Unlike watercolorists, oil painters require a few extras in their tabouret.
It’s possible to paint without too many other accessories, but additional items expand your repertoire of techniques and adds enjoyment and diversity to your painting experience.
Adding Accessories To Your Studio
Oil Painting can be a costly proposition. The paints aren’t cheap, and canvas or other supports can really put a hole in one’s budget. When you begin your painting adventure, don’t be too intent on buying every tool and gizmo you find advertised in your favorite magazine or website. Those four-color graphics with reviews from satisfied customers may sound and look appealing, but the truth is that you don’t need the vast majority of these items. The more you spend on shiny baubles, the less you have to restock your paint and support supplies.
Consider the great masters of Renaissance art. They painted by natural daylight or candle light in poorly heated or cooled studios. They had primitive tools and working conditions, and they owned no mass-produced products or conveniences. They didn’t even have a roll of paper towels.
Compose a wish list of things you’d enjoy trying or using. Make sure everyone you know has a copy. Use the ‘starving artist’ trump card for holiday and birthday gift ideas for your friends and families. Remind them that a gift card to your favorite art supply source makes a perfect present any time of the year.
Supports For Your Support
We’ve all been impressed with pictures of the massive, professional easels that dominate the studios of great and near-great artists. These massive structures certainly are impressive, but unless you’re doing mammoth panels of immense size and weight, you don’t need to invest in one.
However, you do need an easel that will support the size and weight of the canvas or panels you use. You can purchase a wooden or aluminum easel for under $20.00. These are fine for starters and are useful for en plein air painting. However, if you continue on this adventure, and it looks like this just might be your artistic niche, consider purchasing an easel that’s a little more heavy duty and stable.
Take into account your workspace and the wanted and unwanted guests with whom you may have to share the space. If you have toddlers or pets, a simple tripod easel may not be a wise choice. It doesn’t take much to knock over the lightweight, three-legged device, and your next great work of art is likely to land face down on the floor. This is especially liable to happen if you have exuberant two or four-legged creatures stopping in for a visit.
If you have a dedicated room or space in which you can leave your easel sitting in place, you have many options of sizes and prices. Look for sturdy construction and features you will use. If you are relegated to putting all your things away between painting sessions, make sure that your easel is compact for storage.
There are also great table model easels if sitting while painting is an option you prefer or require. There is a wide variety of styles available with choices that will accommodate fairly large canvases.
Aside from Brushes, there’s a variety of tools and accessories that you may consider. Some are useful and make your painting life easier. Others trinkets are more for the uninitiated and wind up languishing in the back of a drawer.
A mahlstick is a useful tool for any artist who does detail work while their painting is still wet. Yes, you can use a stick from the nearest tree, but these practical devices cost less than $15.00, won’t flake off bark residue and come in very handy in a lot of situations.
Palette Knives are used for both blending paints and for painting. There are two distinct types of tools and each style is made to work best for their intended function. If you want to try palette knife painting, buy a few sizes of painting knives. They are inexpensive and give you better results than painting with your blending knife.
You’ll certainly find lots of cool add-ons you think may help you paint faster, better or easier. Before you make impulse purchases, consider if there’s something that will work just as well lurking in a kitchen cabinet or on the garage workbench.
Palettes are a very personal thing. Some folks like to use the traditional oval wooden board with a thumbhole. However, if you suffer from arthritis, this may be a very bad choice.
A white butcher tray is a popular option, as it has a wide lip and the clean white color shows the true color of the paint.
For those folks who want easy clean up or paint in a class and need to carry portable supplies, wax-treated paper palette pads are a great convenience. Styrofoam meat trays are handy alternatives.
There are loads of options in any art supply catalog or website, and you may find suitable palettes lurking in your kitchen cupboards.
Most artists use a solvent and an oil medium to modify their paints. Of course, it’s possible to paint without any additives and merely use a solvent to clean your brushes. However, as you advance in your studies, you’ll find both products useful to develop more advanced techniques. There are dozens of products available, but you’ll only need a few. Talk with other artists, your instructor and read about the characteristics of the different products before investing in new additives.
Oil Paint Solvents
Turpentine is a derivative of tree resin and has been used for centuries. However, it has noxious vapors and absorbs into the skin. Make sure you have good ventilation and minimize physical contact with this potentially harmful product.
Hardware store varieties of turpentine are less pure than artists’ grade solvent. The impurities in household turpentine could have long-range effects on your painting, so spend the few extra dollars and only use artist grade turpentine. Those of you who are on a very tight budget can use hardware store turpentine to clean brushes if you promise never to use it for painting. Alternative names for turpentine include rectified turpentine, distilled turpentine and spirit of turpentine. It is also sold under manufacturers’ branded trade names.
