Friday, 27 January 2017

How to avoid burning down the house... Or, know your materials

I haven’t got much to share today, the last couple of weeks have been rather busy in one way or another, and did not always leave as much time and energy for drawing as I would have liked. But now I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as I’ve got something exciting on (well, I hope it’s going to be exciting and meet my expectations, anyway). I’ve been wanting to learn how to paint with oils for ages. Actually, I just found this old blog post from December 2014, about my resolution for 2015 to learn painting with oils. But it started even earlier, in 2013 already. I had bought all the paints and mediums, and even made an attempt at it. That’s how far I got. The underpainting. At least I got two layers done. And It's definitely dry now...

I absolutely can’t believe that that was in 2013 already! Where has the time gone?? Ah well, no point in crying over spilled milk, right? What kept me from actually getting into it were the materials. I learnt about the “fat over lean” principle, about the different mediums involved, but there were so many questions. How exactly do I use the mediums? How much, and which ones (I have a product catalogue that lists over 30 varnishes alone, and that's just one brand)? How many layers can I paint with the “fat over lean” principle? Is there a problem if I have too many layers? And what do I do if I don’t like the result? With acrylics, it’s easy to just paint over everything and start again, but with oils? But what scared me most were some of the mediums themselves. I had read somewhere about instances where rags with some oil painting medium or other on them, had started to catch fire in the bin. Now I realise that that is not something that happens regularly, but living in a rented flat in a 100+ years old house with lots of wood everywhere, I just couldn’t get those thoughts out of my mind. I don’t want to burn down the house. Actually, after having painted the underpainting above and cleaned the brushes (another mystery, in fact), I put the used rag into a bag, went for a walk and threw it into a public bin…
A history programme about ancient Egyptian mummies, that I saw recently, hasn’t helped matters either. The archaeologists were wondering why some of the mummies they had discovered were burnt underneath the wrapped bandages. Eventually they found the answers, and showed the process in a (to me memorable) demonstration. They drenched bandages in linseed oil, like the Egyptians did, wound them into tight balls, and then measured the temperature inside the balls. It didn’t take long for the temperature to rise inside the balls and eventually burst into flames.

But tomorrow, hopefully, all my questions will be answered, and all my fears appeased. I am going to a one day course of introduction to oil painting at my local art supply store and where all the materials and basic techniques will be explained. I’ve already made a list of things I want to know, and hopefully, tomorrow evening I’ll be ready to confidently get those oil paints and mediums out and start painting. And get that still life finished!

I haven't been able to keep up with the homework for this week's A Drawing A Day class, but at least I did it for one day. Draw your feet. It was a bit cold, but I did enjoy it. And I'm going to draw more.

We've had some nice winter weather these past two weeks, with snow and temperature never reaching above 0 degrees Celsius. I loved the beautiful winter scenes, nature transformed by snow and frost, but temperatures are going to rise again in the next days, and all the snow will soon be gone.


  1. Love your art, especially the feet! Great photos, too. Happy PPF, hugs, Valerie

  2. Beautiful art and great photos. You have lots of snow. In Finland even Lapland it has been over zero C over a week.
    Happy PPF ❤

  3. It's funny isn't it, all the great intentions we have that we declare boldly on our blogs and then never get round to - I'm still planning on finishing the illustrations for a children's book I wrote in 1996!!

    Like you, I love the idea of oils, they seem like the older, more mature sibling to acrylics somehow or maybe that's just the impression I always get from professional art bodies that seem to value oil above acrylics? I did try them once but for me the length of time taken for the paint to dry was just too much - I'm very impatient and acrylics fits me better (that, plus I couldn't stand the smell and mess of the turps when cleaning the brushes!) I do like the idea of water soluable oils though as it seems like you could get the same lovely oil paint effect but with less mess and smell. Anyway, I hope you have a great time on your course and find out all the answers to your oil painting questions.

  4. Gorgeous scenery. I admire you undertaking oil painting and look forward to seeing some results (and hearing your opinion of oils vs acrylics). Happy PPF

  5. really beautiful painting-and the way you captured the reflection of the teapot on the book is fabulous! I had no idea about the mediums used for oil painting. If I ever decided to try it I think I'd want a class or two first also. Wonderful sketches. And beautiful photos of your winter wonderland. Thanks for sharing and happy PPF!

  6. Such beauty in your artwork and photos.
    I especially love the photo of the sunflower...gorgeous!!!

    Happy PPF!!!


  7. Very beautiful sharing of art and photos. Happy PPF

    much love...

  8. good luck with oils :D linseed oil can cause rag to burst into flames, but that is why you follow the proper disposal methods, (a random bin could actually go up more then your own since you know what if anything is going into the bin with the soaked rags and bagging the rags up could actually start a fire since the heat gets trapped, its an exothermic chemical reaction, science is cool :) )). fires don't happen that often, I've actually own seen it happen to a construction worker van with linseed oil soaked rags in the van with the rags placed in a tub.

  9. Love your painting and glad you came back to it. Wonderful snowy photos, too much snow for me thought. LOL Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  10. The sketches of your feet are really good. And I hope the workshop teaches you all you need to know about oil painting. I once heard that you have to wet your rags after you've finished with them and spread them out, so they won't spontaneously catch fire. But I admit I wouldn't feel comfortable either....

  11. Lovely artwork, Kay. I especially like your feet sketches. I first learned to paint with oils when I was only around 11 years old. We had an elderly chap living a few doors down and he taught my sister and I to paint with oils. I remember loving the smells but now I wouldn't be able to use traditional oils because of my asthma. I've actually heard of quite a few artists having to give up the oils due to health reasons. Water-soluble oils are a great alternative but they also take a long time to dry which, like Nicole, I'm too impatient for. haha

    Do they not have a household waste dump/tip in your area? Here, we have several locations where we can take household waste, including chemicals, batteries, etc. Makes it a lot easier when it comes to flammable stuff. I never knew linseed oil could be that dangerous. I have used it before for an antiquing technique I used on my older Folk Art pieces.

    Lovely winter scenes!

    Enjoy the rest of your week. :)