Oil painting

As a pastel painter, watercolor and acrylic artist, just for grins, I decided to pick up oil paints this week, curious to see what they’re like again, and possibly discover why I gave them up many years ago (besides the fact of having children and needing to work in a media that wasn’t as toxic). Luckily for me, I still had my ancient oil paints – or rather my daughter did. After a quick hunt in the attic, I vaguely remembered giving her an old art box of mine. Happily, it was true, and since she wasn’t interested in the oil paints, I retrieved them.

After putting gesso on some boards, then letting them dry, I soon was ready to paint. A quick inventory of my paints showed me that the only blue paint in my stash was a wizened tube of Prussian blue, and upon attempting to open it, the lid cracked and it squirted out a long ribbon of paint – way more than I’d planned to use! That made me decide to stop breaking lids, and when I came to more stubborn toppers, I just cut off the opposite end and then taped the tube shut once I’d released some of their contents. Soon I had a small palette of red, yellow, white and a lot of prussian blue…

©JanaRJohnson-janajohnsonartwork.com/blog-2016Mar31--2016-03-31 13.45.09

Not wanting to deal with washing brushes, I decided to paint with a palette knife – easier to just wipe off colors as you go without needing to wash. Of course that meant I was soon smearing colors where I didn’t want them… Being used to quick drying acrylics, I found out oils get everywhere if you’re not careful! Which brings me to the biggest issue I’d forgotten about — they take FOREVER to dry! Painting with a palette knife meant the paint was thick, not thin which meant it was several DAYS before my small paintings were dry to the touch. Of course, I discovered that by touching the paintings several times a day, getting paint on me, then needing to practice PATIENCE which is something I’m not known to have a lot of at times…

Even though I had worked with oil paints before, it had been so long ago, I decided I better do some research before continuing. First thing I wanted to learn was whether there was a way to dry them faster than the 3 days + I was experiencing. That’s when I read about Liquin and Galkyd – both mediums that help speed the drying time. I had a small bottle of Galkyd Lite, so pulled that out and went to work using it and some odorless mineral spirits during the next painting session.


The green background on this board was painted during the previous session by using up all the paint that was left on my palette. This time I thinned some red paint with odorless mineral spirits and drew a poppy onto my surface with a brush. Mixing a little Galkyd Lite and mineral spirits with my paints, I began to add more color to the poppy. During my research I found information stating red paints were some of the slower drying colors – that proved to be true with the little landscape I’d painted earlier.


We enjoyed a beautiful weekend with sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60’s, so I was happy to set up my studio in the backyard where it was warmer than inside.




Time to take a break, and let these paintings dry before continuing. The two on top are the first two I painted – not quite dry yet! Below I’ve moved inside, and this shows the little wooden tool box I found in our shed that’s now my oil painting tool kit. Makes it easy to haul my supplies around when I move from inside to out. We’ll see if I get comfortable enough with this medium to actually take it plein air painting… If you’ve painted in oils before, please feel free to share any tips or tricks you’ve discovered on your painting journey in the comments below!





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