Starting an Oil Painting Adventure!

I’ve been painting using watercolor as my primary medium since the late 1980’s.  Lately I’ve had this deep desire to try oil painting.  Now I’ve painted a few oil paintings over the years but I’ve not done enough of them to become a true proficient.  What’s more the oil painting process is very different from how one might approach a watercolor and so I began poking around on Instagram and found a few people whose work in oils I find immensely inspiring – Mark Boedges, Devin Michael Roberts and T. Allen Lawson (and more).  I have been following these painters and observing their work.  I’m a visual person and so I  learn a great deal just by seeing their work and sometimes they share short videos and I might watch them a few times.  And with that the seed was planted and all I needed to do was start.

I’d received a sample set of oil paints from Williamsburg Oils a while ago and they have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for me.  I’m not sure why the I have been delayed in opening the tubes but I can only surmise that I was a little afraid.  But the desire to try oils began to grow and then became so strong that one day in mid November I began.  I squeezed out a little paint – not too much so as not to be wasteful – and began to paint.

I’d decided to start with an autumn scene because it is a subject I have found difficult to paint using watercolor. I was ready and excited… and so it began.  I can say that I don’t know for sure how to approach oil painting but I’ve watched a few videos and it seems that some people start with a tinted canvas and some don’t.  I decided to start this painting with a tinted canvas and I used the Raw Sienna that came in my Williamsburg set.  I would say next time I will use Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber or Ultramarine Blue depending upon the subject I will be painting.  So already I’ve learned just a little and that makes me very happy.  The canvas I used is a 5 x 7 Gessobord by Ampersand.  It is a small format and smooth.  I’ve used canvases in the past and am not sure about the texture that the canvas creates and so this time I wanted a smooth service where I could control more of the texture.

And after I gave the canvas a quick tint with raw sienna I began to paint.  Alla Prima (wet on wet) I began until I needed to stop and let the whole thing dry.  At first it was difficult, different and then once I settled into the feel of the paint, the blending and buttery, creamy texture I began to feel just plain joyful!  I relaxed into the process and began to allow myself this time of exploration for the pure joy of it.  It was so freeing in comparison to my watercolor experience.  I still enjoy watercolor in all it’s unpredictability but these oils…. I fell in love immediately.

Here is my very beginning – the alla prima phase – and here I just laid in my general color scheme not really paying attention to the details but just trying to establish the value pattern (my pattern of darks and lights).  It was a start and I was hooked and I would work on this little painting on and off for about a month.  Not everyday because sometimes I would need to let the paint dry a bit but I worked on it regularly and finally it was finished.

So now I am getting read to start another but before that I need to finish some canvases I started long ago that remain unfinished and I will bring with me what I learned so far.

My pastor said in a recent sermon that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master… and so my journey has begun… the journey toward mastery.  Now mastery doesn’t mean every painting will be a masterpiece but mastery means I will gain knowledge, proficiency and ability.  I am ready for the journey.



“Peak” Oil on Primed Board