A friend of mine asked me about oil painting this morning. I’ve noticed something about oil painting. There is a tremendous wall of mystique and voodoo that surrounds the whole practice of painting with oils. People that don’t paint with oils fear it. They imagine there is some huge body of knowledge that must be acquired before you even attempt it. Those that paint with oils just paint.
Here is the guilty secret about oil painting: it’s easy. There are few mediums as forgiving and as correctable. The long open time of the paint and the fact you can scrape it all off the canvas if you don’t like what you’ve done means, to me, the medium is virtually foolproof.
It amazes me that so many people stick to watercolours. I find this medium ferociously difficult to use well. I either have too little or too much water on the paper, am painting before the last glaze is dry enough or else having to wait for it to dry when I want to get on with painting, or I lose the white paper through overzealous application of the paint and can’t get it back. Blah!
Oil paints are a smooth, sensuous medium that doesn’t dry up on the brush. There are great water soluble versions available (I use these: http://www.winsornewton.com/products/oil-colours/artisan-water-mixable-oil-colour/) that mean you don’t have to deal with the noxious solvents (turpentine or odourless equivalents). You can easily clean your brushes. You can mix on the palette or on the canvas with almost equal ease. Oil paints blend and soften better than other media (except perhaps pastels). You can create delicate glazes. You can use oils to thin the paint to an ink like consistency or else paint as bold and impasto as you wish. Oils are a delicate medium and great for fine detail. You can create the most luminous skin tones. They feel nice to use.
About the only horrible thing about oil paints is the fat over lean rule, but even that rule has an exception, now that you can buy Archival oils http://www.chromaonline.com/products/archival_oils If these things were water soluble, they’d be perfect. I can’t wait to try them anyway.
The other inconvenience is that the paint dries so slowly that transporting a newly painted canvas without messing it up or messing up whatever is near it, can be a challenge. These look to be a good answer: http://www.greatart.co.uk/NID%20ARTLARGECANVASCARRIER1-canvas-carriers.htm
So if you have never painted with oils, but would like to try, my advice is to dive right in. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.