My First Go at Oil Paint


Ever since I started the “Ghost” series, I’ve been contemplating giving oil paint a go. I felt like some of the things I wanted to paint would do much better with a heavier medium, and I’m not a huge fan of acrylic. And ever since I’ve been a part of the local gallery, I’ve seen tons of gorgeous oil paintings, and I suppose I just got the itch in general.

So what was my holdup? Well, for starters, I’d heard it was toxic to use around kids and animals. Since I have a 5-year-old and three beloved pets, I have always just kept oil out of mind. Second of all, I always figured oil was too expensive for my budget. And finally…well it was just daunting. Only the “pros” use oil, right? The people who know what they’re doing? Not someone who just wants to dabble.

But, one day, I remembered I’d received a set of oils as a hand-me-down about a year ago and just figured…what the hell. So I dug them out of the craft closet, poured some out onto a palette, and smeared it onto a canvas.

Oh my I loved it! The texture, the smooth, rich body. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried this before! Seriously this is awesome!

Of course I had to start with a bunny
I’ll admit my first attempts weren’t very good.

But wait, wasn’t oil paint toxic?

I began to do my research.

After looking through a few articles, I found a youtube channel by Lena Danya, and she cleared it up for me! It isn’t the oil paint that’s toxic, but the mediums you add to it.

Wait, what? Mediums? Can’t you just use it right out of the tube?

In the video above, Lena shows a variety of mediums that you can use to add to oil paint. Which no doubt sounds easy to the general public, but for someone with an anxiety disorder that revolves around chemicals and illness, a big ball began to form in the pit of my stomach. My husband chimed in, saying he uses mineral spirits at work all day long, but it wasn’t enough for me. After spending an hour at the art store, trying to find the best option, I left with a bottle of mineral spirits and an even bigger knot in my stomach.

I tried it once. Loved using the oil, but hated using the spirits. I got it on my hands and was terrified the rest of the day. And even though I know I was safe about it, my brain wouldn’t shut up. Those of you who have anxiety know just how hard it is to talk that stupid voice down.

So I put my oils away and slumped back over to watercolor. Don’t get me wrong. I love watercolors! But oil was new, and so completely different. I really wanted it to be fun and not a struggle.

After about a week of grumpiness, I decided to do more research on nontoxic mediums. I found some very expensive mediums made from oil extracts, and a few more expensive mediums made from all natural materials. All sounded great! All were too pricey for my budget.

Then, one of the local artists chimed in on my Twitter account and said she’d found some nontoxic mediums at the art store. Coincidentally, this was around the same time my mom wanted to give me spending money for my art (she does this from time to time, and it totally rocks! I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without her help!). So I decided to use the money to buy some oils, a few nontoxic mediums that were on clearance, and a bunch of canvases.

Seriously, I’m spoiled rotten.
These are the nontoxic mediums I found. I like the one on the left.

And ever since I got the nontoxic mediums, I’ve been a nutcase about oil. I’ve been getting it everywhere! It’s always on my face, hands, legs, and neck. It’s on my phone. It cakes the table in my art room downstairs.

Yesterday, I bought some palette knives, and why didn’t I buy these sooner these rock! I love the texture and the messiness and the awesome that is oil painting.

And yes, I still love my watercolors. There’s simply no choosing between the two. It’s like choosing between tacos and pizza. Both are awesome, but both are two entirely different foods, and you might be in the mood for one and not the other, and vice versa.

So That’s my story of my first go at oil. I suppose what I’d like you to take from all this is that if you are thinking of trying a new medium, GO FOR IT!

Also, if you are thinking of going into oil paint but are worried about a few things, here are the lessons I’ve learned so far:

Is oil paint toxic?

No. The paint is nontoxic, but the mediums you add to it (to thin it out, help it dry faster, etc.) can be. But there are many nontoxic options out there, including cheapy clearance ones at the store. They might not be as great as the toxic mediums, but for me it’s either go with the cheap stuff, or don’t paint with oil at all.

Is oil paint expensive?

The answer is actually, no. Oil paint is no more expensive–that I can see so far–than the Daniel Smith watercolor tubes I buy off Amazon. In fact, I took full advantage of the 50% off sale at the store and got five large tubes for fifteen dollars.

Is oil paint messy?

YES! And it’s AWESOME! I love the mess, perhaps because it’s such a difference from how neat I am with watercolors.

Do you have to be a “pro” to use oil?

No way! Just grab some primary colors, a few palette knives and paintbrushes, and go nuts. We all learn as we go, and the only way to learn is to paint. If you are worried about ruining good canvases, just buy some clearance “practice” canvases, or use oil/acrylic paper. The cool thing about oil is, if you mess up, you can simply wait til the paint dries, cover the canvas with a solid color, and start over again.

I’ve heard oil takes a long time to dry, is this true?

Yes. Which is hard on an impatient watercolorist like me. But the good news is I’ve found a relaxed state in this prolonged drying time. I can go upstairs and play with the kiddo, make dinner, or even work on a few watercolor illustrations, and know that my oil painting will still be waiting for me when I return. I even find my paints still wet on the palette, right where I left them! Which does help save paint. And money.

Will oil be in Lina’s future?

Oh definitely. I see myself using oil for the rest of my life.

Have you tried oil paint? Liked it? Hated it? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!

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