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I am asked all of the time about the materials that I use to create my oil paintings. It has taken me many years to develop the way that I work so that it expresses what I am trying to say in my art. I do use a very traditional medium that has been around for hundreds of years. This says something about the quality of oil paints and how long that they can hold up. So, hopefully the works we are creating now will me around for generations to come.
This all comes down to the tools that you use and your process. So, I am going to give you 7 important tools that I use to create my body of work. Keep in mind there are millions of different ways to work in oils. So, please don't write me and tell me how I am all wrong, because you had a professor tell you something different. I am passing on my tips for any of you that are starting your journey down oil paint road.
1. Gamsol- This is 100% pure ordorless mineral spirits, made by Gamblin. This is not an inexpensive product to use, especially since I go through so much of it. But, it is essential to us a product that is as safe as possible for your health! This is a low odor product, and has as low of a toxicity as possible.
2. Medium- When working with oil paints it is important for me to use a painting medium for mixing. Everyone will have their preferences. If you are beginning I suggest trying a few different ones, and seeing what you like. Painting medium will help with the fluidity of your paint. It also helps drying times, and will change the finish of your paint to shiny or more matte.
I will list a few of my favorite mediums: Liquin- by Winsor & Newton, Utrecht also makes a similar painting medium. Gamblin has a nice alkyd medium as well. The finish on it gives a very shiny look and has a thicker consistency. (but make sure to get the lid back on in between uses. It will dry up and waist your product.)
Another option is that there are mediums you can make yourself. Play around with different oils, such as walnut, linseed, or sunflower. It is good to mix these with Damar varnish and some mineral spirits. This option tends to have a stronger odor. So, make sure to have good ventilation.
3. Varnish- I suggest varnishing your pieces when they are complete. It will help protect them longer. They also give a nice shiny finish to your pieces. I personally love how the color pops after this step is completed. My favorite choice is Utrecht Retouch Varnishes. Go for the spray one if you have a lot of smaller surfaces to cover. When doing large paintings I use the liquid you brush on.
4. Paint- Of course you need paint! So, here is my suggestion on paint. Try them all! I will list some of my favorite brands here. I always hunt around different websites for the best deals. Oil paint can be VERY expensive. I purchase the largest size tubes because I go through so much of it. This for me is the most economical choice. Try different colors in differenet brands. You will find what consistency of paint you like. I promise you will find YOUR colors that speak to you the most.
5. Brushes and palette knives- Brushes are a bit like paint. Try different shapes, sizes, and materials. I like to use water color brushes for fine detail. The key to your brushes is to change up the ones that you use. Try different mark making techniques, and be playful. You can also use the palette knives to spread large amounts of paint around.
Try to use palette knives to mix your paint. It will help keep your brushes clean for longer. Be sure to rinse them in your mineral spirits between colors and painting sessions. You don't want paint to dry in them.
6. Palette- I suggest making your own glass palette. Go to your local hardware store, or craft store and have them cut you a the size glass that you want. My palette is about a 24 x 36. I like to have a large surface to work on with out feeling confined. Next, you are going to get a piece of white foam core that is the same size. You can either purchase one that sticks on the back side, or use duct tape around the edge to hold the two together. This is better than any painting palette you can buy. You will be able to use this surface for years!
7. Canvas or panel- Here is my suggestion on surface. Quality. If you are learning to paint and you want to use cheaper surfaces, go ahead. But, if you are going to be making pieces that you want to sell some day, you need to use something that is nice and professional. The quality of your work represents you as an artist. So, please don't use surfaces that have staples on the edge, or are flimsy. Also, buy a thick enough profile that your surface doesn't warp and lose shape.
So, there you have it. These are my 7 essential tools to start oil painting! If you have another question you would like me to answer, please leave a comment, or find me on Instagram. I will do my best to lead you in the right direction!
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