Oil Painting Tips and Tricks For Novices
Oil painting is both a simple and challenging art form. It's simple in that mistakes can be easily painted over since the paint takes a long time to cure. But it's difficult in that you need to have a good understanding of color since the paint does not come premixed.
Most beginners learn to paint with acrylic which is easy to work with, not very messy and dries quickly. However, if oil painting has always held a fascination and you're eager to try it out, these few beginner's tips and tricks can help.
Understand the medium
If you've never painted before but have some skill in drawing, it'll make things easier. Even so, get a feel for oils. It's a sticky, slow-drying medium that can be fun to learn if you take it slow or frustrating if you're trying to master it overnight. It takes years to become a savant and there no shortcuts.
Purchase neutral colors like black, ultramarine, white and raw sienna, an earthy yellowish-brown color. They're part of the basic group of colors so you should be able to find them at any art supplies store. Choose artist-grade paints as the student-grade variety is inferior for aspiring artists.
Try out the paintings. Mix and match, learn how to create colors as well as gradations of colors. Squirt small amounts onto the edge of a palette and load it on the brush, being careful not to lift too much or too little.
To remove excess paint or to correct a mistake, the paint should be lifted with a palette knife and the reminder with a bit of solvent before starting over. Do not mix brushes for different colors, ie use one brush for light colors, another for dark shades and a brush for every individual color.
When layering colors, the layers on top should be thicker or fatter (containing more oil) than the ones beneath. This allows the lower layers to dry faster and prevent them from cracking.
Oil paintings can take months to dry. Facilitate drying and prevent paint from turning yellow by exposing it to bright daylight. Darkness forces oils to rise to the surface and produce yellowing.
Take the tedium out of practice by taking breaks. There's a long way to go before mastering oil painting and you do not want to feel frustrated during the learning process.
Choose an easy subject
Forget fine details and complex shapes and colors. Start simple with a mug or an egg, basically any object with simple lines and curves. Once you get the hang of it, progress to more difficult concepts with more colors or more texture.
Realism and hyperrealism are extremely challenging and should not be attempted initially. They require a very thorough understanding of light, shadow, texture, color and shape that can take years to learn. So even if your goal is to create a hyper realistic masterpiece, first get the basics down.
Progress to better supplies
Once you've learned the basics and feel confident enough to progress to more complex subjects, purchase better quality easels, more paints, canvases, more and better quality brushes. Enrolling in art school – even if you do not mean to make a career in art – is a great way to learn techniques that can help achieve what you're trying to create. It's also a great place to exchange ideas and meet like-minded people.