When I first started painting, well, after my folk art only phase, I decided that if I was to learn I would tackle what I considered the most difficult medium and subject there was, an oil painting portrait. Now, looking back I’m not so sure that this is the hardest thing to do, in fact I think the word ‘hard’ or difficult should be replaced with ‘challenge’.
‘Ivy’ was my first oil painting and I blogged about her almost two years ago now when I discovered her buried in amongst some old paintings. My Mum has been an oil painter and at some stage she passed on to me all her brushes, case, easel and paints. I still have most of that and it formed the base for my current studio. The oil painting bug has always been there but I’ve been waiting until my girls are old enough to know not to touch or even come into the studio if its a bit strong smelling from paint etc…
When I went to art school I don’t think anyone ever taught me properly how to use oil paints. There were a few small lessons on palettes and mediums and the like but no proper lessons on building up layers, fat over lean, using drying mediums etc…It was all a whole lot of ‘now go to your studio’s and paint’, sort of thing. So, I did. I did not know how to handle the medium despite using it for years and it shows strongly in all my work from that time period.
This time however I felt like I really needed to self-educate and get to know as much as I can about oil painting. I watched a lot of you tube clips on things like setting up a palette, choosing colours, what each sort of colour actually does, warm and cool colours (and whether that concept exists or not), mediums, how to use them, which ones not to bother with, canvas surface preparation revision, basics, rules etc etc……until it got to the point where I just needed to set up and go for it!
I ordered a few things online, linseed oil, odorless solvent and liquin and then waited. Finally they arrived and I immediately felt that I could start.
Once I had chosen an image (because, despite being told the opposite at art school, its OK to use photos to paint from!) I set to doing the first thing I had learnt from watching all those clips, drawing an accurate under-sketch. In fact, I have decided to have more than one painting on the go at one time so that I can have some momentum (you have to leave paintings to dry for around 2 days when using liquin before they are ready for the next layer). I therefore did up two under-sketches, one of a person and one of a bike:
Next I laid out my palette and started with under-painting. I have been watching old TV shows on you tube (Flying Drs, A Country Practice etc) for fun while painting!
The portrait I’m doing has had about two or three layers so far but the bike has had only one. I’m not going to show the whole portrait for now but here are two similar shots, the first is layer two and the second is layer three:
I am figuring that each painting will have hours and hours of work until I get to the end. So far I’ve spent around 10 hours on the portrait and about 3 on the bike. I’m loving this so far and I’m finding that its all flowing naturally. Once I freed myself from the ‘rules’ that were told to me by various instructors and set down what I consider the best rules, I have found it much easier! Having a deeper knowledge of the medium has been vital too.
I am hoping that one day I will be confident enough to put these into an exhibition or competition! I am yet to work out why the Lord has given me the ability to see things artistically, one day I might find out! I hope so.