This week’s blog post is actually a request from Tanya M. Nevin of Van Gogh’s Ear – Paint Studio (go check out her work, she’s awesome!)
She recently inherited a ton of oil paints from her late father, but as someone who’s painted in acrylics for 25 years, she’s not quite sure how to get into oil painting.
Well, Tanya and I are in the same boat here. I’ve never really used oil paints either!
So what do we do when we don’t know what we’re doing? Look to others who do!
I took this as a chance to educate myself on the fascinating world of oil painting and bring you some awesome tips I picked up along the way!
#1: Set the stage
Since you’ll probably be working with stinky stuff (even the stuff that’s NOT stinky is still pretty bad to breathe in), be sure to pick a place to paint that’s well-ventilated and gives you plenty of space to keep all the stuff you may need at the ready: mediums, turpentine, paints, brushes, etc.
I also think it’s just a good idea to keep your oil works separate from your acrylic or watercolor works because the tubes all look SO similar and nothing will ruin your day more than squeezing out a bunch of Opera Rose watercolor and mindlessly slapping it onto your slow-drying oil painting.
(Pictured above is Best Sitha’s Taboret and Easel.)
#2: Limit yourself
I know oil painting seems like an exciting new endeavor to embark on, but it can get very overwhelming very quickly if you jump right into it. It’s a good idea to start with a small surface and use a limited palette, just to get your feet wet.
If you’re cheap (like me, and Joe), you should try to get your hands on some Torrit Grey.
Torrit Grey is Gamblin’s solution to all the leftover pigments floating in the air of their factories–rather than letting their employees inhale it or dumping the mixture into a landfill, they combine it all to make these truly one-of-a-kind tubes of grey.
The best part? They’re free!
The best-er part? There’s an annual contest that you can enter for a chance to win a ton more Gamblin stuff!
All you have to do is create a painting that only uses Torrit Grey, black, and white–talk about a limited palette.
For more info on Torrit Grey and the contest, click here!
#3: Prime, prime, prime!
A crucial tip I keep seeing is that you absolutely need to prime the surface you’re working with oils on, otherwise the oil will separate from the paint and seep into your canvas or wood or paper and completely ruin something you’ve probably worked REALLY hard on.
Luckily, we at Cheap Joe’s have a few options when it comes to priming for oils:
Our Joe’s Prime Really Good Gesso starts at only $3.59 for an 8oz jar and can be used for priming either oils OR acrylics! But if you want to stick with the purely-oil route, we’ve also got Winsor & Newton Oil Painting Primer. It’s a bit pricier, but it’s what the traditional oil painters use and insist works the best.
#4: “Thick over thin” and “Fat over lean”
You’ve probably heard the phrase “fat over lean” before and not really understood what it meant–I know I have. Well, it refers to the layers in which you should paint with oils: thinner paints with less oil on the bottom, thicker more oily paints up top. This will ensure that your painting dries at the correct rate, and you don’t end up with cracked layers.
To make paint “fatter,” you add more oil to it; to make it “leaner,” you add a solvent like turpentine or a fast-drying medium. Each layer of paint will actually absorb the oil from the layer above it, causing the oils to distribute evenly.
It should also be noted that you can incorporate certain colors that have faster drying times into your lower layers. Paints containing Cobalt, Manganese, and Lead can be added to other paints to speed up the drying process. In that same vein, you’ll want to avoid using paints that dry particularly slow (like Quinacridones) for bottom layers.
#5: Keep it clean
Oil paints can be extremely messy, they’re also pretty toxic if ingested or absorbed into your skin.
But don’t let that scare you! As long as you keep your work area relatively organized (out of reach of pets and small children) and dispose of everything properly, you’re golden!
(I don’t really have an image about fire safety, so here’s a picture of my dog asking you to please dispose of your oil paints responsibly.)
Paints, mediums, palettes, and anything else with paint on it should be disposed of in a designated Hazardous Waste Facility. Rags, paper towels, and stuff that’s got a little less mess on it can simply be contained in a glass jar or fire-safe trash container–but the fire-safe part is super important because these materials are extremely flammable, can heat up when drying out, and may spontaneously combust…
WELL, I hope that this post has been entertaining as well as informative!
If any of you seasoned oil painters out there have suggestions of your own, I’d love to hear them!
Be sure to leave a comment below