Adventures in Oil Painting

Oil PaintingA few months ago when we were in Berkeley, Eric and I went to The Greatest Art Store of All Time. It is impossible to ignore its siren song. I had been toying with the idea of trying my hand at oil painting for a while, and I found a magnificent deal on paint. Of course, all the other stuff you need for oil painting added up, but it’s totally worth it for all the fun I’m having and all the new things I’m going to be able to do. So far I have only painted with acrylics, which are wonderful, but oil gives you a lot more options.

Oil PaintingI did a bit of reading before I got started, and it helped contextualize things for me. Oil painting seemed sort of complicated, and it is, but for good reason. The pigment is derived from natural materials and suspended in an oil base. This is the stuff of Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Pretty cool. The amazing thing is that oil paint can be mixed with an almost endless array of mediums, from oils to gels to waxes, and sealed with another endless array of finishes. For my first go, I just wanted to just try them all out, look at what kind of effects they produced, and see which mediums I preferred.

Oil PaintingI did some experimentation, keeping track of the proportions of paint to medium. I surprised myself not one little bit by liking the thick gels with glossy finishes the best. They’re exactly what drew me to oil painting in the first place–those thick impasto strokes, a beautiful shiny clotting on the surface of a canvas.

Oil PaintingGamsol is great for transparent pigment, and cold wax is great for opaque, but galkyd gel shall have my heart forever.

Oil PaintingHere’s the thing about these mediums passed down from the days of the greats: they stink. Some of them more than others, but, boy howdy, was I glad to be outside in the fresh air.

Oil PaintingI have a few wood canvases that I need to prime with gesso, and then they’ll be ready for some real paintings. I am super excited to get going on them. I also have some plans for some larger works on paper: I love it when inspiration strikes! Have you ever worked with oil paint before? Do you have any tips for me? This novice is all ears!

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