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  • Writer's pictureLeyun Yuan

What I Learned from Painting Oil Paintings?

Updated: May 4, 2023

Insights: Practice, Patience, and Persist.

A brush on a palette with oil paints
Picture from Wix

Since my childhood years, I have been diving into different forms of art. Drawing in black and white has always been my main practice method in the arts. However, I have always wanted to try painting and practice using color. In the summer before I came to the U.S., I self-taught myself watercolor which was my first step into painting. After deciding to minor in Visual Arts at USD, I began a whole journey of painting with oil paints in the Fall semester of 2021.

Starting painting from scratch is an interesting journey. Exploring new materials and colors is exciting. In the beginning, I focused on working with black and white tones using only black, white, and burnt sienna in my first three paintings. Then, I began practicing with warm and cool colors. After two semesters, I returned to painting in Spring 2023. As I played around with colors and continued to paint, I gained multiple takeaways from the process of creating oil paintings.

Point #1 - Patience is the Key

The first thing I learned from Oil Painting is the feeling of "Why does this take so long!"

One of the unique features of oil painting is that it is built up in layers. Unlike other mediums where you simply mix the color and apply it, oil painting requires multiple layers to develop the artwork. Oil paints takes time to dry, so layers of painting is very time -consuming. However, the layering process also allows for easy adjustments and corrections to be made during the painting process. Starting with a base color, artists can use the rub out technique and then apply the first layer of color on canvas or wood plank. Subsequent layers can then add details, brush strokes, and texture to the painting. Therefore, patience is the key for oil painting that you have to wait and work layers and layers.

Point #2 - Drawing is the Base of Painting

Sketching is the foundation of every new painting project. It takes multiple tries to spread your ideas and figure out your composition goals. I always do a lot of sketch to generate my ideas. A good drawing is crucial for success in painting, as it sets the stage for the final piece.

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen." – Leonardo Da Vinci

Point #3 - Mixing Color need a lot of Practice

Mixing color is one of the hardest part in oil painting. To find the color that you want to use, to contribute the tones and vibes for the whole painting, to use diversity of color to keep the painting more appealing. I always got frustrated when I can't mix the color that I want, but once I successfully mixed the color I am looking for, it brings me a huge happiness and a sense of achievement.

Point #4 - Painting is stressful! Persist make you success

To do adjustment in the process, mix the right color, apply the color to the right place, and the long time stay in the studio are all contribute the stressful feeling to painting. Especially you develop your project as a homework instead of just having fun. But the happiness of getting your project perfectly done will drive you keep working on painting! Persist will make you success!

Point #5 - Self-expression makes Great Project

What I have learned from my recent painting projects is that I feel liberated to express myself when working on a project that tells my story or explores topics that interest me. For my final project, I created a narrative about my life experiences and combined it with my identity, featuring Eastern mysterious creatures and deities. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and was pleased to hear my professor's feedback that it was my best painting so far!

To sum up, Practice makes it perfect!

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