Oil Painting—Wholesome Relaxation
BECAUSE of the growing desire for relaxation from tension, millions of dollars are spent annually on entertainment. Often, however, the forms of relaxation or entertainment selected leave one exhausted and unsatisfied.
Oil painting, on the other hand, offers many persons a fine opportunity for wholesome relaxation, together with a fascinating challenge. It is a relatively inexpensive hobby.
Many have started to oil-paint when as young as eight or nine years of age, while some of the best artists and painters have attained success in later years. Recently, it was noted that some oil painters were past sixty years of age before achieving success. Some are still painting at eighty. There are even cases of paralytics who learn to oil-paint by holding the brush between their teeth or their toes. So oil painting is a form of relaxation that can be enjoyed by practically anyone, and one’s ability improves with practice.
Painting encourages the one who does it to increase his powers of observation and thus to appreciate to a fuller extent the plants, animal life and natural forms that surround us. Giving careful attention to the handiwork of the Creator also has a humbling effect. Landscapes and seascapes are excellent subjects for the oil painter. Many find enjoyment in painting animals and humans or, perhaps, in arranging still life such as fruit, flowers, pottery, or a combination of these things.
It can be fun if you do not make it hard work for yourself. It is not necessary always to paint things exactly as they appear to the natural eye as in a photograph. You can put on the canvas what your mind’s eye sees, arranging these natural forms in an artistic manner. This is especially so if your main goal is to convey a certain mood, in which case the colors used will usually be more important than the amount of detail included. What type of painting you do depends upon the results you want to achieve.
To start, it is necessary to have something on which to paint. Many of those who oil-paint use masonite or specially prepared artist board, which is a canvas-covered cardboard. Others use prepared artist cotton or linen canvas, this being stretched over a wooden frame. This specially prepared canvas is first coated with a water-base glue sizing, the purpose being to seal the cloth fibers so that the paint solutions cannot come in direct contact with the canvas. After this a primer coat of white lead paint is applied.
Still others, however, thinking of the expenses involved in buying specially prepared canvas, have prepared their own. This can be either cotton or linen of a coarse weave stretched over a wooden frame and then given a base coat of paint. If the cotton or linen is wet when it is stretched, it will shrink and become tighter when it dries. The paint used as a base coat can be ordinary water-base latex wall paint, which works very nicely as a base for the oil colors.
Oil paints come in small tubes in a wide variety of colors. However, if you are a beginner, you may want to experiment with just the basic or primary colors. Primary colors are blue, red and yellow. By using these, all the colors can be made simply by mixing; black and white can be added if you desire. Green is a mixture of blue and yellow; orange, a mixture of red and yellow; purple, a mixture of blue and red. The browns are a combination of the three primary colors. Many inexpensive color wheels or charts are available to help beginners to know which colors to mix to obtain other colors.
Remember that perspective or depth in the painting may be accentuated by colors. The warm colors are the reds and yellows, while the greens and blues are cool. Warm and dark colors appear to come forward and thus appear to be closer to the viewer, while the cool and light or dull colors tend to recede and seem farther away. Thus grass and trees and other objects in the foreground of a painting may be painted with warmer and darker colors, while the distant objects, such as mountain peaks, are painted with cooler, lighter, duller colors. All colors become grayer in the distance. To gray any color, you just add the complementary color, or the opposite one on the color wheel. This changes the intensity of the color without appreciably changing the hue. For example, add red to green, orange to blue, and so forth.
It should be realized that the appearance of colors on the canvas can be affected by the lighting in which they are viewed. Natural lighting is usually preferred when painting.
There is a wide variety of brushes that can be used for your oil painting. To start with, three or four different sizes should be sufficient. Oil brushes may be bristle or sable, the bristle being the hair taken from pigs or hogs, and the sable being hair from the tail of the red marten. Bristle brushes tend to be stiffer and produce a rougher finish, while sable brushes tend to have finer texture and create a smoother surface. The smaller sizes are used for details. Oil brushes come with long handles so that you can hold them well back from the brush head. What is important, though, is not the way you hold the brush but the result obtained, and this comes with practice. Palette knives are also frequently used to achieve certain effects, and a variety of these may be obtained.
Oil paint or pigment may be thinned by adding linseed oil or turpentine, or a mixture of the two. Each person, by experimenting, can decide which he likes best. Linseed oil retards the drying of the oil paint, while paint thinned with turpentine dries faster.
The paint is generally mixed on a palette and then applied to the canvas. Here again there are no definite rules. Some artists use a pane of glass for a palette and others mix the paint directly on the canvas. When you finish your painting for the day, instead of discarding unused paint on the palette, you can preserve it by keeping it under water. You will learn by trying, and that will be fascinating in itself.
When you start your drawing, look at the subject first in simple masses and do not worry about details. These main areas can be sketched on the canvas with a regular lead pencil, a charcoal pencil or a turpentine wash (turpentine with only a slight amount of light color added), to determine the proportions and arrangement desired.
Begin with the horizon line. This should be either above or below the center of the canvas. In planning a picture, informal balance is always more pleasing than formally spaced objects. Instead of placing the different elements of the composition in a systematic manner, it is far more attractive and interesting to place them so that they look natural and not mechanical. Instead of a straight road in the middle of the canvas, you will be pleasantly surprised at the result of putting a curve in the road and placing it perhaps to one side of the picture. Avoid having several parallel lines together. For instance, you might put the trees in an informal arrangement rather than having them in rows. It is good to have one central point of interest in each picture, but, then again, caution is needed not to put it right in the middle of the picture.
When planning the composition, always remember to place the different objects in perspective. Things that are closer to the viewer should be painted larger, while others that are farther away are proportionately smaller. Light colors can be placed against dark ones, warm against cool, small objects against large ones. This tends to make the picture more interesting and also gives the illusion of distance or perspective. After you have painted the background and main objects, then the smaller details can be added, working from back to front, the last things painted usually being those to appear closest to the viewer. Details such as small flowers or shadows from a fence post will lend realism to your picture.
At the same time, remember, it is better to do a simple picture well than a difficult one poorly, Many times there is power in simplicity. Do not try to paint everything into the picture. It is good to leave something to the imagination.
If you are the type of person that likes to paint a little at a time, have in mind that before resuming an uncompleted painting that has dried, it is helpful to go over the surface lightly with a rag dampened with linseed oil. The fresh paint adheres better to the dampened surface and does not chip or peel as easily as when applied directly over dry paint.
Painting as a Relaxation
View oil painting as relaxation and enjoy yourself. Remember, your first picture may not turn out just the way you would like it to, but you will improve with time. What famous musician sat down and played a harmonious piece of music before having studied notes and chords and melodies for many months or even years? So do not feel discouraged if your first paintings do not come out just the way you think they should. As you practice and enjoy yourself, you will find that you will improve.
Painting outdoors can add to your enjoyment. Of course, you must take into consideration the changing shadows as the sun moves, but let the sunshine and the enjoyment of painting be your greatest rewards.
You will find that there is great satisfaction in having painted something yourself.