Sunday, April 24, 2022

Acrylic Painting, Art Societies and Education

There are huge numbers of artists across the world who paint in acrylic. Many of whom can do absolutely fantastic things with what I regard as a medium that presents a number of problems for working practices and can be difficult to master.

tubes of professional acrylic paints

What I find very odd is the apparent fact that 
  • so MANY acrylic painters appear to want to be seen as painters in traditional media rather than a distinctive and different non-traditional medium.
  • so FEW acrylic painters are concerned about promoting knowledge, education and best practice in the use of acrylic for artworks.
Maybe the latter can only be achieved if and when
  • acrylic painters start owning their media and 
  • stop pretending to be something else?

The acrylic painter with various hats

At present:
  • Acrylic paintings have become a major presence on the walls of exhibitions by art societies which used to be focused on the use of traditional watercolour paints (i.e. ones used for centuries).
  • While other acrylic painters appear to want to pass themselves off as painters in oils - because oil paintings are better regarded and typically sell for more money!
What is the problem about being open about the fact the media is acrylic - and that what it can do should be celebrated not hidden?

For a long time, I assumed what I have tended to regard as a bit of a 'masquerade' was because acrylic used to have a very bad reputation in the relatively past. 

This was back in the days when 
  • lack of knowledge about how it works and 
  • lack of skill in use of acrylic painting
  • RESULTED in a number of acrylic paintings cracking, peeling and flaking after a few years.
The behavior of acrylics as a painting medium and their physical and chemical properties are different from oil paint which warrants distinct guidelines for acrylic paintings' care. Some traditional conservation methods can be harmful to the acrylic paintings. The aging characteristics of acrylic paintings are just beginning to be understood. At present, preventative care seems to be the best care for acrylic paintings.

See also 

In general, very few studies of the conservation of acrylic emulsion paintings have been published. Instead, concerns tend to be communicated through informal discussion.
However, of late I've begun to wonder:
  • why we've not yet seen any change and 
  • why acrylics are now the ONLY art medium lacking a major and well recognised art society dedicated to its use. 

Art societies help educate artists 

To me, one of the benefits of an art society which embraces a particular medium is that it can also 
  • educate and promote good practices in the use of a media
  •  through associated educational and charitable activities.
To not have a leading art society doing this for acrylics is, to me, very odd. Even odder, when you think that many artists are also art teachers.....

Acrylic Art Societies

There are of course existing art societies which focus on acrylics. However, none have the same status as the older art societies associated with oil or watercolour. 

As a result, in the UK we have acrylic crossing the oil and watercolour divide - and sometimes forgetting that 
  • those on the water side should NOT look like oils and 
  • those on the oil side should NOT look like watercolours.
Maybe it's a question of acrylic painters needing to achieve a much higher profile - in terms of an art society with a very clear focus and its own membership and exhibitions?

It's always interesting to see an art society which is explicit about the fact it includes work in oils and acrylic paints.
Below is a list of art societies which are EXPLICIT about their use of Acrylic Paint.
Some of the history of how they came about is also highlighted in extract quotations from websites - and current places you can find them online.

LINKS to their websites are embedded in their names.

UK Art Societies

National Acrylic Painters Association (NAPA) 

  • Established 1985 as a non-profit making group, mainly for UK acrylic painters and others who live and work abroad.
  • NAPA associates with the Voluntary Arts Network and members can be listed in the Art Trade Press publication - Who`s Who in Art, and seek copyright protection via the Design and Artists Copyright Society. NAPA is a member of the Fine Art Trade Guild.
  • Membership: Annual membership is £45 p.a.  | Application Fee; £15. 
  • Facebook Page: 
The National Acrylic Painters' Association was formed in 1985. It evolved from the concept that acrylic paint is still largely unrecognized in its own right. Oil and watercolor paints started from the same premise, with the origin and the history of each giving them distinct characteristics and goals, as well as their own organizations and societies. It should therefore follow that acrylic paint should have equal status as a new and developing medium. NAPA: History


USA Acrylic Art Societies

The National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic 

  • Founded in the early 1950s to focus on casein and later expanded to embrace acrylic. Now focuses on the use of two opaque media casein and acrylic. 
  • Membership: Associate Membership is open to everyone living in the USA. 
  • Facebook Page:
In the early Fifties a group of artists formed an organization to exhibit paintings done in Casein, an opaque, water-based medium, an ancient art material dating back to the Egyptian culture and possibly to cave days. Casein, using a milk-related base, has proved its permanence by the fact that Egyptian decorations are to be seen today, thousands of years later. The organization formed by the artists was given a straight-forward, descriptive name: the National Society of Painters in Casein.

This Society gave artists who preferred an opaque aqua-based medium a chance to exhibit, while transparent watercolors were commonly accepted in other exhibitions which frowned upon the opaque use of watercolor.

Years later, another art product called Acrylic was introduced to artists commercially. This synthetic version of casein was quickly accepted by the art community and became a popular opaque, fast-drying medium. The Casein Society recognized its potential and welcomed artists who used acrylic in their entries.
Paintings from the Annual Exhibition in 2019


    National Oil and Acrylic Painters' Society 

    This, to me, seems to be the most active association - certainly in relation to an online presence. However it is aligned with the oil painters!
    NOAPS supports artists around the world in striving for artistic excellence by recognizing great art, enriching education, enhancing skills, challenging abilities and expanding marketing opportunities.


    International Society of Acrylic Painters 

    • started out as the US Branch of NAPA - holding gallery and virtual exhibitions - with independent and reputable jurors selecting entries for hanging
    • BUT "Due to several circumstances, the International Society of Acrylic Painters disbanded on 12/31/2021....Our mission was to represent and encourage artists using acrylic media and to promote the use of acrylic by painters worldwide."
    As the result of a generous donation from ISAP to the Kenosha Public Museum in Kenosha, WI, host of the annual Transparent Watercolor Society of America Exhibition, will be hosting a Biennial International Exhibition of Acrylic Painting. The first exhibition will be in 2022.

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