Steve Rude Notes on Oil Painting

Steve Rude Notes on Oil Painting

Oil painting notes
by Steve Rude
circa 2015
Oil painting is getting too hard for me.  What's involved in making it work seems not worth the effort anymore.
The straight clean lines so much easier with water-based paint is much harder in oil.  The best way to deal with it is to "cut in" with another stroke to produce a thinner area.   Without reasonably complete charcoal studies and good reference to figure things out, too much will remain undecided to attack it with any confidence.  As such, only about 20% of it is actually fun for me.  That's not very much to be inspired about.
Oil paintings seem to need more planning than other pieces.  Too much swishing around and unassertive decisions make for needless, messy delays and second guessing. 
My oil painted Nexus covers from long ago were fun and exciting.  I was finally being able to work big and use paint that is easy to keep soft.  But generally, few felt exciting to work on, especially without good planning.  The Nexus, Badger, Fred cover was very exciting.  So was the Lonnie Next Nexus #2 cover.  Pure fun.  But I had a major dose of a fun, week long painting workshop before I did that.  How can one recapture that feeling?  It's all mental, that's for sure.
Some other considerations that make oil less fun than it used to be:
1.  I can't rest my hand on the board.
2.  Doing smaller details is very clumsy in wet, thick paint.
3.  It's all but impossible to get clean color strokes over a still wet area.  Even with  good scraping, it's almost impossible to get a clean orange over a blue-ish area.  The paint has to dry first.
4.  Working on small heads is extremely difficult for me due to the nature of oil.  Small brushes are not the friend of anyone working with oil.  Oil is meant to be broad and assertive, and best captured by using bigger brushes.
5.  Palette not serving its only purpose--to make painting fun and easy.
Possible solutions:
1.  Do charcoal studies.  They help with nailing down problem areas and details before you paint.
2.  Use the Cornwell method of producing a painting.  Separate studies of figures, clothing, cars, buildings, horses, all with the right lighting, are needed to make the process less painful and more fun.
3.  Take the challenge of producing a Sunny//Loomis/Harry worthy oil painting seriously.  It involves a lot of work, rework, out thinking, and plowing through the problems that always come up in making it. 
4.  Mix the palette colors to make painting easy and fun.  Remember it's purpose--to help you paint with ease.
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1 comment

Boy I feel this one. This is one of those disciplines that you can’t quite “master,” but you can come close enough to be really annoyed by all the inefficiencies. I believe you’ve “mastered” (or come close enough) ink. Your points 1-4 about the challenges of oil all relate to techniques that are really easy in ink. It seems like you’ve hit a level in your artistic development where there actually doesn’t exist a medium that does everything you want… rich colors, precise shadows, crisp edges, brilliant light, and probably a hundred other things.
Can I ask why you’re hoping for oil to be better? As far as I can tell you’re fluent with all types of paint. Why not just switch to acrylic or gouache and keep on truckin’?


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