If you are sensitive to turpentine, mineral spirits is a petroleum-based alternative that is less costly. Its fumes are also noxious and harmful if inhaled. Odorless mineral spirits have less strength, are more costly and have a less intense odor. Several popular brands include Turpenoid, Gamsol and Thin-ex.
Oil Paint Mediums
There are mediums that speed drying or slow down the drying process. Some are opaque in nature while others are translucent. You can also alter the finish of your painting with mediums that are matte, satin or high gloss. Learn how these products work before adding them to your paint box.
Flax plant seeds are the source of linseed oil. It’s popular, as it dries in three to five days. However, this light yellow oil tends to darken with age, so it should be used in the primary stages of your painting. The cold-pressed version of this oil dries more quickly than refined linseed oil.
Stand oil is a slow-drying, thickened linseed oil. It dries to the touch in about a week, but it can take months to dry completely. Since it does not darken like regular linseed oil, you can mix it with a solvent to produce a final glaze or use it with white or pale colors.
Poppyseed oil ages well, as it does not darken. Use it in your uppermost glazes with white and pale hues. However, it dries slowly, so don’t plan to use it in the beginning stages of your work. It works well with wet in wet technique.
Walnut oil has a thin consistency that dries in four to five days. It also does not darken, but it does have some drawbacks. It is a more costly medium and can become rancid if not stored properly.
Safflower and sunflower oils are occasionally used, but are not normally part of the average artist’s tabouret.
If you are looking for a quick drying time in the beginning stage of your painting, consider boiled oil. This type of medium is generally modified to speed its drying time, but it does darken or yellow over time.
Drying Times and Color Changes
It’s not really the fun part of being an artist, but there’s physical attributes of the products you use that you should learn and consider as you go about your painting. Everything you add to your paint has the potential to alter it.
Understanding what the products do minimize your chances of creating a beautiful painting that slowly deteriorates from ill-conceived combinations of paint materials.
Yellowing is a problem that merely requires substituting the type of oil you are using to one less prone to darken. Cracking is a situation that occurs when the lower layers of paint dry more slowly than the top layers of paint. Choosing oils with the proper drying time and adhering to the fat over lean rule eliminates these potential disasters. Paintings take up to six months to dry completely. You won’t appreciate just how important this all is for half of a year, but understanding and applying the rules that surround oil paint application is very important.
Around The Studio
You can set up a painting area pretty much anywhere, if you’re willing to make concessions like tearing it down so the cook can prepare dinner, or if the kids want to play video games in the family room. However, if you can find a space you can dedicate to your craft, you’ll be more likely to spend time painting rather than grousing that it’s too much work to set everything up.
If you keep your set-up compact, it doesn’t take up that much room. A tabouret with wheels can hold all your supplies and is easy to push into a corner for storage. A bookcase can hold bins and tubs of supplies and spare supports can slide under a bed.
If you can commandeer a closet with sliding doors, consider removing the doors and convert the space to a studio and supply closet combination area. Your tabouret and collapsible easel can fit within the closet space to pull out when you’re ready to paint. A curtain that opens and closes completely hides the area when not in use and is easy to move out of the way while you are in residence in your ‘studio.’
Start out with a minimalist attitude toward your studio. The painting is your main focus for the moment. All the niceties and conveniences will come as you see what really will help you with your work, and experience will show what is useful and what is a waste of time and money.
Taking It On The Road
Unlike your watercolor counterpart, painting en plein air with oils is a little more challenging. You can load everything up in a backpack or satchel, but when the working day is done, you’ve got an oily, wet and cumbersome canvas that needs to be treated with kid gloves to maneuver back to safety. Use that minimalist attitude and take as little as possible for your outing. Use small supports and perhaps a drybrush technique in your work.
Conversely, you may just want to do sketches and snap photos to use back in your studio. Some painters switch paints for plein air sessions, and choose acrylics or watercolors for portability and convenience.
Oils, turps and drying times are one of the least romantic of all the facets in an oil painter’s craft. However, it is certainly one of the most important components in producing successful artwork.
Once you’ve mastered the chemistry of painting, committing it to thoughtless effort, you’ll be free to concentrate on the best parts of your craft. Go forth and create. To put it another way, go fling some paint.
FREE Online Art Paint Course
There are 27 Chapters in this Free Online Painting Course:
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Watercolor – Where to Start
Watercolor Paint Brands
Watercolor Paint Brushes
Watercolor Basic Painting Techniques
Advanced Watercolor Painting Techniques
Watercolor Painting Accessories
Watercolor Painting Tips and Tricks
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