Show of hands, where’s my folks needing some help with oil painting for beginners?
You’re among friends here, I’m a total newbie, too.
Last fall, my friend Kim and I took a Bob Ross oil painting class. I was so nervous going into it.
I was positive I wouldn’t be able to hack it. Real artists use oils. And let’s be honest… I’m kind of a jackass.
So we took the class, and the step by step approach to happy little trees was so simple and easy to follow… we were totally energized as we left, vowing to buy oil paints that very day and ditch our acrylics forever. At Hobby Lobby we each scored a tiny little intro to oil painting kit from Winsor & Newton that was on clearance. Success!
But then that kit sat on my shelf for a few months. I’m pretty sure I heard someone mention the phrase “fat over lean” and I got weirded out again and lost all my confidence.
Dang it, oil painting sounds so intimidating when you’ve never messed with it before.
And without someone holding your hand… even more so.
So I started investigating the selection of oil painting books available through our local library, and cross referenced those with some titles on Amazon, looking for ones that had good reviews and lots of stars.
Because I am a nerd.
Oil Painting for Beginners Book Recommendation
The book I checked out and read cover to cover, and took copious notes on, was The Oil Painting Book by Bill Creevy.
One of the really great things I loved about it was a full chapter on all the different brands of oil paints out there. It includes a run-down on who makes the paint, and any special notes about it. Guidance on price and how many colors are available in each line were super helpful.
Chapters that followed discussed the flow of creating an oil painting – from the planning stages, to drawing on the canvas (and the right drawing mediums to use), to creating the underpainting layers…
The step by step photos were really helpful.
And the idea of layering the paint, and working on multiple paintings at once since it takes so long for the paint to dry…
It gave me the confidence to finally get out my little tiny beginner kit of oil paints last week. I spent a few hours playing around, and came out on the other side with a tiny 5″ x 5″ canvas of trees:
It’s not my best work ever on the planet.
But I made an oil painting.
And that right there is progress. I have this book to thank for the confidence to try my first oil painting without the help of a Bob Ross class. Sure it still feels way Bob Ross-y. But I have a vision of where my oil painting adventures are going to take me, and learning how someone else creates art is sometimes the best way to get a handle on the tools so you can go on and make art your own way.
As an illustrator and a surface pattern designer, I know I’ll never ditch my Photoshop digital paintings or quick drying acrylic paint. Oils just take way too long to dry to be a medium I can see using for work on a day to day basis. But on my off hours, when I’m looking to really stretch my legs as an artist… You better believe I’m exploring what I can do with ’em.
While you’re waiting for my next masterpiece… you should watch this:
But wait – just what does fat over lean mean?
Oil paint is basically made up of the minerals or whatnot that is the pigment, or color, of the paint. And the oil is the smooshy stuff that lets you spread it around the canvas. That’s why it takes so long to dry – you’re working with actual for reals legit oil. You can mix different kinds of oil with your paints to get different effects, too.
Basically fat over lean means when you’re creating layers of colors in an oil painting, each new layer should contain more oil than the layers below. It makes the layer more flexible, which leads to less chances of your paint cracking over time.