Oct 21, 2010

Getting Started with Oils!

This is the first in a series of lessons on oils.

So you are ready to give it a try? Where do you start? I would say that the first thing you need is a place to paint…..this place has to have good lighting, and good ventilation. The room has to be big enough so you and the air can move around no painting in closets!

Next you have to have an easel. Be sure to shop around and get one that is sturdy and one that feels good to be in front of. It is a good idea to put a drop cloth down to protect the floor from spills.

You will also need to have some special painting clothes. Nothing fancy but you do need to have something that you use especially wear when you are painting. You will need to have a taboret or small table where you can place your palette, brushes and palette knife, solvent and oil containers, rags or paper towels and paint tubes so they are readily available for you to use.

You need to have one container with just solvent, and the other with medium. A standard painting medium is 1 part oil to 2 parts solvent. I have allergies so I prefer to only use oil with no solvents. I especially love safflower oil but others that are good are refined, cold pressed, or stand oils, walnut or poppy oils. Alkyd resin and Japan drier can be added to the painting medium to speed drying time.

You need to take time to choose your paints, don’t buy student quality, they are full of fillers and less pigment. Try to purcahse the best artist quality you can afford. My personal favorites is Permalba, Da Vinci, and Rembrandt.

My suggestion for your first purchase is the following colors, as you progress you can add other colors from the advanced list.

Starting List

Cadmium Red

Cadmium Orange

Alizarin Crimson

Cadmium Yellow Medium

Lemon Yellow

Cerulean Blue


Sap Green

Ultramarine Blue

Dioxazine Purple

Brilliant Yellow Light

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Umber

Yellow Ochre

Raw Sienna

Titanium White

Lamp Black

Advanced List

Indian Yellow

Alizarin Orange Permanent

Cobalt Turquoise

Green Earth

Indanthrone Blue

Perione Orange

Permanent Green Light

Prussian Blue

Quinacridone Violet

Ultramarine Violet

Rose Madder Permanent

Phthalo Blue

Phthalo Green

For cleaning your brushes I strongly recommend Turpenoid Natural it is a highly effective brush cleaner, conditioner, and painting medium that is specially formulated with organic ingredients to be non-toxic and non-flammable. If you are concerned about health, safety, or environmental issues this is a great alternative to traditional solvents.

Now we come to the brushes. Oil painters need to have brushes that will hold a lot of paint and ones that have a great “spring” to them. Hog bristles are the best brushes suited for oils, brights, flats, rounds and filberts are my choice. Buy the best you can afford and then take care of them! You don’t need 50 brushes to get started just a few, I always told my students to get at least three sizes of each kind, then build from there. When working wipe dirty brushes off as much as possible with clean rags and then swish in the turpenoid.

Remember that the brush cleaner can be recycled, put the lid on the thinner container and leave it until next time, despite of how cloudy it is. When the thinner settles, the pigment in the paint goes to the bottom, and clean thinner settles on top so you can gently pour it off into a new container.

A Painting knife is an essential, you will use it to mix your paints and to paint with. Choose one that has a handle that is not level with the blade. This will keep your knuckles from getting in the paint as you mix. The flat knives you see on the market are called mixing knives, I really prefer the “painting knife” to mix with and I am sure you will too.

The materials used when oil painting are grave, harmful materials. Always know exactly what you are working with, be sure to read the labels first before using it. It is imperative that you know how to dispose of these hazardous materials according to where you live and their requirements. Work with serious care at all times while using and handling oil paint. Never eat while you are painting, keep small children and animals out of your painting room. Never store flammable store flammable materials in enclosed areas if they have been used with thinner or walnut or linseed oil. Thinner and oil mediums are combustible.

If you get paint or thinner on your skin it can cause irritation, wash immediately with lots of water. I keep a small bottle of baby oil near by so I can used it to use it to get paint off my hands, it works really well. I also like to keep baby wipes near by.

I think it is a good practice to lay out your palette the same way each time. When you start you can be expected to know the names of all the colors so I use Freezer paper for my palette, I had my students write the color with a magic marker under each color so they could learn their names. By putting them in the same place each time you will be able

be able to pick up a bit of a color instinctively.

Put out all of your colors, about the size of a quarter is a good amount. When you have finished painting cover your palette. It can be put into the freezer if you don’t plan on using it for a while.

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