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Personal practice: oil painting

This semester in our Image Making class we have been exploring oil painting techniques under the wing of the very talented Catharine Salmon. She specialises in working in a way that is conscious of the environment, free from turpentine use and paint wastage. Our first study was of a painting by Avigdor Arikha called Baguettes Viennoises.

Arikha, Avigdor, Baguettes Viennoises, 1977, oil on canvas, 270 x 320 mm

Arikha has built up his layers of paint very thinly, exposing the colours underneath. As an acrylic artist, I have used translucent layering techniques before in the past, but never in this medium. I am really interested in the way translucent layering can be used to create depth and rich colours.

However, this study was my first attempt at painting with oil paints, and it was not easy. I am used to the way that acrylic works and moves with the brush – adapting to the way that oil paint spreads and blends has been challenging. My tutor called oil a “seductive medium”, and she is absolutely correct. Due to the texture and smoothness of the paint, it blends incredibly well. It takes a long time to dry, which is a frustration as an acrylic artist – you cannot apply a second layer soon after painting the first, because you will pick up paint from the layer on the bottom.

My study of Baguettes Viennoises.

You can see in this photograph of my study the difficulties I had while painting – especially with blending and picking up the correct amount of colour. However, the exercise was overall an enjoyable one that provided a good learning experience. It enticed me into a new medium despite being unskilled, and gave me a new appreciation for the work that oil painters do.

I hope to continue to improve as a painter in each medium I experiment with as I develop on my journey as an artist.

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