How to Start Oil Painting

1. Know What Kind of Things You Want to Paint

English: (Painter) Carla Jones at her Art Studio in Quito, Ecuador

I’ve said this before in my post about becoming an artist if you haven’t even so much as drawn a stick figure. You will be more excited, more passionate, and have a much easier time if you like the thing you’re learning to paint. When you’re struggling somewhere along the way, you’ll be more motivated to learn how to get over that hurdle.

Now, it’s okay to change your mind every so often, especially if you’re just starting out, but as you keep getting better at art, and maybe even want to start it up as a business, you may find that it’s much better if you stick to one kind of thing. Your skills won’t be spread out across so many subjects, and potential clients generally like consistency.

2. Have the Right Kind of Materials

There are hobby grade and student grade paints and canvases, but, unless they’ve gotten much higher quality since I’ve written this, I strongly advise AGAINST using them. It’s better the invest in professional paints and canvases because they last much longer, are more smooth as you’re painting on the canvas, and you don’t have to use as much of it.

I mean it. When you use the cheap materials, you have to use a lot. Higher grade oil paints are actually much cheaper in the long run because you don’t have to use as much to get the results you want.

As for brands. I highly recommend Golden Colors or Gamblin. Gamblin especially is a highish mid-range brand and produce very good materials. Not only that but they are dedicated to conservation. They do a lot of good work with art conservators.

These Gamblin oil paints are less than $8.00 per tube.

This Gamsol paint thinner is oderless, nontoxic, and lasts a long time. You can pour it in a glass jar, wait, and the paint separates, then you pour it another jar and it’s clean again! I bought a gallon of this about a year ago, and I still have the half the bottle left. And I’ve been painting nearly every day too!

Lastly, you’ll want to get picture varnish. It preserves your painting, makes your colors more brilliant somehow (I don’t remember the science, it just does!), the colors become richer, the painting is shiner, and, no matter what your skill level, brings your up at to that classy-museum level brilliance. Don’t get attached to it though. If art restorers think your art is worth preserving decades down the line, they’ll probably remove it from your painting.

3. Learn Shadows

The best oil paintings, in my opinion, and human natures’ opinion, are those with an excellent use of contrast.

With the exception of Impressionism, but we’ll cover that here in a second.

This especially true today. On Instagram, the entirety of your art isn’t the first thing that get’s noticed. It’s the tiny thumbnail. So if the thumbnail doesn’t pop out, then not as many people are going to want to view it.

4. Have Some Understanding of Color Theory

The Impressionists, commonly mistaken for having been the first to really discover theory, used color to create beautiful paintings such as these.

This is especially important. If you don’t study a little color theory beforehand, you will probably find (if you haven’t already) that if you mix the wrong oil colors, they will look muddy, gray, and ugly. For now, you don’t want to do that. Maybe you’ll do it on purpose later on, but if you’re just starting out, please, for the love of God, go on YouTube, and watch a five minute video on color theory.

This goes beyond just learning the primary and secondary colors, I’m talking about hue, saturation, warm colors, cool colors, why some colors work together and some don’t.

In fact, this YouTube video actually helped my art exponentially. It’s 20 minutes long, and worth every minute (I actually need to watch it again):

5. Practice Every Day

The most important thing is to practice every day. Even just 20 minutes every day. 20 Minutes per day is 140 minutes a week which is 2 1/2 hours which means you can have a nice painting done in one week. A couple months later, you can have an entire portfolio to present to art galleries (or even your online gallery).