The Lazy Painter's Pictorial Guide to Oil Painting
by Allie Davidson
I am super lazy when it comes to painting. I don't want to agonize over things that prevent from getting right to my happy place, which is sitting in my studio, listening to music and painting.
Oil painting is wicked easy. I was intimidated until I read Carol Williams' Color Formulas and Techniques for the Model Horse Artist. That book changed my life. Whereas before I was frustrated and unhappy with what I was producing, now I wanted to sing when It applied oil paint to my models.
There are, of course, as many painting techniques as there are painters. Some of my tips come from other people, but most of these are things I've figured out on my own to make it easier.
I use Spray Gesso. This stuff can be tricky. Really really super shake it and don't start spraying directly on the model. Let the stream flow for a few second them sweep it over your horse. This provides a nice chalky basecoat for any medium.
Base coating, part two
The preferred method is a nicely executed airbrushed base coat in the colors your model will be painted.
Before I had an airbrush I used cheap acrylics, mixed evenly with gesso and applied with sponges. The gesso gives the paint a more chalky base that oils loves. Makeup sponges (best way) are best for preventing brush strokes, but regular sponges work, too. Mix the colors until they are the consistency of buttermilk. Dip a damp sponge into your basecoat paint and sponge it on the model. The bumps will go down as it dries and will leave a very slight stippled texture. This technique is quick and I would suggest applying it over the spray gesso base.
You may need several coats. Let them dry in between, of course. You can also apply with a brush, but brushstrokes may be an issue.
Oils love lint. Keep your brushes covered. I use a plastic grocery produce bag. Also, I don't allow animals in my studio. If there is any animal hair, it will somehow find a way to stick to your oils.
Even with all these precautions I still find myself picking lint off my model with the tip of my carbide scraper.
Lint, part two.
I love these. Lint and fiber free. Regular paper towels are filled with paper fiber and will get in your oils.
Oils can be pricey. Dick Blick usually has sales that help keep the cost down.
For the first timer a simple list would be: Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, metallic gold, metallic copper, white, black and naples yellow. I also suggest Van Dyke brown to mix with any black mixture. Straight black can cause yellow hues to turn green. I never use straight black on my models. With these colors you can do chestnuts, bays and some buckskins and palominos.
Add a pea sized gloop of Liquin to your mixed color. It should have the consistency of stirred sour cream
A lot of oil painters paint white markings, eyes and hooves in acrylic after the oils have dried.
Paints, part two
I mix all my paint in these little pots with lids.
My problem is I'm lazy and easily distracted, so sitting down for four hours to apply an initial coat of oils isn't happening. I like to be able to paint an hour here, two hours there. Basically, I want to paint when I feel like it and not have to worry about my paint attracting lint or getting tacky.
I used to mix all my paint in aluminum cupcake tins but since finding these little pots with lids, I don't feel stressed about finding a long stretch of uninterrupted time to paint a model.
Also, the lids keep the lint out.
I keep talking about lint. Let me tell you, lint loves oil paint. You will be picking lint out of your paint unless you're lucky enough to work in a sanitized clean room.
Paints, part three
I use aluminum foil only for quick mixes for hooves, eyes, pink noses, etc... Otherwise, all my main body colors are mixed in the little pots.
These are the only two products I use. I clean my brushes with turpenoid. Liquin thins and acts as a drier for my oils. Since my oils are mixed in little pots with lids, they keep for a long long time. I'm still using paint I mixed four, five months ago. They have a 'skin' on them, but are totally fine underneath.
The added bonus is I have paint on hand for touch-ups and I don't have to figure out what it was I mixed and try to match. I have my little pot of paint and touchup done!
I use cheap brushes! Expensive brushes not necessary. I love the $1.99 brush bin at my local art store. I got these from Dick Blick, who also has brushes on sale.
The only expensive brushes I have are little 00 and 000 for eyes, dapples and hair detail.
Brushes, part two
The more smushed they are, the more I like them.
It's hard to explain, but with oils you're not really 'painting', it's more like your smushing. If you have your oils mixed right, there should be no paint lines.
You can see where the model is half painted in oil and the other half airbrushed. By matching the color the model will be as closely as you can, you will save yourself *weeks* of layering and drying time. Oils are very transparent and painting over a base that isn't close to the color is very frustrating.
It was Carol William and her technique and suggestions that finally made me, all those years ago, abandon the sponge method of applying a base and go with an airbrush. It makes painting in oils very easy.
I like the idea of straight away being able to layer on all my beautiful colors. Like I said, I'm lazy and don't want to spend weeks layering transparent colors on over and over and over. I'm all about straight to happy with the airbrushed basecoat.
This video shows my dry brushing technique. I am adding cobalt violet oils onto a dry base.
Violet? Yes! Cobalt violet mixed separately with the burnt umber and Van Dyke brown mix to add color depth and interest to the liver chestnut color.
My big, fluffy, smushed brushes are great for this. I use them with super feathery light sweeps.
I hope this encourages more people to try oils. They really aren't scary, I promise!