Experimenting with Jo Sonja Acrylics

In my last update I explained that I'd started a serious experiment with acrylics and that I'd acquired a range of Jo Sonja acrylics to try because I'd heard a number of painters saying very positive things about them.


In case you haven't tried Jo Sonja acrylics, they offer a range of artists quality tube acrylics which come in 75ml tubes (a few artist colours are available in 237ml) and what they call  'background' colours, which come in 175ml bottles.   Jo Sonja also offer several colour sets of the background colours (each containing 12 colours) and in these sets the bottle sizes are a handy 60ml, approx 3.5 times the amount which you get in the typical size bottle used by Vallejo and Andrea, etc.


The formulation is such that the paint is more viscous when squeezed from the bottle or tube onto the palette, but it can easily be thinned to the desired working consistency by adding a flow medium and/or water.  


Jo Sonja offer a variety of mediums that can be used to prolong the working time of the paint for softening edges, cleaning off if accidentally applied in the wrong place or achieving certain effects such as stippling.


To say I've enjoyed working with Jo Sonja acrylics would be something of an understatement, I've loved it for all kinds of  reasons and I'm now at the point where I want to completely transition to using them instead of oils and enamels.



So why am I getting so excited about painting with Jo Sonja acrylics?


There are various reasons but perhaps some of the most relevant ones for me are:


1) Controllable drying time


If used without a retarder medium the drying time is fairly fast once applied but can be accelerated with a quick blast of warm air from a hairdryer.


If some retarder medium is added the blending time of paint after application to the miniature becomes quite extended.  This offers many advantages, the most obvious being making it easier to achieve smoother transitions and sometimes the opportunity to lift off paint if accidentally dabbed onto an area where you don't want it to go.  Even with the retarder medium added, drying can be accomplished within a few seconds with the hairdryer whenever you want to fix what you've applied before continuing to work on an area.


The retarder also allows the mixes to stay wet on the pelette for an extended period of time, some mixes I've successfully used after a few days.  This may also depend on the type of palette paper you use and whether or not you use a stay-wet palette.  So this means I can pre-mix my range of colours in the same way I did with oils, which allows me to simultaneously work on mid, light and dark tones in a natural way.  I couldn't do this so well with Humbrol enamels.



2) Easier to keep working and get into a 'flow' state


In conjunction with the benefits in point one, I can continue working for as long as I like on a particular area more than I ever could when painting with oils or enamels.  This means that I can really form a stronger mental connection with the area I'm working on and really get involved in the refinement and finessing process, taking it as far as my understanding and imagination permit.   One can get used to having to paint an area over several sessions or days when using oils, because of needig to allow the paint to dry, but this can be infuriating when you want to make quick progress.


This ability to keep working also allows a greater potential for me to achieve a state of 'flow' during a longer painting session.  That almost effortless state of mind where you can become so immersed and working intuitively, that you almost completely lose awareness of time and other external influences.



3) The paint dries to a very nice matt finish


Man, have I struggled with getting a consistent matt finish when using Humbrols and oils.  Humbrols easily develop shiny patches through overworking an area and oils are notorious for drying with a sheen even if the usual precautions are taken to avoid this..   All can be overcome in various ways, the most obvious way for a uniform matt finish in such circumstances being the use of a reliable matt varnish.


But the problem with using matt varnish is that often the nice colours you thought you'd achieved get muted and the dynamic contrast you were so happy with before varnishing gets flattened out to an irritating degree.  So, not having to appy a matt varnish carries the added benefit that the colours and contrast will remain exactly the way you worked so hard to get them.   So this one is a massive plus for me.



4) No shaking required


The formulation is such that shaking isn't required before use, simply squeeze the paint from the tube or bottle and away you go.  So, easier on the wrists!



5) No solvent based products needed for thinning and cleaning


So arguably more environmentally friendly and I believe healthier  in the longer-term because of not having to breath in air which contains particles of evaporated white spirit, turpentine, cellulose or other solvents.



6) Excellent value for money for the quantity of paint


The prices of the bottles and artists tubes are very economical and at the time of writing:


- the 75ml artist colour tubes range from £3.99 to £6.45.

- the 175ml bottles of background colours are £5.25

- the available background colour sets with 60ml bottles are £28.99  




Second palette for final hghlights and refining work on ears and lips

First flesh palette - burnt umber, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, yellow oxide, skin tone base, nut brown.   To prepare the basic paint colours for mixing first a small amount of paint was put on palette, then 2-3 drops of retarder medium and a little water.   Then initial colour range for skin  pre-mixed.

Update # 43- 13th February 2016

Please check back in the next week or so for more progress pics for this bust.   If you're interested in more information about Jo Sonja paints the UK website is: