The aim of this exercise was to try three different Oil mediums to get up to date with latest products in the market and to review my options. They are Weber Permalba Traditional Oils, Weber wOil water mixable oils and Genesis Heat Set Oils.
I used hogs bristle brushes of varying quality, but found little difference apart from the Fan brushes where the cheaper fans were significantly inferior to the more expensive brushes.
Also, I did find the cheaper brushes lost more hairs from the start, and went rather soggy if left wet for any time. Using Turpenoid Natural, readily available from various Art Supply shops stopped this issue in its tracks, and was very cost effective if the brushes were initially cleaned using odourless Turps with the traditional oils, and soap and water with the case of the other mediums wOil water mixable and Genesis oils. Then the Turpenoid Natural was used to just tip and wipe the brush to final clean and condition. Using this method I found Turpenoid Natural virtually lasted indefinitely and the brushes showed no sign of the soggy distress caused normally by water on Hogs Bristle. It is not an issue with most animal hairs (Sable, Squirrel, Badger etc. and synthetic like Taklon, Nylon and others). Any small amounts of paint quickly settled to the bottom of the container (Glass Jar) and using Coffee machine filters was easily removed by decanting to another jar.
In the case of the cleaning regime with Traditional Oil, I found the odourless Turpenoid did not allow full settling of the pigment, as it seemed to retain some colour regardless of the amount of time it sat in the container. I tried another brand but was unhappy with its overall performance compared to the Turpenoid.
I used a plastic Richeson plastic brush washer bucket as this was impervious to turps which was the only plastic bucket I found that could hold turps without affecting the plastic. Metal Buckets do not have this limitation. I chose the Richeson plastic bucket because it has a special profile rib section in the bottom to help remove pigment without stressing the bristles. When I used the more common wire mesh available in most metal buckets, it seems to cause significant wear of the brush if used regularly. Richeson also had special profiles for holding the brushes in the solution without the head being in contact with anything but just sitting in the solution free of pressure.
I used archival quality stretched canvas for the traditional oils and wOil, and archival quality boards for the Genesis. I did find the stretched canvas was more pleasant to use in most areas I worked, and the boards did get out of shape due to the heat in the studio (30 – 34 degrees Celsius, and the drying process. I also have doubts about the archival quality of the backing boards except for a Fredrix brand sold as Archival but at a premium price. Even so the Fredrix warped in the heat.
I painted a single picture three times, once each with the paint to be tested.
General: I used traditional Oil for this painting being the Weber Permalba Artist Quality Oil from USA. It has been marketed twice in this country, initially by Mont Marte who dropped it because it was the only true Artist Quality Oil they sold, and did not match the needs of their market, mainly being casual painters, or new starters. It was also marketed by another company, but due to the method used by the previous distributor was not popular with quality art suppliers due to the heavy discount that was applied when it was cleared out by the initial distributor.
Pro: This was the easiest to use, the oil was buttery, the colours very consistent and close to my pigment standards chart. They were easy to thin without losing richness of colour using Weber Liquid-glaze or washes using Weber Turpenoid Odourless turps.
I also found they were very good consistency across the colour range apart from Cobalt Blue which had a very significant amount of Oil in the nozzle of the tube. The tubes are metal lined flexible plastic and were easy to get the paint out of.
An initial clean with odourless turps, then dishwashing liquid and a final dip in Turpenoid Natural Brush cleaner/conditioner worked just fine.
I was painting in about 32 degrees Celsius in the studio, but did not note any specific effects of this heat with the Permalba Oils. Unlike the Genesis I did not notice any affect from evaporation of the odourless sturps if used as a thinning medium
Con: Despite using Odourless solvent the studio was carrying a strong oil odour for several days until the paint dried, something I am unaccustomed to because I use the water mixable oils for most of my painting. It was not as bad as my previous experience with traditional oils, but still a concern.
The recommended thinner (Liquid-glaze) is somewhat expensive, and suppliers of the Permalba are few and far between. i.e. rare ! Getting Supplies consistently has been a problem for some time.
wOil Water Mixable Oils
General: The wOils by Weber are a recent development.
The concept was pioneered by Winsor & Newton some twenty or so years ago, with the Artisan having an initial goal of creating a wholly toxic free environment and the initial release certainly achieved that. But some of the pigment alternatives used to eliminate the toxic Cobalt, Cadmium and other heavy metal forms were less than successful with artists used to those pigments and eventually they relented and used different pigments including Cadmium and Cobalt. I don’t believe Lead was ever used. However, the paints were somewhat thick, chalky and not as easy to work with as traditional Oils. However, from personal experience the archival qualities appear to be just as good as any Artist Quality traditional oil. I have paintings used when the product first appeared, and detect no loss of colour or cracking at all.
It remains to be seen if the wOils are just as Archival, so far I have not found any reason for concern.
Weber did extensive research and is the only range I know that is totally toxic free, as the art of pigment development has come a long way since W & N invented the concept.
Interestingly, you can mix wOil and Artisan without any worries, but the wOil also can be mixed with Acrylic Paints if you need a special colour, to great effect.
