Oil Painting

This week I was on vacation for my oil-painting portraiture course. There wasn’t as much instruction in this course as there was in the acrylics course, but I was able to use some of what I’d learned with acrylics towards the oil painting, especially regarding color theory.

What a difference in texture! The oil is so much more blend-able and meld-able than the acrylic and allows for tiny detailing. Also amazing is the fact that I don’t have to rush through a painting since the oils stay wet for so long. At first I found it kind of messy, but as I moved on to more paintings and bigger canvases, I started to get more comfortable. I did four paintings in five days, show-cased below.

The first and smallest is a self-portrait. I did the under-painting with a purple and it wasn’t quite dry when I painted over it, so it has a very blurry feel to it. I painted it in front of a mirror after several quick self-portrait sketches that I may post at some point, once I’m not feeling quite so lazy.

Speaking of portraits and gestures, I made a happy discovery on Monday; apparently my daily/weekly sketching on Posemaniacs has been paying off. My sketches didn’t seem to be improving in quality, but with only 30 seconds to get something down, it’s tough. However, when our instructor for the week asked us to draw some gestures of her, I found that I was able to get her form down much quicker than those around me (not to boast, of course). My hands and eyes knew what to do and I was able to get some fairly accurate sketches down, quickly.

The second painting is of a photo that my instructor had found online (at Deviantart, actually). It was my first painting on a wood-framed canvas; at first I didn’t like it as the canvas was kind of stretchy and flexible, but after I relaxed a bit, I grew to like it. With this painting I also did the under-painting using acrylics, so they were able to dry and I was free to paint over them. I like this method quite a bit and will stick with it for future reference. My instructor encouraged me to branch out a bit with color, especially when mixing skin tones. I attempted to put lots of different colors into her hair and I’m satisfied with the results.

The third painting is where I started to get comfortable and feel like I was “in the zone”. I found the reference photo in a magazine that belonged to the studio and knew immediately that I wanted to paint it; the photo itself is fantastic. I love the contrast and bright color combinations. I also like working with bigger canvases; they allow me to work in really small details which make the whole piece look polished. It was a lot of fun blending the skin tones together and I especially enjoyed painting her eyes.

I just finished the final and biggest piece this afternoon. I scoured the local magazine-cafe looking for photos full of color and creativity, which I found in scores in fashion magazines. The photo here captivated me; the subject looks as if she is completely care-free, as if she could simply fly away if she chose to. Perhaps I was drawn to this because it’s a feeling I long for. I found myself having to step back a lot while doing this painting, as it was quite large. With this under-painting, I used two different shades of acrylic paints, warm and cool colors to paint the highlights and shadows (doing an under-painting with multiple colors hadn’t occurred to me until my instructor suggested it). Blending all the different skin tones and her strands of hair was incredibly therapeutic. Oils are very forgiving; mistakes are easily smudged away or covered up with other paint. There is no rush to finish so I was able to sit back, relax, mix my palette and take it slowly. The results speak for themselves; this is definitely the medium for me.

After my last class today I broke down, went across the street to the art store and bought myself a beautiful set of artist-quality oils (as well as a palette knife and some odorless paint-thinner). I really don’t mind spending the money partly because I know this is what I want to do, and partly because I’ve been thinking more and more about selling my art lately. I’ve been reading “My So-Called Freelance Life” for information on striking out on your own. It’s a fantastic read, even though I realistically can’t make that jump anytime soon. At the very least, it’s giving me pointers on how to price my work. With any hope, in the next few months I’ll be selling some of my art. I also splurged on a massage that I desperately needed. Some combination of the paint fumes and hunching gave me chronic back pain and headaches for the majority of the week.

The two last paintings have higher-resolutions images available on my Deviantart site. I have much more to write, but this entry is getting a bit lengthy so I’ll leave it be for now. If anyone reading this blog has any advice/stories about oil painting, feel free to share!


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