There are many things about oil painting that often confuse and intimidate beginners. Many questions arise and hopefully I will try to cover some of the most frequently asked questions that beginners usually have.
What is "Fat Over Lean?"
Fat over lean is one of the most fundamental approaches to oil painting and when followed will reduce the risk of your paint cracking as it dries. An oil paint is "Fat" when it comes right from the tube. If you wanted to make it fatter, you would add more oil. To make your paint "Lean" your mixture would contain more of a thinner like white spirits. It's a good idea to begin your painting with a "Lean" mixture like a wash and then add the ‘Fat’ layers. Some artists use this but others don't. Some like to use it simply as a way to cover the 'intimidating ' white canvas.
Should I Varnish My Finished Painting?
In order to protect your painting from dust, smoke, and other pollutants, you should varnish your painting. If not, these pollutants will accumulate on your painting and eventually darken or yellow the surface. When you apply a varnish, you are creating a layer that will protect your painting underneath. The layer of varnish can be cleaned periodically and eventually removed. A fresh layer of varnish can then be re-applied. Sometimes you may have to wait several months to varnish, depending on how thick your paint was applied, before varnishing. Varnishing a painting can be tricky especially if you have no experience but well worth doing as it really enhances your painting .
Can I save my oil paint I do not use for a later time?
There are apparently ways to keep oil paint fresh until you are ready to use them again. Some artists actually put plastic wrap over the paint and freeze it. You can also try and put your unused paint onto a piece of glass and then keep it submerged in water. I would recommend the first one solely on the basis that I have never tried the submerged glass.
What kind of support should I use with my oil paint?
There are a variety of different surfaces that oil paint can be applied to. Stretched cotton canvas is one of the most popular supports used by oil painters today. Linen canvas is also used but tends to be fairly expensive. Other supports that can be used with oil paints are oil boards and even certain types of wood panel.
What kind of paint should a beginner purchase?
There are a few different grades of oil paint on the market today. You have "Artist Quality", "Student Quality", and "Economical" grades. Stay away from the economical paints as these have more fillers in them than actual pigment and do not cover very well. There are some very descent student quality paints on the market, which work well if you are just starting out and for experimentation. Once you get your hands on artist quality paint however, you may never buy anything else.
There are some very popular brands to consider as a staring point. Winsor & Newton and are the most popular choices amongst artists.
What kind of brushes should a beginner use?
Brushes tend to come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and brands. Every artist is different and will have different preferences when it comes to brushes. Ideally, you should have a variety of different shapes and sizes on hand to start with. Over time, you will develop a preference for certain types of brushes. Never buy cheap brushes, as they will shed their hairs and fall apart a lot quicker than a good quality brush. There is a good introductory set of 10 brushes available at Art Upstairs in Sligo for €6.50. You should also buy a set of coarser ‘hog hair’ brushes for more textured work as well a rigger and fan brush.
How do I come up with ideas for my paintings?
Don't get too upset if you aren't able to come up with an idea for your next painting. There are a number of ways you can find inspiration and ideas. Sometimes your mind might just need a break. Take a walk outside or a drive and just observe nature as well as land seas and skys. Take a trip to an art gallery or look at a catalogue observing other artwork. Look around your home for everyday objects and create a still life. Look to yourself for ideas. Do you have a preference for any particular subject? Do you love wildlife and nature? Maybe you are a music or animal lover? When I myself want to go to search for ideas for painting, I do all of the above. I will sometimes head off to Streedagh or Mullaghmore, The Gleniff Horseshoe and numerous Sligo beauty spots preferably in evening light then on getting back to my workshop ' will look at each photograph and just take it from there.