I’m Sticking With Oils

test painting of Llyn Brianne in acrylics

Okay, so after having so much doubt about working in oil paints with my previous post, I started work on the large (40×20 inch) version of the shores of Llyn Brianne. Blocking in was fine and I made good progress. However, when I came to working on the clouds and the treeline… well, it just didn’t go well.

Before I could even get going on refining the clouds I encountered problems with the open time of the acrylics. No matter how much slow-drying medium I used, the paint strokes I made became unworkable within a few minutes leaving hard edges where I didn’t want them. Whilst this might not be so much of a problem on a small surface, working on such a large canvas takes so much more time, and with the way I work on a painting, acrylics just aren’t going to let me do that.

The other issue which I didn’t mention in my previous post was colour shift. Acrylics are lighter when wet. This makes colour matching very difficult. Where I thought I’d correctly mixed a shade and applied it to the canvas, it dried darker and looked awful. Oils don’t suffer from this issue.

Since writing that post, I’ve painted a new colour study as well as worked on three work in progress pieces and had some success. I perhaps feel a bit silly for suddenly thinking I should switch to acrylics, but I guess I just had to know the reasons I choose to work in oils for sure.

I think the real issue was my technique, and maybe to a large extent – impatience.

However, I did discover that a certain part of my unease was related to the medium – to a particular paint in fact – Daler Rowney Graduate Titanium white. I can’t stand this particular paint and have since stopped using it altogether.

I am still very new to oils – there are certain scenes I’ve never painted before, and I’ve also never painted at the large sizes I’m painting at now. There is still so much to learn!

My impatience stems from getting in ‘flow’ and wanting to finish the scene in one sitting. This just isn’t going to happen at this size, especially with oil paints. I tried to do too much ‘wet on wet’ and ended up with very rough-looking results. I now know I need to take a more structured approach building layers over time to get the realistic effect I want.

After finishing my acrylics experiment, I moved back to works I’d started in oils and became unhappy with. I reworked them with a different, more considered approach and was much happier with the results.

I even returned to a piece I started back in early February. I’d got ‘stuck’ with it and wasn’t sure how to progress, but I spent an afternoon working on it and made great progress.

Whilst I may have seven (yes, I know!) pieces in progress at the moment, it’s working well for me as I can rotate my time on pieces as they dry ready for the next layer.

Published by Chris

Landscape artist Chris Richards lives on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in the village of Ystradgynlais. Chris works mainly in oils, but also dabbles with acrylics, ink pens, watercolours, and soft pastels.

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