Overcoming My Fear of Oil Painting

trying oil painting for the first time

So Oil Painting Seems Stressful

So I’ve tried a ton of different art mediums. I’ve used acrylics, watercolors, clay, chalks, pastels, colored pencils, charcoal… the list goes on. But there is one medium I had been super intimidated to try, and that’s oil paint. Oil painting has definitely not been my jam.

Why? First off, I didn’t want to mess with turpentine. Stinky hazardous stuff that can make you sick and catch on fire? No thanks. I heard about using linseed oil to thin out instead, but I was still irrationally scared to try that either. Secondly, oil paintings take forever to actually dry. Oil paints dry via oxidization, not evaporation like water-based mediums. I don’t like to have to wait forever for layers of paint to dry when I’m in the art groove. I’m talking months of drying time here. I want to use that creativity to get a lot done on a piece when I’m inspired. Thirdly, I was super stressed about how to dispose of my paint waste if I had to use turpentine or linseed oil.  I didn’t know what the heck I was supposed to do with it to keep things environmentally safe.

Taking the Plunge

The very first paint layer of my very first oil painting

Then one day I was binge watching the show “Friends” on Netflix and I got a weird desire to paint an oil painting. I couldn’t tell you why after years of avoiding oil painting that watching a million episodes of “Friends” made me brave enough to try it, but hey, I’ll take creativity whenever it comes *laughs*. I printed a picture of a sunset on a mountain range I took while I was in Laughlin, Nevada and yanked out my easel and canvas;*robot voice*— Challenge initiated.

My husband had gifted me with some water-soluble oil paints a while back so I could just use water to thin them. He’s the best. I found some brushes I had put aside when I became brave enough to try oils and got to work. Now, my water-soluble oils were a pain in the butt to thin with water (I’m assuming because they had become ancient from sitting in storage for years), but I eventually got them creamy and got a base layer down.

The Results

What I noticed while using them was how easy it was to blend. I work in acrylics quite often and they dry very rapidly unless you add mediums to slow the process. Because oils stay wet, you have more time to play around and adjust things. It was a nice change.

Then… I sat it in a corner and I and haven’t touched it since. *laughs* The first layer has been dry to the touch for a few weeks now so I plan to get back on it soon. So in the end, my initial terrifying dabble in oil painting didn’t end terribly, I didn’t die, the world didn’t explode, and I felt proud that I had finally tried to learn this medium that I have no experience with. Like Jon Snow, I still know nothing. However, I’ve taken the plunge, and that was the hardest part.

Do any art mediums intimidate you?

Comments (6)

That beginning of your painting looks great, don’t be scared you are an amazing artist!

Thanks Greg. You’re the best 😀

So you have tried the water mixable oils,do you like them and do you use water only to thin.
I have a friend who paints this way and her art is beautiful.I’m thinking about taking a “plunge”
myself and see what the outcome is.Love that mountain scene with a glowing lake look.

I did like them! The tubes were a bit old though (I had them for over a year) so they didn’t thin out with water quite as easily as I think they were supposed to. haha However, the blending was very nice. Yes, I only used water. However, it’s my understanding that you can still use traditional oil thinning mediums with them as well (like linseed oil). Because the paints were water-soluble, the cleanup was easy, too.

How exciting you’re going to give it a go! If you complete some paintings with them I’d love to see. I still haven’t finished my mountain scene so maybe I’ll get back on it as well. 🙂

I stumbled onto your blog about oil painting. I have the same feelings about oil painting. I’m about to take the plunge and start an online painting course. Trying to get out of my head so to speak. Thank you for putting yourself out there.

Hey Gavin– You know, I never did finish this first oil painting attempt. Can you believe I let another couple years go by before trying oils again?! I just wasn’t confident, but about a month ago I pulled some oils out again (nice new creamy ones- not those old dried ones I initially tried) and just made myself dive in. I told myself that the end result didn’t matter- it was just practice after all, right?

I ended up getting into it and painting a surprisingly successful practice portrait of my sister! It was definitely a challenge to get used to some of the technical challenges of oils, but now I really love them and am excited to explore them more. Getting out of your head about oils is definitely the hardest part, but once you take the plunge, they can be an incredibly fun medium. Awesome about your painting course- I’m sure it will turn out wonderfully! Best of luck to you!

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