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).

Our Lady of the Wood Project, Uncategorized

Our Lady of the Wood: Lenten Project Day 10: I Messed Up


Hey, everyone. So… I learned the hard way that before you start any project with a medium you haven’t done before, you really need to do your research.

So, it’s with a heavy heart that I say that the drawing of Mary and Jesus I spent a few days doing is no longer visible.


Thankfully, the rings that naturally occured on the wood are still visible, and I was tracing over them to make the trees and part of Mary’s dress.

Here’s what happened. I knew that any surface you have to paint on needs to be primed, but after a few minutes of research, I found that NOT having primed wood before painting can be a bit disastrous. If untreated beforehand, oil paint can react with the wooden surface causing the wood to rot as well as the paint to yellow years ahead of time. I want this painting to be an heirloom piece that will last centuries down the line, so I decided to do this right.

I went down to Blick and got some PVA Size and Ground. Acrylic Gesso may have been the cheaper option, but given the nature of this art piece, I wanted to use the best quality materials I could:


I really like anything done by Gamblin. Not only is it an art supply company, but it’s one that specializes in art conservation. No, they’re not sponsoring me. I legitimately love this company.

So, as per the instructions, I put two coats of PVA size on the wood to treat it, then put two coats of Ground to give it a good surface to be painted on. Unfortunately, It’s going to need a whole week to fully dry and set before I can do anything else to it.

I think it goes without saying that this will probably take a lot longer to finish than the whole season of Lent.

So… what am I going to do in the meantime? I’m going to redraw the picture I made on paper so that when the ground has fully dried, the drawing will be already to be transferred. Also, I’m going to spend an hour each day continuing with my aunt’s Van Gogh reproduction. I actually made a lot of progress today. Here:



Art Museum Internship, The Van Gogh Project, Uncategorized

ArH Internship Week 6: No Internship Today. Van Gogh instead.

Well, my friendlies, I just realized it’s Friday and I have not posted anything related to my internship this week. That’s because I had no internship this week. My supervisor is in Beliz with her husband. That being said, I thought I would take this opportunity to write more about my independent research project. I posted an entry earlier this week, but, what the heck, I’ll do another one.

If you’ve been following all of my blog posts, and possibly my instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been posted something called “The Van Gogh Project.”

My aunt asked me to paint a reproduction of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night” that she may hang it in her dining room.

Wanting to do a good job, I decided to study the artwork and Van Gogh much more extensively. I thought by getting to know the man better, I would be able to bring his painting to life in a way that would allow my aunt and anyone she invites over to get a feel for the real man.

I bought a poster of the piece because having a high quality poster shows the brushstrokes much better than any image in the internet can. I also didn’t want to paint in my own style as my style uses only the smallest amounts of paint at a time (paint’s expensive, I generally want to make it last as long as possible), and I have a tendency to blend, worse, over blend the paint on my canvas. Van Gogh and I are opposites in many ways.

He separates his colors, I blend mine. He uses a lot of paint, I use as little as I can. The Van Gogh project is every bit breaking my own habits as learning the techniques of one of my giants.

Turns out, I was right. In a letter to his sister, Van Gogh specifically explained his pride in being able to recreate the sky in the painting without using any black.

A couple days ago, I myself went a little mad.

I was attempting to study logic, and I was just not getting it. Finally, I marched downstairs and picked up the paintbrush. I started a little earlier than I wanted to, but I finally took paint to the canvas I purchased:


I put globs of paint on the canvas, like the impressionists did, and went to work. I just needed the right yellow to put on the stars.


I got Yellow Ochre for the stars (I can’t believe I didn’t have it already), I saw a lot of Indian Yellow in the painting, so I went ahead and got that too.

If you haven’t seen it already, here’s a video of me analyzing the poster I got as my reference:

I’m currently in the process of finishing a video doing some brushstroke experiments. Please follow me on YouTube or Vidme for updates.