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Oil painting

Technique

Traditional oil painting techniques often begin with the artist sketching the subject onto the canvas with charcoal or thinned paint. Oil paint is usually mixed with linseed oil, artist grade mineral spirits, or other solvents to make the paint thinner, faster or slower-drying. (Because the solvents thin the oil in the paint, they can also be used to clean paint brushes.) A basic rule of oil paint application is ‘fat over lean’, meaning that each additional layer of paint should contain more oil than the layer below to allow proper drying. If each additional layer contains less oil, the final painting will crack and peel. The consistency on the canvas depend on the layering of the oil paint. This rule does not ensure permanence; it is the quality and type of oil that leads to a strong and stable paint film.

mixing-paint-colors-palette
mixing-paint-colors-palette

Media

There are other media that can be used with the oil, including cold wax, resins, and varnishes. These additional media can aid the painter in adjusting the translucency of the paint. They can also alter the sheen of the paint, the density or ‘body’ of the paint. Also, and the ability of the paint to hold or conceal the brushstroke. These aspects of the paint are closely related to the expressive capacity of oil paint.

Application

Traditionally, paint was most often transferred to the painting surface using paintbrushes. However, there are other methods, including using palette knives and rags. Palette knives can scrape off any paint from a canvas and can also be used for application. Oil paint remains wet longer than many other types of artists’ materials. This enables the artist to change the colour, texture or form of the figure. At times, the painter might even remove an entire layer of paint and begin anew. This can be done with a rag and some turpentine for a time while the paint is wet. However after a while the hardened layer must be scraped off.

Drying

Oil paint dries by oxidation, not evaporation, and is usually dry to the touch within a span of two weeks. But some colours dry within days.

Oil paintings and mediums I use

Liquin is the brand name of a type of alkyd resin sold by Winsor and Newton. I use this as an oil painting medium. Compared to linseed oil, it’s “stickier”, dries faster, and remains more flexible with age. You can read more about the chemistry of alkyd resins here.  Alkyd resins perform like linseed oil—they dry by reacting with oxygen to create a hard film—but have a different molecular structure which renders them tougher and more flexible than oil when dry.

For most artists, the biggest benefit of adding Liquin to your oil paint is that it makes it dry faster. That enables you to work in layers more easily since you should, ideally, wait for each layer to dry before painting on top of it. In my experience, it also means most paintings will be dry enough to ship out of the studio door within a few weeks.

The other main benefit is that it only modifies the paint viscosity by a small amount: it keeps the paint thicker and stickier than linseed oil will.

However Liquin is not a particularly pleasant smell and you need to have ventilation while using it.

Also you’re introducing another source of petroleum distillate fumes into your studio in a time when oil painters are trying to find ways to minimize their exposure to toxic products.

I am are serious about reducing fumes in my studio, so I am going to try out Gamblin’s solvent-free Oil / Alkyd Painting Medium.

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