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Painting With Oils

By: Roxanne McDonald - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Painting With Oils Oil Painting Oil

When learning to paint, you cannot learn the creative side of art. The “student” can study art history, understand and observe methodology, and practice by mimicking until he or she finds his or her own style and approach. Here following, then, are instead a few suggested oil painting techniques and tips.

Basic Terms/Techniques for Painting with Oils

Abozzo: the first sketching, the first blocking in, or the first underpainting.

Alla Prima: from Italian for “for the first time,” alla prima is a technique whereby the first application makes for the completed picture. (There is no layering.)

Aesso: an initial primer used on the blank canvas before painting to protect the canvas; and establish an adhering surface (also called a “key”) for the incoming oil paint. (For more information, see our article, Painting on Canvas.)

Alaze(s): thin application of oil paints; transparent; glossy; commonly used in layers to enhance colours and/or add depth.

Impasto: the thick application of pigment with brush or knife that results in deep brush marks or dense impressions left by the oil painting implement.

Medium (sing.)/media (pl.): a medium in oil painting is the binding element or the thickening/thinning element added accordingly to the artist’s pigments.

Overpainting: a finishing layer of oil painting—done over the previous layer after the previous layer(s) has (have) dried.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colours: the primary colours are, of course, red, yellow, and blue. A secondary colour is created by the mixing of two primary colours; likewise, a tertiary colour is made by either the mixing of all three primary colours or by mixing a primary and a secondary colour.

Underpainting: preceding layer(s)—that done first or those applied before overpainting is done.

Basic Suggestions for Painting with Oils

The first rule the seasoned painters will tell you is what they call “fat over lean.” This process is in regards to drying time and effect: apply layers from thinnest to thickest (from least oily to oiliest) to prevent cracking or peeling.

With each layer of painting, incrementally increase your medium…, in this case, oil.

Note: Oil paint dries by oxidation (rather than by evaporation), and takes anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks—though art conservators consider a painting completely “dry” 60 to 80 years later!

Ivory Black as an underpainting dries more slowly; cobalt, lead, manganese are drying accelerants.

Yellowing can occur….

  • if you dry painting in the dark
  • if you use linseed oil in white pigments and blue pigments
  • if you use a lesser quality medium (oil)
Oil painting on canvas is a more versatile art. Unlike with watercolours, for example, whereby you are stuck with your first effort, with oils you can re-think, re-shape, re-do—painting atop what you find undesirable.

What you succeed in doing with oil painting will depend upon how much you inform yourself, how much you practice your art. All the best to you.

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