Watercolors to Oils: Three Things I Must Change

Let me just say how much I have loved oil painting these past few days. Since switching over to water-based oils, I can sense a bridge between my favorite medium, and the medium I’ve just picked up. I’m more comfortable with it, and feel more in my “element.” Even when I’m using a medium like walnut oil instead of plain ol’ water.

But there are a few things I’ve noticed about my painting habits/issues since playing around, and they are kinks that definitely need to be straightened out.

1. I Work Too Fast

I was working on an oil piece two days ago, and realized how fast I was moving my brush around, and how it was getting paint everywhere. Seriously. It was on me, on my clothes, and mussing up my painting in a way that would require an extended drying period before moving on. Forget painting tiny details. I couldn’t even get a block of color in without making a mess.

And I stopped for a moment and reminded myself that I was working with oils, not watercolor. With watercolors, one usually has to move super fast to get things where they need to be before it’s dry. But oils take for.ev.er. to dry. I forced myself to take a deep breath. My mess wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, it would probably still be workable tomorrow. I could chill.

So, obviously, my first goal is to work on slowing down.

2. I Lose Interest Quickly

With watercolors, a piece can be finished within an hour. If I take my time, it could take a few days but it probably still all adds up to only a few hours. Because of this, I’m used to busting pieces out pretty fast and moving on with my life.

But oils force me to take longer. Oils force me to wait, which can make me write off the drying piece altogether. The excitement has passed, and now I’m onto something new. Which works okay for watercolors…but again…this is oil.

So my next goal is to maintain my focus when working on a piece. As if it were its own individual identity (because it kind of is, right?). Perhaps each painting gets its own type of music, or its own easel. Maybe I will work on three pieces at once, but all with extremely different color palettes. Whatever I can do to separate them and bring something “new” to the easel when working.

Most of all, I will focus on each movement of my brush, each tiny detail. I will remain connected to my piece by learning everything I can about it. Even after it’s deemed complete.

3. I’m No Good At Values

This is hard to admit…but getting good values in my paintings hasn’t been my strong suit. In the past, I worked around this by inking in all of my lines. But now that I’m working with oils I find that I need to seriously practice my values if I want to make it anywhere in this medium. Not everything can be a midtone.

One way to help me through this is to photograph each piece and look at it in black and white. This will show me my highlights, midtones, and shadows, and whether or not they produce something with good contrast, or something that is nothing but mud.

As a photographer, I have been working in black and white for many years. I spent all of 2017 shooting with black and white film. I can make a good black and white photograph, so why am I nonsense at values when painting? I really have no excuse.

So my third goal is obviously to practice my brains out. Other than taking black and white photos of my paintings, I can also work on monochromatic pieces. In fact, I gave myself this same exercise as a photographer, and shot only in black and white for an entire month. You wouldn’t believe the things I learned about shadows and light and which colors showed up as a bland gray. Time to apply what I learned to painting.

I’ve only been working with these new oils for a few days now, but I really really want to get better at them so I can add them to my everyday work. I love their richness, their colors that never fade, and the fact that I feel like a Van Gogh badass when slapping alizarin crimson onto a canvas.

What about you? Have you gone from one completely different art medium to another? Did you see a few flaws that needed to be repaired? Tell me below!

Water-Soluble Oil Paints!

I’ve been wanting to try these for ages, ever since I gave oil painting a try last year. A few things kept me from buying them right away. One was a money thing, as they weren’t a normal paint that went on sale at my local art store. Two was the internet thing, where artists talk about the downside of water-soluble oils and how one should still use a medium other than water. The third reason probably had a lot to do with my big existential who am I crisis at the end of last year, where I–mistakenly–limited myself to one medium: watercolor.

But it’s 2019, Y’all! And my Limitless project is still on! So, the other day when I realized watercolors were getting a bit stale at the moment and I wanted to try something new, I bee-lined straight for the art store and bought the primaries.

The paints are Winsor & Newton Artisan series, and they are gorgeous. What I disliked so much about traditional oil paints–the cleanup, the need for mineral spirits–is a thing of the past with these paints. I have been using only water these past two days, but I will be moving up to linseed oil today. Because the online artists are right about that fact: you should still use a medium to follow the “fat over lean” rule of oil painting. But now that I have a bit more knowledge under my belt, I know that this medium can be something as nontoxic as a walnut oil or linseed oil medium.

Do I see a difference between water-soluble and traditional oils in terms of quailty? I say no, but I’m not too savvy with traditional oils so there may be a difference? I hear from other artists that they are slightly less buttery, that they dry much faster, and also that they’re exactly the same as traditional.

The only real differences I see so far are that they are much easier to clean up, and don’t get all over the place like regular oil paints. Also, a little seems to go a long way with these paints. Meaning I don’t need a ton to paint with. Which saves money!

This is only a second layer, but I used walnut oil and got more of the “fatty” consistency

They are also reminiscent of watercolors for me, just enough that it bridges the gap and provides a bit of familiarity to me. The first day I got them, I watered them way down and used them like watercolors just to play around and they were so beautiful! I know, I know, the nerve of Lina, right?

I think what I like best about these paints is that I can bring them upstairs to my table without worrying about killing my pet canary with fumes. They are also very easy to travel around with, so long as I bring an extra bottle for old water. Because, like many mediums, you don’t want to just dump that dirty water down the drain. The Earth will thank you.

Have you ever tried water soluble oils? How do you think they compare to the real deal? Please tell me all about it below!

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Oil Painting Returns: Five Lessons I’ve Learned

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I’ve been having tons of issues with oil paint, from anxiety over the toxic mediums, to headaches from resin and linseed fumes. For a while I was pretty bummed about it, but soon moved on to gouache and did my best to forget about oil entirely. Continue reading “Oil Painting Returns: Five Lessons I’ve Learned”

Another Hurdle with Oil Paint

I have been adoring oil paint, but certain side-effects have left me dreading my art room, where all of my oil paintings are drying: headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

What gives? I’m using nontoxic mediums! I even placed a fan in the window and had it blowing the rainy air from outside onto my face. But it still wasn’t enough.

After doing some research, it appears a lot of artists run into this problem, and it’s a sensitivity to linseed oil that is the culprit. Guess what oil paint is made with!

Seriously. After all of that nonsense of falling in love with oil, having anxiety about toxic mediums, finding nontoxic mediums, then falling in love with oil again, this is just depressing. In fact, after learning I might actually be sensitive to oil paint itself, I curled up in bed for an hour with a “woe is me” attitude and then grumped about the rest of the evening. It just wasn’t fair!

The good news is, I did find an alternative: M Graham’s walnut oil-based paint. The bad news is, I’ve already spent my art budget this month. So I have to wait a few weeks until I can get some.

Until then, I’m back to playing with my gouache, which makes me super happy and I’ve even had the itch to pick up some microns and do a few zentangles and illustrations, already proving this break will be a blessing in disguise.

Oil painting to be continued I suppose.

My First Go at Oil Paint

Self-portrait

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. Continue reading “My First Go at Oil Paint”