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Launching Your Oil Painting Career

Aug 17, 2007
Oil painting is the ideal medium for the novice. It is an excellent way to study, because changes and corrections are easily made. Unwanted passages of color can be scraped off the canvas any number of times without injury to the surface.

One color can be painted over another, drawing and proportions can be corrected, and all the nuances of light and shadow can be studied experimentally. The painting can be put aside at any time, to be picked up and continued at a later date.

Some beginners choose oil without considering other media because of a reverence for the "genuine oil painting." When they take up painting as a hobby they want to produce "pictures that show the actual brush strokes."

Many other amateurs, who would like to work in several media but feel that their time is too limited, select oil after checking with teachers or schools or experimenting on their own. Even a person who is more interested in another medium may find, as I have, that by using oils he can more easily study color subtleties and can acquire basic knowledge that will later be applied to the medium he prefers. The old adage, "One medium helps another," is especially true if the first one is oil.

As you progress you will soon discover that there is more to oil painting than the surface quality of the brushwork. The type of surface you work on, the preliminary staining of the surface, and the under painting all affect the finished result.

However, in your initial efforts you will want to work in a direct manner, particularly when painting outdoors. Later you can experiment in the studio with various types of under painting.

If you are just beginning to paint, you will do well to start with a reputable brand of student color. Most color manufacturers make a line of student colors along with their professional grades. These colors are appreciably less expensive and the selection is nearly as wide as in the professional line.

As you progress, you can replace the student brand with colors of professional quality, which have far greater covering quality, particularly in the Cadmiums and Blues. There are several good brands of colors available. My own choice is the Grumbacher line.

I recommend the following colors for basic use: Alizarin Crimson; Cadmium Yellow, Light; Cadmium Red, Light; French Ultramarine; Ivory Black; Light Red; Thalo Green; Yellow Ochre; Zinc or Titanium White.

These nine colors will enable you to mix the various shades of other colors that you will need for most purposes.

However, you may want to supplement these colors with: Cadmium Yellow, Deep; Cadmium Orange; Cerulean Blue; Burnt Sienna; Viridian; Cobalt Blue; Thalo Blue; Raw Umber.

Once you get your paints in order, you're going to need something to paint on. The best and most receptive surface on which to work is stretched linen canvas. Linen, however, is relatively expensive, and cotton canvas is a good substitute.

The cotton canvas panels that fit in your paint box are the most convenient for painting outdoors and are inexpensive. They are light in weight, too, and have the added advantage of not taking up much space when stored in your studio. These first few tools are essential components of oil painting. Once you get these, you'll be on your way to creating your masterpiece.
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