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Getting A Feel For Oil Paint

Aug 17, 2007
Finding the right brushes and becoming familiar with the texture and nuances of oil paint is critical to successfully using this medium.

As far as brushes go, you can use hoghair oil-color brushes with this medium - two or three round-shaped ones, sizes 3, 6, and 8, and two or three flat-shaped, with one large one, size 12. These can be the usual long-handled type of brushes. They should be kept carefully and washed well with first turpentine and then soap and water after use (see Figure 14). They should be kept in a long round tin if you can find one.

You could do with a strong ex-army knapsack to hold your tin of paints and your tin of brushes, your bottles, large and small, of turpentine, and plenty of soft rag. You will also need a tin dipper, a fairly good big one with a turned-over clip at the base to clip on to your palette.

The chief point to remember is that now you are not dealing with a water medium which runs downhill and takes time to dry - you have the knowledge that almost as soon as your brush touches the paper, your paint will "stay put," you have no need to guide washes of color to the right place, and no need to wait for drying because the color dries almost at once. But it is not wise to put one wash over another as in watercolor - you have to get the full force of your color straightaway.

The mixing of colors is just about the same as with watercolors. The difference in use is the important thing. You do not mix up a lot of color, you dip your brush slightly into the turpentine in the "dipper" fixed to your palette, find the tint on your palette, and then take only the minimum of paint. Then, with very little of the required color on your brush point, you dip it well into the turpentine and rapidly apply it to paper. You aim at a full tonal effect from the start, for your colors will be fuller and stronger than in watercolor paint.

One of the things to remember is that as you are using a more expensive medium than water to dilute your colors, you must keep the amount of turpentine in your "dipper" as clean as possible by liberal and constant use of your rags. Should your "turps" become really dirty, however, do not hesitate to pour it away and put out some more.

Your technique should be one of directness, rigorous selection, emphasis, and simplicity, are essential for using this medium, for once a brush stroke is on the gleaming white paper, it is there finally: no subsequent overlaying with other tints is going to help - in fact, this will spoil the result at once. It spoils the effect if any preliminary drawing in pencil is made on the paper; therefore it is as well to take your smallest round brush and dip it slightly in your cobalt or ultramarine blue and, with a good jab into the turpentine, start off to draw your subject in a blue outline.

Or if you consider blue is too definite a color for your drawing you can use a mixture of madder and viridian green. This, mixed with plenty of turps, will give a nice soft warm gray tint, that will make a pleasant start to your work.
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