Oil Painting Without Solvents

Oil Painting can be either extremely rewarding, or extremely daunting. The way I paint and can teach you how to oil paint, should help ease any troubles, and help you paint safely, and make a lasting painting. These are not hard-fast rules, but they work for me.

First understand the fat over lean, and quick under slow rules. Fat is oily, lean is not. Choose either Solvent-Free Medium from Gamblin, which is a fast drying safflower oil or use Drying Linseed Oil from Winsor & Newton. Choose one or the other, and stick with it throughout the painting, and add more medium for every subsequent layer. The first layer should have no medium at all, unless absolutely necessary.

Second, know which pigments dry quickest and which dry the slowest. Quick drying pigments should be used beneath the slow drying pigments. The fast drying pigments should be used for the beginning layers. Any colors that are labeled as PBr7 such as Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna are perfect. Yellow Ochre PY42, Manganese Violet PV16 are also good choices. There is a quick drying white available if necessary.

Since there are soooo many colors available, and each artist has their own palette, it is best to take a canvas you can hang on the wall, draw squares for each pigment, and see how fast it dries. Make a note of when you created it, the name of the pigment, and write the day it dried to the touch beneath the square. It is your best reference, and it shouldn’t take more than a half hour to make.

Some of aforementioned quick drying colors will come out of the tube very stiff. Use just a very tad, I mean barely get your brush wet with Solvent-Free Medium from Gamblin or Drying Linseed from Winsor & Newton. You don’t want to have a fatty under layer, but you certainly cannot paint with clay. Any subsequent layer should have more medium than the previous layer.

The medium drying colors are Phthalocyanine blues and greens, Pyrrole reds and oranges, and the Hansa yellows. These are great for the second or third layers.

The slowest drying pigments are the Quinacridones and Cadmiums. Use these are great for the final layers. Quinacridones are transparent, therefore are good glazing colors.

If you are using paint that is linseed oil, then use Solvent-Free Medium from Gamblin, or Drying Linseed oil from Winsor & Newton. If you are using paints that contain safflower oil, then use the Solvent-free medium from Gamblin.

Use the the excess Solvent-Free medium or pretty much any artist oil (such as walnut oil if you are using M. Graham paints) to clean your brushes in-between colors. Remember, that when you use other oils, it will get into your picture, so it is best to use similar oils. In other words, if you are using paints that contain safflower oil, use the solvent-free medium from Gamblin. If you are using linseed oil then wipe the brush clean with linseed.

It is best if you paint with similar colors at any given time to reduce the need to completely clean the brush. For example, if you are creating a landscape painting, paint the sky and just use sky colors, do not jump to the grass, or other area that requires different colors. Once completed with that area of the painting, then you can clean your brush and move to the next area of the picture.

Once you have completed the painting session, you will have to clean up. What I do before hand actually, is use wax-paper to paint on. Clipping wax paper to a wooden palette doesn’t look as goofy as using a disposable paper palette with a thumbhole. Wax paper is similar to the disposable palettes, but far more affordable. If you have excess paint, you can cover it with another piece of wax paper, or if you have used the paper completely, just fold it and toss it into the trash.

In order to clean your oil painting brushes without solvent, wipe the excess oil with a rag. Dip the brush into any clean oil, be it linseed, or the left over drying medium until the brush is clean. Wipe off the oil with a rag. Then clean your brush with water and The Master’s Brush Cleaner and Restorer. It is non-toxic and makes clean up infinitely easier than dish soap. Then let your brush sit flat to dry. I know many people say to leave the brushes standing up, but the problem with that is the water will drip into the ferrule, and may loosen the glue that holds the fur to the handle.

Cleaning your rag is as easy as washing a wash cloth. Just use dish soap and warm water. Let it dry overnight hanging some place. It will look ugly, but rags are reusable and is less waste than the constant use of paper towels.

It used to be that you had to wait an entire year before varnishing an oil painting. Gamblin has an archival, but removable varnish that can be applied once the painting has dried to the touch. This is called Gamvar. I recommend it if you like the results your painting.

Until next time, happy painting!

– Tia