oil painting beginner tips

From the clarity of Raphael to the impressionism popularised by Monet, oil painting has been one of our culture's most renowned visual art methods for many centuries. Whilst the new Timonty Spall biopic Mr. Turner may paint a picture of oil painting as something to be taken on only by the most skilled artists, and whilst it is a challenging art that requires a deep understanding of the tools involved, its most beautiful quality is seeing the slow spread of your improvement both in theory and practice. Today on the Ajanta Studios blog, we're going to cover the basic oil painting tips for beginners, in the hopes of inspiring you to create your first masterpiece.

What is meant by 'oil painting'?

As far as we know, oil-based painting has been in practice since the 15th century (conversely, acrylic paints have only been commercial available since the 1950's). Essentially a form of drying oil from either flax, poppy or walnut seeds that's been mixed with colour pigment, the key feature of oil painting is that different varieties of oil can be used by artists on the same painting to gain a variety of effects. Today oil paints are sold pre-mixed in squeezable tubes, with new varities including Fast Drying Oil Colour made from alkyd resin and Water Mixable Oils that are easy to clean and remove the need for hazardous solvents like turpentine.
 Image of Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil - Scarlet Lake - Series 1 (37ml) Image of Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Paint - Cerulean Blue Hue (37ml) Image of Artisan Water Mixable Oil - Cadmium Yellow Light - Series 2 (37ml)
Windsor Newton are a brand renowned for their range of oil paints, including quick drying and oil colour products.

Getting the necessary paints, equipment and space

Oil painting is much more of a discipline compared to watercolour and acrylic painting, as it requires additional tools, materials and (in particular) space to work with. For a first time painter, you'll only need a few basic brushes to start, so gather a few in a different range of round, flat and bristle sizes. You'll also need a palette knife for blending, a palette, canvas boards, and some old rags & jars for cleaning the brushes afterwards.

When it comes to choosing your colours, never be tempted by low-price brands. Instead, as a money saving idea try to gather one tube of the essential colours (cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, titanium white, and mars black) and you can make any hue on the colour wheel. Finding the right colour requires a very strong eye and a colour wheel handy to get a shade that matches the tint and brightness of your subject as close as possible.

The large list of supplies demands a bigger working space, but having a nicely ventilated, studio-like environment also ensures your work is undisturbed whilst it dries- a process that can take three months at the least. Set up your easel, table etc. in an area of the room where people aren't likely to tread, and where no sunlight can reach. Ensure that you're sitting or standing in a comfortable manner, adjusting the angle of your canvas.

oil painting for beginners

Painting in Practice

The classic style of oil painting is thin-to-thick or 'fat over lean'. This means applying thin layers of paint to start with, and applying thicker layers as you work to allow for proper drying. If the top layers dry before the bottom ones, they will shrink and cause cracking. Paints can be thinned using solvents, or you can use a quick-drying oil.

Your initial subjects should be pretty basic, preferably with nice simple shapes. You may have seen depiction of artists minds as an array of cubes, cones, cylinders and rings, but it is really easiest to try and arrange these into a real subject. As quick note on blending techniques, you'll want to brush and rebrush areas so the the two colours appear to meet and merge together seamlessly, and it also helps to to trace a brush over the entire surface to remove the visible brush-strokes as a final step.

We hope that reading this gives you a clear idea of how to plan your first oil painting, and helps prevent some common mistakes on the way. In future we'll cover more distinguished techniques and tell you about varnishing your painting when its dried. For now keep an eye on the Ajanta Studios Facebook page, Twitter and Google+ for future painting and general crafting product news and features.

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