Learning how to become a good oil painter is a difficult undertaking. In fact, it is more than likely one of the most difficult painting mediums to master. Things like color mixing & theory, perspective, techniques and materials can really intimidate a beginner artist.
So how do you get the most out of your oil painting and become a more accomplished artist?
You must make it a point to learn the fundamentals of oil painting, practice often and have an enormous amount of patience.
You must start with the fundamentals of oil painting first. You cannot expect to produce Rembrandt quality paintings in the beginning. In fact, the first paintings you produce will probably be a lot worse than you may have anticipated. Frustration will more than likely come into the picture (pun intended). They key is to learn from your mistakes and do not let them defeat you.
So what are some of the fundamentals of oil painting? What information should you study and learn first?
Below are some topics of interest that you should definitely study further when you have time:
LEARN HOW TO DRAW
You will be amazed at how much learning how to draw will help improve your oil paintings. In fact, years ago art students were not even permitted to pick up an oil painting brush until they learned the fundamentals of drawing. My advice would be to find a few good books on drawing fundamentals and start there. Drawing is an art form all by itself and you should not be expected to master drawing as an art form, unless you want to of course.
Here is an excellent book to help you learn drawing fundamentals:
“The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence” by Betty Edwards
You MUST learn about color theory if you plan on producing quality works of art. If you don’t understand how colors work, then you might as well hang up your brushes now. There is much to learn about colors like temperature, hue and intensity and how colors interact with one another. This is a very important aspect of oil painting and must not be overlooked.
Here is an excellent book on color theory:
Learning about perspective will teach you how to translate a 3-dimensional world onto a 2-dimensional canvas or other support. Learning perspective is a necessary ingredient toward producing convincing oil paintings.
Here is an excellent book on perspective:
Materials to an oil painter are like what a guitar is to a guitarist. A guitarist cannot play without his instrument nor can he play without understanding how his instrument works. Your painting materials are your instruments. They are what enable you to express yourself, so learning more about them is pretty good idea. Get to know the different kinds of brushes and what they do. Know your paints. Not all colors behave the same. Some are more transparent or opaque than others. Know your supports and the difference between them. The list goes on.
Here is an excellent book for learning more about oil painting materials:
“The Oil Painting Book: Materials and Techniques for Today’s Artist” by Bill Creevy
There are a myriad of oil painting techniques that you can utilize to create your paintings. So much so, that it is beyond the scope of this article. Techniques like wet on wet, glazing, alla prima, knife painting, etc. should all be explored. Working with various techniques will help you develop your own unique style.
Here is a great book on oil painting techniques:
“The Encyclopedia of Oil Painting Techniques: A Unique Step-by-Step Visual Directory of All the Key Oil-Painting Techniques, Plus an Inspirational Gallery Showing How They Can Be Put into Practice” by Jeremy Galton
LEARN FROM THE MASTERS
Masters like Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn , Johannes Vermeer and many more, were all able to successfully translate our 3-dimensional world onto a 2-dimensional surface in such a way that it grabs the viewers attention and keeps it there. Their paintings engage the viewer and bring them back time and time again to look some more. Why? What is it that these paintings have that make them so popular? Well, one way to find out is to study them. If at all possible, make it a point to visit a museum as often as possible and study the works of the masters. Find paintings that grab your attention and draw you in. Then, when you have time, try to find books and other resources on those artists so that you can learn more about them and their techniques. When you are ready, pick a painting that you are quite fond of and try to reproduce it.
Here is a great book on learning from the masters: