable with them. These paints are also great for plein air painters, because you can leave the thinner at home and just bring water. If you’re happy with the materials you have, great! But if you are looking for something new, don’t be put off or afraid to give them a try.
Live an artful life!