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My Painting Journey

About this time a year ago I decided to venture into the world of oil paints, I’d been mulling it over for ages then after a chance meeting and an interesting chat with artist John Waterhouse in a local pub one afternoon I set to learning about oils, this triggered a turning point in the way I work.

I have always been so caught up in the details striving to create an image that looked like a photo scribing every hair and whisker but I didn’t feel that I was reaching the point of hyper-real painting no matter how hard I tried. However, perhaps out of frustration there was also a part of me that wanted to loosen up and create work that looks loose and energetic but realistic at the same time. I appear to have constantly conflicting desires for the way I work which incidentally seems to perfectly match my personality I’m simply never content with what I have…I’m always striving for more...which is something I’m consciously working on!

When you paint in oils they suggest that you work in flat square brushes and this was the main thing that influenced my painting style changing the type of brush from pointed to flat automatically made me work a lot looser. I watched many YouTube oil painting tutorials which helped a lot but also confused me because everyone uses different solvents and oils and don’t get me started on the varnishes!

My subject matter also changed from animals to humans which threw up a whole load of questions about my age, who I am (a middle aged emotional menopausal woman) and what I felt happy turned out painting an older woman called Veronica who is full of personality and humour is what ticked my boxes! I didn’t realise at the time but she was to become my alter-ego.

I really enjoy painting with oil paints, there is the beautifully buttery consistency and the ability to blend so easily which you don’t get with acrylics but the drying time can be days or even weeks and if you overwork it you can end up with a horrible mess.

I started lots of paintings which I propped up all around my studio to dry but I found when it came to finishing them I had lost the love and energy for them plus my mind set had moved on to other ideas by then so instead of feeling the joy it became a struggle to bring them to a conclusion.

What is interesting is that it didn’t help my peace of mind being surrounded by half-finished paintings, I think partly due to my prop making days when projects had strict deadlines and a quick turnover, when I start something now I want to finish it I need the reward of seeing it completed and then I am free to move on to the next thing, consequently being surrounded by incomplete artworks makes me feel uncomfortable.

I’m quite nervous but excited because I have my first demonstration this week with an art group in a nearby town which is what has inspired me to write this so I can examine my motives for the way that I work.

Now I've abandoned the oils and gone back to my happy place working with acrylics even throwing in a bit of collage and I am really appreciating the freedom and the process. I love the layers of translucent colour that dry quickly and by using the flat brushes I’m finding blocking in and creating the forms so much easier. I still use my pointed brushes to define hairs and small details but more as the finishing touches.

There is a lot of snobbery around oil painting and I let that influence my decision for working in oils a bit but regardless I’m so glad I tried it because it has made my way of working so much more pleasurable, I’ve learnt a lot having this artistic detour which is what life is all about isn’t it? Taking risks trying new things and running with them or going back to the familiar safe way with a little more appreciation and understanding of who you are. I’m not saying I will never paint in oils again but for now I am happy with acrylics and I no longer have that little nagging voice saying ‘but what if?’.


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