Oil Painting

This article has been translated by Carmelo Gigliuto. The orginal article is here.

Oil painting is my favorite painting medium. The reason is simple. Compared to the acrylic and watercolor it gives me more time to think and paint and this is essential for my technique.Until recently I thought that oil was the only medium to get good realism, then I noted the work of some artists and I realized that this is not true. J. d. Hillberry, for example, in the book Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil (*) shows how you can achieve a high realism using a common pencil.

In this post I would like to summarize some suggestions on oil painting hoping they can help you in your works.

  1. Don’t confuse the mineral spirit with turpentine. Use the mineral spirit (possibly odourless) only to clean the brushes. Every time you paint use a recipient for it. Wet brushes in it whenever  you need to clean them. When the mineral spirit becomes too dirty change it. When the painting is finished clean the brushes using the mineral spirit and use a little of liquid soap to keep the brush soft. Store the brushes so that the tip is not deformed.
  2. The turpentine, like oil,  is used for diluting the colors. The turpentine dries quickly and  makes the colors a little bit duller. Usually it is used to wash the canvas with a single color or, in general,  for underpainting. In Fat over lean technique sometimes this medium is mixed with oil. Each layer should be painted when the previous one is completely dry. As you advance in painting layers the  quantity of turpentine  decrease and the quantity of oil increase. In the future  this technique will be discussed on this blog more deeply.
  3. Use the linseed oil to dilute the colors. For sketches you can use the poppy oil that is cheaper and lower in quality, in real painting use the linseed oil specific for artists.
  4. Some painters, before start to paint, whash their canvas with a single color. This technique is called “whashing”. The choice of the color depends on the subject.
  5. Paint from dark to light. When light hits an object 5 tones are generated on it: light, shadow, highlight, reflected light and cast shadow. Paint them separately and then soft the edge with a dry brush. Some artists use a fan brush for this job.
  6. In wet on wet technique applies the color on area where color is still wet. In that case you can complete the work even in a single session.
  7. In fat over lean technique the painting is done in layers. The first step is the canvas priming. Then you can wash the whole surface with a single color to create color harmony. Then you proceed with the underpainting. There are several ways to perform an underpainting, for example, using a single color (i.e. burnt umber) more or less diluted, using only one color more white as in the grisaille technique. Then you proceed with first layer using few pigments just to suggest the main colors. Finally you proceed using the full palette of colors and painting also details. It is important to let dry the colors in each single step. This is the technique used by Renaissance and Flemish painters. The key concept is that each layer solves a problem and it helps in the execution of the next one. This technique requires several weeks to complete a painting due to the drying time very long.
  8. When a painting session is finished you can keep the colors for some days putting it in an aluminum foil.
  9. The choice of what brushes to use is not random, every brush should be used in specific areas. Make sure you use high quality brushes.

These are my suggestions for you for the moment. However, I’d like to know your opinion. Do you use oil colors? If so, which tecnique do you prefer? How do you mix colors? What is your favorite subject?

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