Working with Oils

I got myself a basic set of oil paints a couple of months ago and working with them this past month for our figure and portrait class has been a dream. I had been working with acrylic paints before simply because my mother had given me a big lot of colours barely used, and being much cheaper than oils and thinking it was more ecologically sound continued on with them. But after many, many attempts, I found I didn’t like working with them because they’re just not suited to the way I work. I’m very slow, and take a long time mixing colours, looking at the model, thinking about what I’m doing, getting distracted and whatnot, so usually by the time I’m in the middle of painting a section, my paints have started to dry up and no amount of retardant seems to keep them nice and smooth. On our first class, the teacher said I looked like I’d worked with oils forever when he saw the way I was using them, and it did feel completely natural. I’d been a bit nervous about making the switch, so it was a real treat finding that this medium felt so natural to work with considering I’ve only used oil paints once in my life before. This was for a large painting of an Alberto Vargas pin-up I did some 20 years ago; it was a commission for a local café which had a successful run but is now closed. I remember that painting in my mind’s eye as being quite a good interpretation, but have nothing to show for it; the canvas is lost to me and I have no pictures of it, but I remember it was a lady in a red costume who had an intimidating smile.




8 thoughts on “Working with Oils

  1. Your post made me smile. I, too, greatly preferred oils over acrylics. I spent years teaching myself how to paint in layers (“fat over thin”) to build depth and luminosity. No other paints allow for this technique. But the end result is so glorious.

    (Watercolors simply mocked my feeble efforts)

    • Why the past tense Jonas? Do you not paint anymore?

      Many mediums are entirely forgiving of lack of technique. One can simply pick them up, and with a little bit of sustained effort, though hardly any at all, results are quickly forthcoming. Not so with watercolours. I took two beginner level classes a few years ago to try to master the ABCs, which is something I recommend to everyone who has an interest in this medium, it’s really worth it. That being said, every time I take out my paints, I still try to work out the ABCs…

      • Your question: “Why the past tense?” haunted me for most of the day. No, I don’t paint (or play drums any more). Why the past tense, indeed? I can’t offer a simple answer. The more I pondercate, the more complex the response. I believe there may just be a blog post about why this is…sometime in the future.

        Thanks for asking.

        Meanwhile…keep being the creative soul you are!

      • I think I probably realized that I was stepping into rough terrain with that question. Not sure whether I should apologize or say I’m pleased to have made you revisit that aspect of your life, but I’m curious to see what will come out the other end.

      • No need for apologies, Smiler. I believe it is worthwhile to contemplate all the “why’s” of Life.

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