Hello! My name is Linda Wandt, and I’ve been considering starting a blog to chart my adventures in oil painting for a long time, so I’m happy I’ve finally found the time and motivation to do so. I plan to use this blog to discuss thoughts on painting, and to delve into some of the more technical aspects of oil painting as I learn. Oil painting is a isolating activity, and while I enjoy that most of the time, I thought this would be a good forum to share what I have learned over the years and to maybe start discussions with like minded painters, or even those who are just curious.
I’ve been painting with oils for about 13 years now. I’ve always drawn and made art, and I’ve made some really terrible acrylic paintings in high school. I used oils for the first time in college, and it seriously blew open my world. I went from making pretty bad art to making pretty decent art. I learned how to stretch my own canvases in school as well, so I started making canvases so large I could feel enveloped in the painting while I was working on it. I wanted to be surrounded by the image on all sides. Eventually I learned to scale down, since storing large canvases is definitely a hassle, but from time to time I still make them.
Once I graduated with a BA in Studio Art, I of course couldn’t find a job. Eventually I started working at an art supply store, and I realized how much I didn’t learn in art school. I knew next to nothing about all the options in the oil paint isle. Walnut oil vs linseed oil? What’s with all these different animal hairs available in brushes? What the heck is linen anyway? I purchased several books on artists materials and I spent the next 6 years that I worked there studying these materials. I created a two hour demonstration and lecture to present what I learned (and to really force myself to learn it). I have been giving this demo at the store now once every 3-6 months for several years, and it’s resulted in my being hired outside of the store to present this information to small art groups. So it goes without saying, I got really dorky about this topic. I feel very strongly that the more you understand the materials available, the more empowered you are to create the art you want to make. It’s especially important with oil painting because there are a lot of confusing options out there, and since oil painting is so chemistry based, it’s easy to make a mistake that could destroy your painting. There was a very experimental period (oh, say, ever since people started to try to figure out what exactly it had been the Flemish masters had used as their mediums) and a great deal of art didn’t survive the experimental mediums. All the way up to the 1950’s-80’s when painters rejected The Rules and tradition and started doing things like using oil paint on raw canvas without sizing first to protect the canvas from the acidic oil paint. Painters started using house paint. They started thinning oil paint with too much solvent intentionally.
Painting has a really fascinating history. Heck, pigments alone have really fascinating stories.
I had a teacher in college who once told me that it takes about 5 years of painting for most people to figure out they have too much paint on the brush. I didn’t quite understand what he meant. Roughly 5 years into painting it clicked, and I remembered his saying that. That being said, one of the things I love about oil painting is the versatility. You can paint thick and chunky alla prima, which is incredibly expressive, or you can slowly build up the layers and create the illusion of light with glazing, which lends itself to realism.
This is a tiny little 8 x 8 inch painting on wood panel. This particular bee, Artemesia, was created in 5 layers, each layer laying the foundation for the layer that went above it. Most of it was done with a #2 round sable brush. It’s all in the details for me, I love zoning out into each little hair and finding that sweet spot where nothing else occupies my mind except for the amount of oil in the mix. I have never successfully meditated, unless you count while working. I can’t truly quiet my mind, but I find this to be the next best thing, having one thing to fully focus on for extended periods of time. I’ll make a post dedicated fully to the Honey Bee Series at a later time. For now I just want to show the level of realism possible.