Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oil painting workshop - 7th November

This workshop was held in Hempsted, just outside of the city of Gloucester. An enthusiastic and friendly group greeted me, which were a mix of ‘never used oils before’ to those that were much more familiar with this medium.

Aware of the varying degrees of familiarity of this medium I started with a quick introduction to various techniques that can be used, before doing a quick demo by painting a little African landscape for them. I had done a 'test run' of this wet into wet demo piece before the workshop, which you can see below on the right.

At home, it took me about 40 minutes to do. I used a gouache sketch (above left) I did in situ in Swaziland as my source of reference, as this was already simple and uncluttered with detail. The idea behind it was to show how I used oils when working wet into wet fairly loosely and it would help show some of the techniques, I would go over that morning, actually being used to create an image. Also that a reasonable image can be achieved quite quickly; which when I'm watching a demo, I always find inspiring... and I wanted to try to do the same and inspire those that had not used oils before.
The one I did in the workshop (lower right) took a little longer as I was chatting a lot as I painted and turned out a little differently as I find it hard painting from the side of my piece rather than in front.... but some in the workshop preferred this version.

I also took along some 'work in progress' pieces so they could see examples of underpainting, using coloured grounds, building an image up, working wet onto dry, blending etc.
It was good to hear afterwards that some of those that had used the medium for years learnt new techniques and those that had not tried oils before because they weren't sure they'd like the medium, were inspired to do so.

Then it was over to them to paint their own piece of work for the rest of the morning and afternoon, whilst I wandered around helping out when needed. A day is often never enough to get to grips with a new medium, it's kind of like a 'taster'. I have found that people who have used watercolour for years and therefore normally paint in washes of colour, find it hard to switch instantly to paint opaquely. Applying the paint thickly enough so as not to see the canvas underneath is not 'natural' to a pure watercolourist and goes against all they have been taught before; it's just a matter of getting used to doing something another way and hopefully with a little encouragement and time it will feel more comfortable to do so, should they wish to play more with oils.
When I paint with oil paints I do not use them thickly... I use just enough paint to hid the canvas/board, so it is still quite thinly applied. Not only does this help the piece to dry quicker and make it easier to photograph, but I personally do not like a lumpy surface to my work and try to keep it pretty flat and smooth, if I can. There are times when a little texture enhances what I want to achieve, but it's never very much.
That's one of the great things with a medium like oils... it can be used in numerous ways to create totally different looking finishes to work, so it becomes quite personal to the individual whether you paint with it or just admire a piece of work done with it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and had a lovely day with them all and hope they had a great day playing with oils.

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