Before I lose you altogether, at least hear me out, okay?
Painting is a learned skill, meaning you can learn to do it and get better and better as you practice. Even just a couple of years ago, if you had asked me to paint an apple on a canvas with oil paints, I would’ve laughed and told you I could never do that. I’ve never been confident in my drawing abilities and I’ve never thought of myself as a “fine art” sort of person. You might want me on your team in a game of Pictionary, but the drawing talent stops there.
A large part of the problem was that I was looking at art produced by people who had been painting for years or decades and thinking my first works had to look as good as theirs or I had no talent for it. That’s just ridiculous! We know that with music, you need to practice before you can play an identifiable tune and then you need to practice intensely for years before you can be a professional musician.
Yes, there are people with natural leanings towards particular studies. My brother, for example, has been able to play the piano by ear since he was very young. Maybe five or so? And, when it came time for me to take piano lessons, I compared by abilities to his and his talent discouraged me from playing the piano. I felt like I was stupid because I couldn’t hear a tune and play it. In fact, I was just normal and he was gifted. And comparison convinced me that I shouldn’t even try! In hindsight, I can see how short-sighted and foolish that was.
So, don’t let comparison tell you that you can’t paint or draw or play piano or sing or decorate or whatever it is that has been calling your soul to create.
If one of the artistic endeavors that has been tugging at your soul is oil painting, then I would like to encourage you to join me in painting 100 still lifes. Or, if that scares you, commit to 10 or 25 or 50. Just start painting. Let’s do this together!
Here are some things I would suggest you gather or buy…
(And, remember, I’m just a student myself with only 125 or so oil paintings under my belt, so take it all with a grain of salt!)
These are the colors I’ve been using consistently for my still lifes…
- Titanium White
- Foundation Greenish*
- Cadmium Lemon*
- Cadmium Yellow Deep*
- Cadmium Orange*
- Cadmium Red Medium
- Burnt Umber
- Cobalt Light
- Ultramarine Deep*
I have collected oil paint colors over the past few months, because the artist-grade paints can be expensive! If you have to drop a few off the list due to budget, I would drop off the ones with star by them and replace Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow Deep with just plain Cadmium Yellow.
If you need to start even smaller, just get a red, yellow, blue, white, and brown and you can do just about anything with that. You can also start with student-grade paint, if you have to, but most artists agree it’s better to start with fewer tubes of artist-grade paint than more tubes of student-grade. (I would also suggest using 40% off coupons at art stores and buy one tube at a time!)
I’m learning that brushes are such a personal taste thing and you’ll discover what you like, but these are the four I have been using for still life paintings…
- Size 6 Long Flat – I use this for my big, broad strokes. I like the hog bristles, because they give me less control and help my painting look loose.
- Size 10 Eclipse Short Filbert – I use this for my underpainting sketch and then tighter strokes and straight lines on the finished painting.
- 1/4″ Ivory Dagger – This is for detail work
- Rubber tip brush – I use this for “scratching” my signature in the paint.
- Paper palette pad (A thrifty option is an old picture frame with a piece of gray paper inserted under the glass.)
- Gamsol (Solvent for cleaning brushes.)
- Solvent container (I really like this palette cup, but you can just use an old jar with a lid.)
- Paper towels (For wiping your brushes)
- Baby wipes (For wiping paint off your hands)
- Baby oil (For washing the paint off your hands)
- Murphy’s Oil Soap (For an initial wash of your brush)
- Miss Mustard Seed’s Brush Soap (For a final brush wash and conditioning)
- Easel (Just get a simple folding table-top easel to start!)
- Daily Painting by Carol Marine – As I’ve shared before, this book is so practical and helpful! Carol can get you going much better than I can!
You will also need something to paint on! I have been using 5 x 7 canvas panels, but you can get canvas panels in all sorts of sizes. If you’re painting one a day, just keep them on the small-ish size! I like 5 x 7, because they don’t take too long and I can pop them in a rigid envelope to ship them out. I have done a tiny 2 x 3″ panel and that would be a nice option if you want to start small. (I’ve learned that smaller can be harder, though!)
A canvas pad is a nice option as well, so you can cut pieces of canvas to just the size you want and it feels less intimidating (for some odd reason) than a canvas.
A few other tips…
- Paint things you love and might want to hang on your wall! I’ve been painting fruit and ironstone/transferware mostly.
- Set up a scene and take a picture of it with your phone. Would it make a good painting? Should you make any changes before you start painting?
- Draw a sketch of your scene before you start adding color, so you can easily make changes before you get too far into the painting.
- Just have fun and try to enjoy where you are in your journey. Tell you inner critic to leave you alone and let you paint. Drown her out with good music. She can come back out when you’re done so you don’t put something embarrassingly bad on Instagram.
Even if you’re not considering oil painting, I hope this post encourages you to pursue artistic and creative endeavors that you have always wanted to pursue. Practice. Be intentional. And take the time to nurture your creative soul.
If you want to follow my journey (or share yours), search/use #100oilstills on Instagram. A couple of artists have joined me and it’s been so fun to follow their paintings and progress.
So, speaking of creativity, I am going on a spur-of-the-moment creative retreat. Jeff is giving me a few days to go somewhere warm, so I can get away from the house and routine and recharge, think, and get inspired. I’ve been needing to hit the pause button since before we moved and I am so looking forward to it!
One of my new friends was feeling the need to recharge as well, so we’re going together to save money on the hotel, car rental, etc, but we’ll give each other the alone time we crave.
I’m getting my watercolors, sketch pencils, journals, and think-through lists all ready to go…
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