Watching Paint Dry

November 21, 2010

I’ve finally decided to give oil paints a proper go.  There are various reasons I prefer to work in acrylic: no fumes, quick to dry, more versatile for mixed media, less toxic, easy to clean up and so on.  On the other hand, I’m constantly told by other artists that oils are beautiful to work with and can achieve a richness and depth that’s not possible with other media.  I’m promised that oils will open up a whole new range of possibilities and that the slow drying can be a great advantage rather than a negative. 

My experience so far has been mixed.  I really dislike working on real canvas with acrylic.  The dryness of the acrylic means unless mediums are added the paint drags across the surface and the water is absorbed far too quickly leaving a patchy finish.  Oil and canvas of course work perfectly together with the paint just gliding on the surface.  Being able to work comfortably on canvas is a big plus as the work doesn’t need to be framed in glass which I find can detract from the finished painting.

I’m finding it quite pleasant to work the wet paint around a little, again something acrylic just doesn’t lend itself too without the use of retarder gels.  However, this property also makes it a little too easy to over blend and overwork.

The most frustrating thing is the length of time needed to allow a layer to dry before it can be worked over.  After a whole week of drying time, I was really surprised to find paint was still lifting slightly when I tried to work on it.  Still I’ll persevere and try to be patient – I want to give this medium a proper go.

Here is my effort so far.  This is based on my recent pencil study of a still life with marbles.  I decided to stick with black and white to keep things simple for my first oils venture.  The pigments and hence colour mixing is likely to differ from acrylic – that’s something I don’t want to be concerned with until a bit further down the line.



  1. It looks like you and oils will become fast friends. Yes, it is slower to dry but you can use Liquin and a little turps to speed up the process. I usually work on a couple of oil paintings at a time at various stages of completion and flit between them. It makes the wait time less tedious.

    • That’s a good idea, Jeanette. Having a few things on the go should stop me getting so impatient!

  2. Good for you Julie. When I made the change from acrylics to oils I found them tricky at first but I’m really glad I stuck with them. Something else you might want to try are Griffin Alkyd oils, which are fast drying (they usually dry overnight, even without any additional drying agents).

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