Linda Wain's Procolour Artist Acrylics - Review
For a video version of this post, click below:
I've tried a variety of media when creating art: gouache, watercolour, pastels, coloured pencils, acrylics and digital (Corel Painter and Photoshop). Each medium has pros and cons. For example, gouache is opaque but using thin washes will spoil the layers below, acrylics can be used in this way but many coats are needed to create the desired opacity and digital media, while being infinitely flexible, are a nightmare for the perfectionist (ooh, I'll just go back and fix that bit, and that bit etc.) and also lack that indefinable something that only comes from putting brush to canvas. Maybe sometime soon I'll have a go at using oils but at the moment, I'm painting with Linda Wain's Procolour Artist Acrylics.
These paints are manufactured in the UK and are only available through the Procolour website (see link at the end of this post). They are a form of acrylic paint but behave a little bit differently.
The best way to describe these paints is as acrylic gouache; they have the opacity and covering power of gouache but washes can be added without destroying previous layers. They are similar in a way to digital media in that art can be created in many layers of varying opacities. Another advantage is that they can also be used as watercolours. They are very flexible.
Let's look at these strengths first with some examples and then we'll tackle any weaknesses.
When I painted the background of 'Descent From Möbius Wood' I used Procolour as watercolour paints. I wet my illustration board first with clean water and then worked wet-on-wet to produce blurred trees. The paint blooms and spreads out just like watercolours. This technique helped me create a sense of depth and a morning mist. Here is a thin strip of the final painting to show the effect:
Skies can also be painted using this technique by applying a wash wet-on-wet. Areas can then be brightened by removing the paint using a cloth while the paint is still wet. Paintings can also be created entirely using thin washes of paint. I have seen whole pieces created like this and it works very effectively.
I like to use a variety of techniques though. The background landscape of 'Welcome' was painted using thick paint in a gouache fashion albeit with some thin washes over the top to modify the colours and add movement and interest. But when it came to the cloak, I swapped to using the paints as watercolour to create the translucent effect. To see this in more detail, have a look at this video:
The hair was created by first painting in a dark background. After that, I applied thin white lines using a very fine brush. It was then just a matter of applying thin washes of different colours to reach the desired effect.
'The Insidious Whisper' saw me use even more techniques. The skin texture was created by first painting on thick layers to achieve a base colour. I then used drybrushing to add to the texture. (Pick up some paint on a very dry brush, then brush it all off on a rag. When brushing across the surface of the painting with this dry brush creates a fine dusting effect. This can be modified by the consistency of the original paint.) After this I applied a number of dilute washes of paint to add to the depth and create interest. Building the skin texture up in layers led to a beautiful final finish (okay, the subject matter may not be beautiful, but the effect was).
In the painting I'm currently working on, I've taken this technique further and after applying a wash I've sprinkled salt on to the area. When the wash dries, and the salt is brushed off, an interesting texture is left where the salt granules have sucked up small areas of the paint. Procolour is really flexible.
They are also very forgiving and as such are ideal for beginners. If a mistake is made it is very easy to paint over due to the opacity of the paints. Areas of colour can be built up using many thin washes until the desired colour is reached. This makes colour mixing a slightly less painful experience for beginners.
The pots of paint are quite small at 59ml but they last a long time. The only colour that I often need to replace is white. There is a wide range of colours available along with mediums such as a retarder and a flow improver. And although it is not available on the Procolour site, I have used Art Masking Fluid with these paints and it works just fine.
Lots of positives then. So what are the down sides?
Firstly, although the pots last a long time, it could get quite expensive to create very large pieces of art. The paintings above are all 27cm x 72cm and all three were painted with just six pots of paint. But in the past I have created huge pieces, 1.5m x 2m, and I dread to think how much that would have cost if I had used Procolour. I think that if you are going very large then standard acrylics would be a better option.
I may be being a tad picky with this one but I think it's worth mentioning. I've found that when applying thing washes of the darker colours, they can easily begin to muddy up the existing layers rather than darken them. The finish also seems to be different to the rest of the painting when these washes are used. This gave me some real problems when I was painting the dark trees in 'Descent From Möbius Wood'. In the end I had to work around the issue and mix the correct colour the first time. I was able to apply washes of Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre etc but I stayed away from the darker colours like Sepia and Prussian Blue. It's a problem that will probably never crop up for most people though.
The last issue I've come up against is that even using when using the retarder medium thick paint can dry and become unworkable pretty quickly. This is exacerbated on warm days. I've found this to be a problem when trying to blend areas of colour together smoothly. Maybe I need to swap to oil paints when I want to use this technique extensively.
Overall, I am incredibly impressed by Linda Wain's Procolour Artist Acrylics. They take the best features of acrylics, gouache and watercolour and fuse them together. It is very flexible, it can be used for many techniques and is great for beginners. There are some minor problems but for the majority of users, they will never be an issue.
Give them a try, I initially bought three primary colours, white, plus Sepia and Prussian Blue to mix a 'less muddy' black, so it's relatively inexpensive to get started. They are very enjoyable paints to use and I highly recommend them.
For more information on the painting process: