Oil Techniques #2: Favorite Materials

Leah here from LeahDaviesArt.com, sharing some of my favorite materials for oil painting. If you missed it, check out my first post about my favorite oil brushes & mark making techniques. There are a lot materials that can go along with oil painting, and these are just some of my favorites, most of which I have accumulated over the 10+ years I have been painting in oils. If you're just starting out in oil painting - don't hesitate to purchase small sets or even cheapie sets just for practice. I have often found people either love or hate working in oils. 

This list of materials isn't intended to persuade you to go out and purchase all of it, or even the same brands. Simply, just some of the materials I have found to work for me. 

#1 The Paint

I use one brand, and that's M. Graham. I love this paint because it's creamy and mixes well. I find that when I'm blending colors, I usually end up with the intended color, which in my opinion, speaks to the purity of the paint's pigments. It's also made here in the U.S. and is non-toxic - the pigments are mixed with walnut oil. I use a limited palette of colors by choice. And I also don't use black from a tube - I mix it myself with equal parts Burnt Umber & Ultramarine Blue. This gives me a rich and complex black, and by simply changing the ratio, I can create a warm or cool black.

#2 The Mediums

Oils can certainly be used straight out of the tube. But there are many reasons to add mediums to them for different effects. Because in my work as a commissioned artist, I need my oil paintings to dry relatively quickly so I can meet my customer's deadlines. For this, I add M. Graham's Walnut Alkyd Medium, which speeds up the drying time. I often find my layers of paint are dry in 24 hours, which is a huge help, because I can then get to work on the next layer. I also paint with a mixture 1:1 of the Alkyd medium with Turpenoid Natural, which thins the paint for glazing effects. If for some reason I want the paint to dry slowly, I'll add Walnut Oil Medium. And finally, once I have finished a painting, and it has dried for a minimum of a week, I coat the entire painting surface with a varnish. I prefer to use matte or satin finish. 

#3 The Palette Knife

These little tools are super handy. Before the lightbulb went off in my little noggin, I used to mix the paints on my palette with my brushes. This is fine, however, there's often a lot of wasted paint when you do this. The palette knife makes quick, clean work of mixing paints, and if you're laying down a large area of paint, the tool can easily lay down a lot of paint. Also, if I were brave enough, it's possible to paint entire paintings with palette knives. 

#4 The Painting Surface

I don't like canvases. I find the texture distracting for my very fine and detailed work. I prefer working on cradled wood artist panels. When I was a poor little artist, I would buy unfinished cradled boards on the cheap, take them home, sand and gesso and sand and gesso and then sand and gesso some more myself. It was such a task. And, because the boards were cheap, they were usually uneven, not square and had many flaws which took even more of my time to deal with. Sometimes you just have to consider what your time's worth. I now purchase pre-gessoed panels made by Ampersand. Their Gessobord has a lovely & smooth surface with just enough tooth to grab and hold onto your paint. The sides are unfinished, so the only work I put into them is gessoing the sides.

#5 Brush Clean-up & Preservation

Taking care of your brushes, wether you bought low-cost or bank-breaking, is vital. Without proper care, you could be wasting money on your brushes, shortening their longevity. After each painting session I give my brushes a swish in Turpenoid Natural, remove the excess on a paper towel, and then I clean them with water and "The Master's" Brush Cleaner. I then use one of the most brilliant things I have ever discovered: Trekell's Brush Restorer. You know when you buy a new brush, and the tip is a bit stiff to hold it's point? This is that stuff. You gently dip the tip of your brush into the gel and then with your fingers, remove any excess, and twirl to shape the brush into a fine point. Then leave it out to dry. This will ensure that your brushes will last as long as possible, and will retain their shapes. 

I hope I have introduced you to new materials, or even giving you some inspiration or new ideas! Do you have any favorite materials that you use in your work?