Many of us can feel drawn to finding new ways of expressing ourselves and discovering perhaps a level of personal satisfaction which we have not found in our employments, either past or present. There is in many of us an urge to draw and paint, but sometimes the whole field seems very complicated to get into. It really is not, and this article seeks to point the way, not to every form of painting, but into oil painting – which some of us would regard as the best approach to painting!
Advantages of Painting In Oils
Some people refer to painting in oil as a “forgiving” medium. Strangely enough, this is associated with what some people regard as a disadvantage – which it is not, but which can be easily overcome even if it is! Either arises because oil paints normally take quite a while to dry. It may be a week or more before they become dry to the touch, but about twelve months until they are really dry underneath. As we shall see later, this can be overcome.
The great advantage of this characteristic of oil paints is that you can easily change what has been done and correct any mistakes: paint can be scratched off or removed with turpentine or simply painted over. With many other mediums this is not possible and “what’s done is done”! This also keeps the costs down because one does not need repeated purchases of supports (on which to paint).
Another advantage lies in the different approaches one can take to painting in oils. You can use oils very thinly, especially through the technique known as “glazing”, and the thinner the paint the faster it dries. Or you can really lay it on thick, called “impasto”, which gives its own kind of satisfaction. Or you can use combinations of the two. You can paint in oils so that no brush marks are visible, or you can deliberately use brush marks to enhance the painting.
Some people would argue that oil painting allows finishes and impressions not possible using other mediums, and that the various combinations possible in oil painting gives it added appeal. Certainly oil paint has a very robust quality. Even if left in the open air, it can remain wet and therefore capable of being reworked. For the amateur painting in ones spare time when continuing with a painting may not be possible for lengthy period, this can be a great advantage.
The first thing is to have something on which to paint. This is called a ”support” and, for the beginner, cheap frames covered with cotton (or more expensive linen) canvass are readily available at artists and other shops. This will already have been given an essential coating with a ground (often gesso) to stop the support from absorbing oil from the paint.
For paint, it is best to purchase a better quality with a good brand name. Staff in art shops will be happy to advise. Consider buying a box of small tubes (about 38ml) until you begin to develop a taste for particular colours. If you want paints that dry faster, try Newton & Winsor alkyd varieties which will generally dry overnight. Or for other paints, buy a bottle of linseed drying oil and that will also hasten the drying process. This is simply mixed into the paint (in smallish quantities) before applying it, which is okay since the oil in your paint will be linseed.
For applying the paint, some painters use their fingers, pallet knives, tooth brushes and anything else thought useful for particular effects. However, you might be advised to stay with brushes initially and there are several types, although these can be defined by shape in addition to the material used. Some brushes are flat with a square end, some flat with a degree of curvature at the end and called “filberts”. Some are round and some round with definite points and some pointed but with a very long, thin set of bristles and called a “rigger”. Some have big fluffy ends and are called “mops”.
Brushes for oil are generally more robust than, say, those for watercolours and come in a variety of materials including hog bristles, nylon, mongoose and synthetic imitations, goats hair and so forth. Oil painters also make use of sable brushes widely used by water-colourists. All these vary in size from the very fine at 00 up to 16 or even larger.
Sketching Something To Paint
This continues to assume limited experience. Begin with something simple: a composition which has a limited number of items in it. Use a photograph and divide it into four or six (or more) equal squares. Place your photo in the bottom left hand corner of your support and draw a diagonal line from the photo’s bottom left hand corner through the top right hand corner and extend it across the support until it reaches the right hand edge. Draw a horizontal line from that point to the left hand vertical side. Divide this area into as many equal squares as are on the photo. Use these squares to lightly sketch in the picture on the photo.
Painting The Picture…
It is generally a good approach to start painting from top downwards. Mix the first colour and try to get it as near as possible to that in the photo. Use what seems to be the most appropriate brush. Try not to get the paint too thick.
Mix other colours, and use other brushes as needed. If adding a colour next to one still wet, go on to some other area and leave it to dry.
…And Its Outcome
Don’t worry too much about the initial outcome. It may be quite good or not. My first oil painting looked rather like a bunch of paint tubes stepped on by a rhino! The second one looked somewhat better, but it was only the third attempt which was anything near recognisable.
Persevere and progress to new images. You will soon see the improvement.
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AUTHOR: A K Whitehead
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This www.paintingsinoil.co.uk”> will take you to paintingsinoil.co.uk main page of original images painted by A K Whitehead.
All the paintings in oil here are by A K Whitehead, who is aself-taught artist, and are original oils and not copies. The approach is traditional, making use of various techniques, including impasto and glazing. This link will take you to the main categories of landscapes, seascapes, snowscapes, waterscapes and still life and all are provided with free frames and fastenings. Free delivery is also included within the UK.
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