The colour range is limited to 32 colours, whereas the W & N has a far bigger range of colours. Weber said some 18 months ago that they were working on releasing that year another 32 colours, but no sign of that yet.
These are very similar consistency to the Permalba Traditional Oils, but maybe even more buttery, good strong pigments, easy to work. They live up to the claims, and can be used with soap and water for cleaning, water can also be used as a limited thinner for washes, but the specially designed mediums are far better than water for what they do, and over-using water can cause some breakdown of the paint.
There is no odour from the paints either when being used, or when drying.
They essentially behave exactly like traditional oil paint being as workable, mixing colours gets the same results, they take about the same time to dry, glazing works just as well and rapid drying medium does not seem to affect colour as far as I can tell. Brush techniques are the same, and little extra needs to be learned before achieving exactly the same results as Traditional Oils.
Unlike Artisan paints I have not seen any change in consistency of the paint in the tubes, whereas some Artisan colour in tubes at three years of age were unusable, my experience being with Titanium White it became quite dry and chalky.
The special range of specially prepared wOil brushes are exceptional quality and usability.
As mentioned earlier, archival quality is yet to be proven, but Weber claim it is an Artist quality archival oil just like any other.
The 32 colour range may be limiting for some, as many common colours in other ranges are just not available. I compared the Viridian with other brands in an earlier trial and found no more variation that any other brand, but did have some variation when matched against all the other brands. In defence, I could not find any two brands with substantially the same colour Viridian !.
I chose Viridian because previous tests of this colour showed some extreme difference even among major brand names. wOils seems to match the majority of other traditional artist quality oil paints. wOil and Artisan Viridian are vastly different to each other, as was Lucas water oils.
Unlike Artisan, who make most colours available in larger more economic tubes (up to 200ml) wOils from Weber choose to only have selected colours available in 100ml tubes. However the cost saving of the larger tubes is much greater than any other water mixable range, getting almost three times the quantity 37ml vs 100ml at less than twice the cost of the 37ml in most cases. The colour choice for the larger tubes I found a bit mystifying, as several common colours were not done in the larger tubes.
Like W & N Artisan, they do a range of special brushes for wOil and while they are exceptionally good in most case are rather expensive compared to other brands of similar quality. They do not have any Hogs Bristle brushes.
Genesis Heat Set Oils.
General: I have done an extensive review of the genesis range in an earlier set of posts, so check those out for general information.
Genesis Heat Set Oils are (I Think) Polymer based and strictly chemical speaking they are not oils.
But they are handled like oils apart from one big difference, and several subtle differences in the way to use them.
1. The biggie ? They never dry ! At least not until you apply 130 degrees Celsius using a suitable heat gun. This means you have total control on when your painting or part thereof dries.
You can do a wash, and then work wet on wet, or dry it in minutes and continue.
The main advantages of Genesis are the total control over when the paint dries – minutes or months or anything in between. Using the heat gun on a small to medium size painting can be done in minutes. Drying a part of the painting has enormous possibilities for those who like to experiment with what they are doing.
2. As the paint never dries, in theory you never need to clean your brushes, never waste any paint, just leave it on the palette forever or until used. The paints come in jars because of this, making it easy to get paint without the usual tube fiddle. While the paint seems a little expensive, due to the total lack of waste, it actually compares favourably with traditional oils.
3, You can use the same tools, same brushes, same techniques (mostly).
4. The Genesis has not only a wide range of colours, but the naming actually makes sense when you understand the philosophy of numbering colours. And in addition they provide a chart to show quantities to get the most common named colours like for instance Naples Yellow or Cad Red Pale by mixing Genesis colours. Many common names used for colours are not available as a genesis pre-mixed colour, but my experience is that the range of colours available means it is not much of an issue. And coming in glass jars means you can see exactly what colour you are looking at even without opening the jar (or tube in traditional oils).
5. Any tutorials or workshops, as well as YouTube instructions for Oil paints are still applicable, and you can generally submit paintings to galleries as an oil painting by pre agreed conventions that have been established for some time.
6. Use same brushes as other oil paints
7. Clean up with soap and water
8. Use a glass palette for no mess mixing and cleaning and I rarely clean my palette of colours, just leave them until I use them up, then quickly wipe the small residue off and start again.
9. Paints never dry out so they last almost forever in the jar or on your palette as well as your brush (dust can be an issue, so best to store them in a dust free environment, like a covered box, cupboard of drawer.
10. Use same surfaces as oils (Except plastic based surfaces, Genesis will eat most plastic if left in contact for some time)
11. Control of the drying process means absolute convenience, if you get called away for a phone call or an overnight trip, who cares – Just start up when you get back.
12. Cleans up easily in soap and water when you do need to clean up – I always clean my brushes at the end of a session anyway, even though strictly speaking I could avoid that boring task if I wanted to.
13. Most important to my taste, the colours are rich and well shaded, and there is no colour change whatsoever when dry compared to wet. I have yet to find a traditional oil paint that can claim this across the colour range, and the colours can be just so vibrant if needed. In an earlier test I checked colour of several paints against an industry pigment chart, and Genesis came out tops.
14. No colour or medium has ANY toxic content in the Genesis range, is not flammable, no odour whatsoever and can be cleaned/removed from almost anything (except clothing)
- A heat gun can be a laborious time consuming mind numbing experience if you are doing a BIG painting. Better done in an oven, or a convection heater. Genesis provides complete drying instructions for such as a big 2m x 3m painting. Paintings sizes that are most common, anything below 24” x 36” is not so bad but when you get to the larger size mentioned above a dual heat gun system is better.
- The paint never dries, so using rags for clean-up is a definite no-no, as it will stay wet on the rag forever, use paper towels and dispose of them in a paper bag safely.
- A heat gun costs money, and cannot be used for much else (Except paint stripping). It is too hot for using to dry your hair, so forget using the home hair dryer, it is not hot enough. In addition the paint is sensitive to too much heat, it will bubble if overcooked so you need an accurate thermometer to set the gun to the right heat. A little over 130 degrees Celsius in not a problem, but even a little under 130 will add significantly to how long it takes to get dry, if ever.
- While it handles much like Oils, there are differences. Wet on Wet requires a somewhat modified method, and I still have some issues with that.
- And when using odourless turps as a medium, unlike the other oils, evaporation does seem to happen very fast, meaning continually fine tuning the medium content in the paint.
- They do provide their own thinning medium but it is limited to 2 parts per 3 of paint, so it is not really much use for fine detail work (Use odourless solvent) and washes.
- I have not had any luck with their glazing medium and it seems to be a major problem having considerable coverage on forums.
- Some brushes with plastic bases bristles are suspect as far as leaving the paint on the brush indefinitely. I used one cheap taklon brush, and it fell apart from just that habit.
- The jars are all one size (1 Ounces/30ml) except Titanium White which is available in 4 ounce/118ml for not much more than the 1 ounce jar, great value but NO other colours come in 4 ounce jars . . .
- The list of mediums is limited.
- Genesis eats plastic over time so be careful about what you use. I lost my excellent plastic palette (which I tested genesis on the back of but obviously not for long enough) which was irreparably scarred by Genesis. Same goes for cling wrap, no no !
- Some surface material could be too sensitive to heat to use as a paint surface for Genesis, test it before making and considerable investment in time or money.
- I found if I mixed too much Odourless turps as a medium in a warm to hot day, it would become sticky (not dry but still not workable) in some sort of reaction to the loss of the thinning medium. I also found by accident that Turpenoid Natural even dries the paint totally if used as a medium, unlike traditional oils where it can safely be used up to 25% with no unwanted issues, and it is totally non-toxic and is not flammable, a real safety gain over odourless turps which is highly flammable.
The following is a summary of my findings to match what I want from an oil paint. I encourage you to do your own tests before making any significant change from what you are doing right now. Just buy small quantities of primary colours (Red, Blue, Yellow, and White with perhaps a black(blue shade) and a base green to test it.
I found the easiest to use was the Traditional oils in that they we so easy to work, and a range of reliable and useful colours gave me good results. However the overriding negative is the odour from the paint even if using odourless turps – and remembers even though the odourless turps is not so smelly it is JUST as toxic and just as flammable as the paints are.
The wOils I have used for some time and I am comfortable with them but I still would like a reliable fast drying medium available, and a greater range of colours, and a better selection of large tubes.
Genesis I am least comfortable with the least, am still learning how to use it, and finding subtle differences to achieve the same result as oils.
But the winning combination of non-toxic, cleans with soap and water, fast dries when I want it to do so, is cost effective with no waste whatsoever and a good range of colours and I can use all my existing tools . . . which means I will continue to try and master Genesis while perhaps continuing wOil usage from time to time – at least until I start to run out.
Below is a sample of the same painting done with each type of paint. It was too boring to make them exactly the same so there are differences, and I don’t claim to be a good painter yet.
The traditional Oil is a 16” x 20” CreatArt brand stretched canvas, with three coats of Gesso primer sanded between each coat. I used a dark background behind the trees and shrubs which for some reason I did not do for the other two paintings . . . and with some regret; I think these have the better depth. The background pine trees are too large (I used too big a brush) and I have not yet mastered clouds! Mostly wet on wet the painting was done in about 1.5 hours
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The wOils has a better sky, and a different tree outline and the pine trees in the background are more detailed and smaller, not sure if better or worse. Not happy with the lack of depth in the foreground trees. Same canvas had same surface treatment as the traditional oils. Mostly wet on wet painting took about 2.5 hours.
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The Genesis is on a CreatArt wider artist quality board (23” x 17”) and was not sanded between Gesso coats of which there were only two, so much more thread pattern shows. Still not happy with the trees overall I think they are perhaps a bit better than the wOils attempt. I basically worked from back to front. Did Sky and dried, then background trees and dried, than houses and dried, then foreground Trees then dries, then water and final dry before some detail (after looking at the painting for a day or two) on the banks and grass for another final dry. Hard to tell the time of the Genesis painting because it was done over Christmas with many interruptions but I would estimate about 1.5 hours in total.
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