Beautiful, rich oil paint
It's not just the smell of the oil paint that delights me (yes, I'm strange), but the subtlety, and range of intensity of colour it's possible to achieve with this painting medium.
Being an oil artist is also a complete contrast with the medium of linocut which I also work in. Linocuts favour hard edges and require boldness to be successful. Not that it's not possible to be bold and hard edged with oils – it most certainly is possible. However, to answer the question of why oil paint, I think a lot of it, is that I can do things with oil paint that are near impossible in my printmaking.
Oils dry slowly depending on the amount applied to a canvas and medium added. The paint can stay wet enough to blend with new paint for hours, even days. It was a challenge at first, having been used to working with fast drying media, suited to tight illustration deadlines. The slow drying time is why I can achieve a softness to my paintings I find difficult in other types of paint such as acrylic.
Also, oil paintings, in my view, have a richer, but also subtler color to them than some of the other mediums. The way oil paint is made means it holds a lot of pigment. This is why, in my view, even subtle neutral colours have a purity to them that other mediums don't support.
Lost and found
The thing that excites me the most, I think, is the ability to create what is called 'lost and found' edges. I've not found an easy way to do this using lino printing. 'Lost and found' edges are exactly as described: hard and crisp in one place, then in another, so soft and diffuse that you can't find an edge at all, with all degrees inbetween. I worked with a lot of masking in my illustration years which again, favours hard edges, so being able to play with softness is a joy.
I've a great deal still to learn about this lovely medium, but having been through a similar learning curve when beginning my illustration career, I know the feeling of delight at mastering a paint medium is unbeatable.
Some of my studio based oil paintings
From illustrator-painter to fine art painter
The first eight years of my working life, after art school, were spent as a full-time illustrator, using mainly gouache paints, sometimes with pastels to create a mixed media work. I decided, however, that my highly representational and somewhat technical approach was not right for fine art oil paintings and that I should develop a new style.
Attempting to change habits, and a way-of-working, ingrained during my professional illustration years proved too frustrating and I took a big decision…
I reluctantly shelved being an oil painter in order to gain a ‘distance’ on it, concentrating instead on being a printmaker – painting only to help plan prints. I grappled with the decision continually however – the brushes, canvas and smell of oil paint enticing me into poorly planned, confidence sapping experiments, every so often. The success of my lino prints, and a serious illness, meant I spent far longer ‘away’ from painting than I ever envisaged or wanted, so it's only in the last few years that I've begun to see my way forward.
Fine Art Painter
My desire to be a fine artist had never dulled and I set about picking up my painting activity afresh with a great thirst. I began by studying other artists art, including those working in oil, but not only oil painters.
I researched artists paintings I liked, and didn't like, paying particular attention to why I liked, or didn't like them. I avidly collected examples of landscape painting over an extended period of time. I knew it was landscapes I wanted to paint, though beyond this I had little fixed idea about where to start – there were so many possibilities I had no idea which to pursue, to be honest – so I collected all manner of examples. Gradually, a clarity about the kind of paintings I wanted to paint began to emerge. There's no single painter I can hold up as 'the one' I wish to copy, but instead there are many whose work has aspects I'm absorbing in to my own.
So now my adventure begins in earnest and already my painting style is very different to my illustration approach all those years ago – so perhaps the strategy has worked in the end!