Many people ask me how to get started in oil paints. I have written on this topic before as I was, like many, a bit scared of oil paints and its complexities at first. Turns out, oil painting is not as hard as it seems and it all comes down to just diving in. So what do you need?
Oh, I forgot Kitchen Towelling! Don’t you always forget something when you go shopping?
I use kitchen roll (kitchen towelling) to wipe my brushes on. I don’t clean my brushes during a painting session with brush cleaner, but wipe them on kitchen roll. I go through quite a lot of kitchen roll!
You can buy brush cleaner (toxic ones, low odour but still toxic ones, or non-toxic ones like Zest-it) if you really want a clean brush but you run the risk of using it like water in watercolour painting; you keep on swishing in toxic liquids and applying a lot of cleaner onto your painting. I prefer to just wipe my brush clean and since I don’t often need perfectly straight and clean colours (I am no cartoonist) I don’t mind a bit of colour contamination. You can also use a different brush for darks and lights to avoid seriously muddy colours.
Don’t just choose colours that take your fancy but think about what you want to paint. I love the sight of jewel-like rich colours in the art shop but I paint fairly monochrome and calm paintings so I have no use for azure blue really, no matter how yummy it looks.
With the primary colours you can mix pretty much anything you like and it gives you excellent practice in mixing.
Don’t buy too many brushes, but buy a couple of different types and sizes. That way you can find out what you like before spending too much money.
There is so much choice in supports! Buy a ready-made, ready primed (universally or acrylic primed) canvas that is ready for painting.
You don’t really need linseed oil. But it is handy to make your paint a bit thinner if you find it too stiff to move around. Only use a TINY amount in your paint. Tiny! You don’t want to be painting with oil but with paint.
You can almost use anything for a palette but think about whether you fancy cleaning it when you are done or whether you prefer to just throw it away. If your painting session is fairly short, anything will do but don’t use cardboard for longer sessions as it will soak up the oil in the paint, leaving you with very stiff paint. Wooden palettes will need cleaning, disposable palettes can be thrown away.
You need to figure out what you want to paint! Portraits, still lives, landscapes - go for it.
If you have any questions, do let me know in the comments below. This is a really basic list for absolute beginners in oil painting. Once you get the hang of it you can extend your materials with more brushes, try out different supports and colours, perhaps even dip into a medium. But what you only really need is the stuff mentioned above and then just the guts to put brush to canvas!
More blog posts in the series Busting the Myths of Oil Painting:
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