My husband challenged me to a paint off but…using acrylic paints. He chose the subject to paint (anything from the game Halo Reach) and we proceeded to do our best. Some trash talk happened, well more so on my end, and we worked while listening to a horror podcast. Ultimately, Justin gave up and I was proclaimed the winner. I chose to leave my painting unfinished because I hate Acrylics. Now, that is a strong word but it is one of my huge dislikes in mediums.
While painting our Halo Reach subjects, my husband had mentioned that the paint wasn’t drying off fast enough. I said that the paint was drying too quickly! What I love about oils is the drying time. It gives me the flexibility to change my mind about things. I can go back to a previously painted spot and alter and manipulate what was already on the canvas. I can further build up the colors and add texture without feeling that sticky/tacky semi-dried layer through my paintbrush that I get with Acrylics. There is this thing that happens when you put a thicker glob of acrylic paint on a canvas, it just dries like Elmer’s glue. There remains a goopy silhouette of the bristles from the paintbrush. Don’t get me wrong, I am amazed at how other artists use the medium and the amount of skill involved, but oils give me more satisfaction.
I remember when I was in middle school, and I ended up getting an oil painting set for Christmas. I’ve been begging my mom for this starter set of Winsor & Newton oil paints including within a wooden carrying box with a wooden palette and some mediums. I felt like a real Artist. At first, I had no idea how to use them. Back then, there wasn’t YouTube or other easily accessible guides for me to reference, but with time and experimentation, I improved my skill and love for the medium.
I also enjoyed the feeling of exclusivity that came with using oils. They are by no means an affordable material. Considering that an oil painter needs mediums, Turpentine, brushes and other various tools, it’s not for the faint of heart. Using oils also requires some finesse. Most of my peers preferred to use acrylics if they chose to paint at all due to its ready availability and ease of use.
Beside the feel and finish of oils, I liked the tradition behind oils. I imagine the old Masters mixing their own pigments using a limited palette. There is this one scene in the movie "Ever After" where Leonardo da Vinci is painting a portrait of Drew Barrymore's character. For some reason I always think of that scene and how simple yet beautiful it was.
I value the patience and careful planning involved in order to create a beautiful piece using oils. I love how oils give you the option to manipulate colors and layer over dry or wet layers. I also love the effect of using your fingers to blend the paint. While painting my subject during the paint off, a head-shot of a Spartan soldier, I tried blending the paint with my fingers but it ended up just completely lifting off of the canvas. I’m not sure if it was due to the quality of the tools I was using as we were reluctant to spend too much just on this competition and settled for student level paints.
I keep on looking back at my unfinished painting. Justin had urged me to finish it as he believes that the quality is good. I don’t disagree, I just don’t see the point in using my limited amount of energy before carpal tunnel kicks in. The entire time I painting, I thought to myself, “I wish these were oils”.
I think what I learned is that it’s good for me to take a break from my good friend and practice using other materials. Besides this competition, I’ve also been sketching a lot lately. I believe that improving my skills with other tools and mediums is only going to make me better as an Artist while giving me different perspectives and ideas for future projects. Today has definitely cemented my appreciation for oils and how much I look forward to using them in the future.
What is your preferred medium and why? Let me know in the comments!