There are some brushes I always reach for no matter how many hundreds of brushes sit on my worktop. There are some colours I always reach for the matter how many hundreds of tubes of paint there are and there are some canvases that I always seem to be ordering. So here are my top 10 materials that I use every single day.
Why sometimes my oil paintings can look like watercolour even though water never goes anywhere near the canvas!
All artists have their favourites.
Anyone that knows me wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I have a constant struggle to not paint absolutely everything in purple…my favourite colour. But my artistic discipline means I’ve developed other favourites that play nicely with others!
Oil paint - the breakfast of champions!
Or why I’m still an oil painter!
There’s no getting around it; oil paint is expensive.
It’s also a "dark art" with all those potions and bottles marked with “toxic”, all just for getting the paint onto the canvas and off of the brush!
And it’s smelly.
My most recent art supplies order contained a (small tube) of paint for £17.50. It’s acrylic equivalent would have been less than four quid! And the acrylic would be diluted with plain old water, and and brushes would cleaned with water too. Whereas my favoured solvent costs more than a tenner for just 250ml, and I buy it by the gallon!
No wonder many professional artists have left the favourite medium of the old masters behind them.
But not me.
I love love love oil paint.
I’m an oil painter and I’m proud. Here's why:
3. Control. Power is nothing without control. Oil paint is diluted with turpentine. Which dries pretty quickly. As you build up layers you mix the turps with linseed oil (which dries really slowly). You learn to have balance between turps and oil through the process. Like many oil painters these days, I have eschewed turps in favour of a citrusy version called Zest-it. It’s less toxic and smells lovely. Zest it makes its own oils too. Over the years I have learnt to understand the chemistry of zest-it solvent, oil and my paints, different pigments have different drying times too! It’s very hard to learn (which is one reason why it’s not favoured by hobby painters) but once learned, it gives me incredible control over how I paint.
4. Oil paint has so many techniques to its name. You can paint all in one go, known as alla prima, you can build up layers thick over thin and light over dark, you can add huge globs of it - impasto, you can blend layers that are semi-dry…
5.And that’s another reason why I’m an oil painter over acrylic - I’m all about the blend. Acrylic drys fast and is therefore great for crisp clean lines. But my skies need to be blended.
The variety of solvents and oil mediums means as your style develops you can manipulate paint accordingly. Fast drying mediums don't make oil behave like acrylic; it still takes a good while to dry, but you have control. There is an art itself to start understanding drying times. I can blend in a cloud when the underpainting of the sky is drying, but not completely dry. If I do it wet and I’ll end up pushing mud around the painting as all the layers merge together. If I do it complexly dry I’ll end up with a hard edge. Sometimes that’s just what you want, but for sky - I’m all about the blend!
6. Any colour under the sun. Oil paints have been going for so long, there isn’t a pigment you can’t buy…if you’ve got the cash!
7. Light fastness - actually not really a good reason anymore as top quality acrylic paint has good lightfastness too!
8. Go with the flow, I often use watercolour for sketching and in my workshops. I find myself saying thing like “let the water do the work”. In oil painting I can’t exactly say “let the oil do the work”, but I do try to go with the medium rather than fighting it.
And that’s really the key for any artist, finding the medium that works the same way you do, and you’ll start to produce better art. Fight and you’ll never truly be in flow with your work.
Will I ever change? Possibly, I use waterbased media for a lot of my sketching and planning, but when the final work begins- oil paint is the only thing between the brush and the canvas.
The first section of the this blog is taken from Artists Daily, which is a great site for any artists to sign up to if you're looking for top tips and interesting articles.
"Oil Painting: Centuries Old & Still Going StrongOil painting dates back for centuries and is an incredibly far-reaching artistic practice. The earliest discovery of its usage goes as far back as the fifth century A.D. to the Bamian Valley of Afghanistan, where Indian and Chinese artists created hundreds of paintings in the nexus of caves there.
But oil painting art did not achieve widespread prominence and usage until it arrived in Northern Europe in the 15th century. Netherlandish artist Jan Van Eyck is most often credited with "discovering" the practice, having experimented with oil painting techniques in his wood panel works, including his famed Arnolfini wedding portrait. Eventually oil painting swept through the rest of Europe, replacing tempera painting as the most prominent medium of choice and becoming the painting practice most closely associated with the art of the High Renaissance.
What initially made oil painting art so appealing was the brightness and richness of its colours. What has allowed it to stand the test of time is its adaptability to an artist's whims and requirements. For instance, Renaissance oil painting artists tended to use oil paints in layers, working fat over lean (which means adding more oil to the pigment as you go through each successive layer to allow for proper drying or curing so the final surface of the painting won't crack) and dark to light. This is usually called indirect painting and allows an artist to build up the painting surface from toned underpainting to finishing glazes.
During the Impressionist period, much of that changed. Oil pigments were put into tubes and artists were free to move outdoors, where they often painted "wet into wet," mixing paint directly on the surface and not waiting for a layer of paint to dry before going into the painting again. Nowadays artists often combine one or both of these methods in their oil art.
And oil painting's further appeal lies in the fact that its translucence, sheen, and thickness can all be adjusted. It can also be used with waxes, resins, and varnishes, proving that the process and possibilities inherent in fine art oil painting are as varied and faceted as the artwork that has been made with over the centuries".
Thanks to Artist daily for their excellent article -
As for me; I've loved oil painting for years. I think many amateur artists are put off for a variety of reasons. Firstly the smell! It's an acquired taste you know. Personally I love love love the smell of my studio as I walk in, but perhaps if I was living in a studio flat and had to inhale the fumes day and night I might feel differently. Secondly if you have limited space it can be very difficult to develop your artists stamina and complete an oil painting. I've lost count of the amount of the smart clothes I've consigned to the painting pile because I brushed past a wet painting. Having a specific space is real plus. The third big reason I think people shy away from oil is that they are difficult and expensive. I've made so many mistakes whilst learning how to paint. You can read all the books you like on the subject, but nothing replaces trying it out. It's worth it.
At my most recent exhibition an ex student of mine asked "How do you get that kind of depth of colour?" He primarily works in acrylics and broadly speaking I think oil tends to have a greater depth than acrylics (many acrylic artists may disagree). In any case, depth of colour isn't really as simple as that, there are some key things to think about when trying to get greater depth of colour in oils. Fork out on some decent quality pigments (Micheal Harding, Old Holland and Windsor and Newton artists quality) and build up layers, finish with glazes and consider your varnish very carefully.
There are so many ways to paint in oils that perhaps that's why they've lasted so long, they provide the artist and the viewer with so many variables, we're never going to get bored of them or find a subject that can't be captured in oils, somehow, someway.
I continue to learn about oil painting every time a pick up a brush. I don't think I'll ever stop learning and loving this medium.
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