For the past month I have been painting using oil pigments. Each time I revisit oil paints I am as excited as if visiting an old friend. There is a feel and freedom that accompanies painting with oil pigments that is unique. Oil paints do not shift in value or intensity as they cure on the surface, as do watercolors or acrylics. What you put down is what you get: no surprises to greet you once the paint dries.I love the feel of oils. Oils spread across a surface like butter and I like butter. And then there is the smell. While many people dislike the order of oil paints I find it as enticing as the smell of baking bread . This reaction undoubtedly links back to my very first painting class. I remember thinking then that heaven would smell like turpentine.
This may sound like an endorsement for oil painting. Not really. For while I love painting in oils, acrylics and watercolors each have a warm place in my heart. While acrylics do not offer that sweet fragrance of turps and linseed oil there is no media as forgiving as acrylics. Paint thick over thin or thin over thick paint as thick and heavy as you can imaging there will be no cracking. Another great advantage of these plastic pigments is the short drying time that allows for many more mistakes and the ability to correct them in short order.
My reputation as teacher and painter has certainly been built around watercolor painting. No medium is more maligned than is watercolor. The ‘master’s medium’ ‘the hardest medium,’ ‘a sketching medium,’ an ‘impermanent medium’ these are a small sampling of the perception of watercolors. The truth of these ideas is that none are true. While watercolor pigments dry slightly lighter and less bright, experience will compensate for these inconveniences. The most encumbering belief about painting in watercolor is that you must use gallons of water in every painting. By flooding each color with too much water, pure colors are eliminated from your palette. Sometimes pure rich colors are necessary. I use watercolors very much like oil pigments and while I know this confounds many purists I like the results and the feeling of freedom that comes from letting go of silly rules and just letting the paint be paint.
I guess it is human nature to want to categorize things into “-isms.” It’s easy to fall into a habit of thinking that whatever medium you are comfortable working in or know the most about is the best. (Hmmm. Comfortable. In Art that could translate as lazy, or scared) It might be better to celebrate the advantages of each medium, be open to experimenting or mixing media. Paint in an all-inclusive, non-partisan way. Make it a political statement.
“No. 10’s” 24″x 24″ oil on canvas