Monday, June 20, 2011


Oil Painting Lessons/Demos

Contemporary Art


Don´t be discouraged if your first paintings don´t turn out as well as you would like. I wish I had photos of my first attempts at oil painting so that I could show you. They were awful!!!

The good news is you can paint over them   :)

How to Photograph Your Paintings:

The easiest way to photograph your painting is to go outside under a shaded area. Be sure your flash is off. The diffused light under the shade or on a cloudy day is the type of light that portrait photographers try to emulate with multiple lights and reflectors in their studios.

Photographing a painting

One of the advantages of allowing your oil paintings to dry is that when you paint over them, if you don´t like what you see, you simply remove it with a dab of turpentine on a paper towel. Be sure to rub gently, otherwise you could damage the preceding layer of paint.

Be glad when you make a mistake. When I worked as a photographer, it was when I made mistakes that I learned the most. When you make a mistake, don´t degrade or punish yourself but rather observe your mistake closely. You will be amazed at what you´ve learned and will never forget what you learned . Mistakes are not a failure nor an enemy...they are your best learning tool.

Framing: If you plan to frame your painting, be sure to leave enough space along the edges of your canvas for that purpose. 

Mixing Colors: To avoid "muddy" colors, don´t mix more than three different colors at a time.

I have spent days mixing different colors on waxy paper. I make sure I write down the colors I have mixed and save them (otherwise, I will surely forget). Even though making color charts is time consuming, in the long run it actually saves you an incredible amount of time. When I need a certain color, I just look at my color charts

Just a few of my mixed color charts

Keep a Log: I keep a log of each painting in which I jot down the colors I have used for the background, flower, stems. etc.. This way, when I return to a painting, I don´t run the risk of forgetting what colors I mixed.

I actually work on more than one painting at a time. While I was painting this tulip I was also working on six more paintings. While one is drying, I work on another.

Fat-Over-Lean:  When you paint in layers, one of the basic rules is "fat-over- lean". This rule does not apply when you´re painting wet-on-wet or alla prima.

While an oil painting is drying ( I have read that the drying process can take up to a year and sometimes even more), the underlying layers will absorb the oil from the subsequent layers. This will result in the cracking of the paint. I learned this the hard way when I first started painting with oils. So, unless you purposely want the "cracked look", be sure to follow this rule.

The mixtures I use as a medium (at this time) are:

First Layer: 3 tablespoons turpentine + 1 eyedropper damar varnish + 1 eyedropper linseed oil.

Second Layer: 3 tablespoons turpentine + 3 eyedroppers damar varnish + 3 eyedroppers linseed oil.

Third Layer: 3 tablespoons turpentine + 3 eyedroppers damar varnish + 5 eyedroppers linseed oil.

Fourth Layer: 3 tablespoons turpentine + 3 eyedroppers damar varnish + 7 eyedroppers linseed oil.

Notice that in this mix the only thing that changes (with the exception of the first layer)  is the Lindseed Oil, which is applied in increments of 2 eyedroppers of Linseed Oil for each additional layer.

I have four different containers in which I have pre-mixed the medium.

I have them labeled as: Layer 1, Layer 2, Layer 3 and Layer 4.
What is a "wash"?  A wash is paint that has been highly thinned with turpentine. Put a little bit of paint on your palette, use the eyedropper or your brush to add turpentine and mix. Add enough turpentine to make it almost transparent.

Why do painters use washes? There are several reasons:

1. Some use it to give an underlying color-unity to the painting, in which case the same color wash is applied to the entire canvas.
2. Others use it to define the light and shadow areas in their painting.
3. Others use it as the first step (imprimatura) in a technique by which a painting is done in layers.
4. Others use it to affect the tonality and hue of the colors that will be used in the subsequent layers.
5. Others use it so that the white from the canvas does not show through, should they happens to miss a spot, which is the reason why I am using it for these first demos."

What is glazing?   Check this link:  Glazing

Scumbling: Scumbling is a technique by which you "rub" the paint in either with a clean brush, your fingers, a piece of cloth or whatever else you might come up with.
For a more detailed explanation go to Rose Demo 1

Brush Basics: The best way to learn to use your brushes and palette knifes is to use them and see what different effects you get from them. You can even paint with your fingers, your toes, your nose. Experiment !!!

To get a basic understanding of your brushes (and a lot more), the best place is Bill Martin´s link:

Bill Martin´s Guide To Oil Painting

Thank you, Bill.

Brushstrokes: If you enlarge my photos you will see that if it´s an ocean, the strokes are horizontal. Clouds are curved strokes. Walls are vertical strokes. Let your brushstrokes follow the natural shape of your subject.

However, that does not mean that one day I will not break this rule (tool of the trade). That´s the beauty of art...rules are just tools.  It just depends on what effect I wish to get at the moment or if I just want to experiment and see what happens.

How do I hold my brushes? Whichever way is most convenient and comfortable at the time.

Palette:  I mix my paints on a white, Corel dish. They are cheap and easy to clean.

Easel: I never paint on an easel, even though I own one.

I paint sitting on my bed, or leaning over the dining room table or sitting on a chair with the painting on my lap. Of course, I first cover everything well with plastic sheets.

Storing left-over paint: I use a glass plate that fits into a round Tupperware container. I place the paint on the plate, place the plate in the container, add enough water to cover the paint and put the lid on the container. The reason for using a glass plate is so that it won´t float. The paint will keep for a couple of days.

Cleaning Brushes: I clean them first with turpentine and then with a mild mixture of dish-washing detergent. Rinse, wipe and set them horizontally to dry.

To avoid transferring paint accidentally unto the canvas, I always work from the inside out or from the top down.

This is also one of the reasons why  I like to let everything dry well before going to another step. This way if I get unwanted paint on the dry areas, I can remove it with a dab of turpentine on a paper towel. Be sure you also dry off any excess turpentine.

Another reason why I like to let the paint dry  before going to the next step, is to avoid blending more than three colors at a time. To do so could result in "muddy" colors.

About Liquin:  I am very messy when I paint. I get paint on my hands, arms, legs and face (which is one of the reason I am reluctant to use  Liquin).

A few years ago I visited a forum where an artist was complaining as to why the manufacturers did not add the ingredients of Liquin to the label. He wanted to know what he was working with and why the manufacturer´s were not telling. Of course, at the time no one had the answer.

That was some years ago. Now they do include the ingredients to their labels. Liquin contains: 2 - butanone oxime. To read about the hazards of this chemical,  go to:

1. chemcas.com
2. CDC.gov
3. Canadian Gov. Chemical Substances

If you would like to receive my future free painting lessons, demos and  photos, please sign-in where it says follow by e-mail or just add me to your favorites and check in each week to see what´s new.

God bless...

Beatriz Socorro


Sophie Artois said...

Quand viens-tu peindre en France? ;)

Beatriz said...

j'aimerais beaucoup peindre dans la terre de les grands peintres impressionnistes mais, surtout, j'aimerais te revoir.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all those good tips. Will sûre l'y use them.
God bless u.

Contemporary Art said...

God bless u too :)


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