Friday, 13 November 2015

My Reasons to Switch to Oil Paints

St. Pascal Fields, oil, 11" x 14"

Blog 45

If you have read my biography on my website, you may have come upon the sentence “For her studio paintings she prefers acrylic paint, while her plein air work is now solely done in oil due to its better characteristics for the Canadian climate.” Have you ever wondered why? At first, this seems rather odd, as oil paint is a slower medium to dry. Therefore, you are left with a wet painting which you somehow have to transport. While one might still be feasible, how about a whole bunch when you are on a painting trip? Would it not be so much easier to work with watercolour or acrylic paints? The paintings would be dry almost right away, and storage would be no problem. While this aspect is definitely true, there are other reasons as to why I switched from acrylic paints to oil paints for my outdoor work.

I was painting a turning road in St. Pascal on a sunny late September day in 2007 when I got frustrated with the fast drying time of my acrylic paints. Even though I used a retarder and a stay-wet palette to increase the drying time, I had a hard time to get my paint onto the canvas.

However, it still took me a while to change to oil paints, and it was not without challenges.
I had started out my art studies with oil paints, then switched to acrylic paints when my first child was born. I fell in love with the fast drying time and the possibilities the different gels and pastes gave me to manipulate the paint. I did not want to get back to the messy oil paints.

When I finally brought my oil paints to a winter paintout in St. Pascal, it was a bright sunny day with a couple of wind gusts. I still do not remember why I wore my good winter coat - I assume I had not remembered my dad’s old construction coat that I wear nowadays - but before I could even react, one of the wind gusts pressed the painting against my coat.

While I might have had a couple of paint spots on my coat had I painted with acrylic paints, I wore the mirror image of my oil painting on my coat. However, because oil paints dry slowly, I was able to finish the painting session and take my time putting the coat into the washing machine. Every little spot of paint came out. With acrylic paints, I would have had to react immediately. Otherwise, the paint would have dried on my coat.

Oil paints, which contain pigments and drying oils as a binder, take a long time to dry, depending on the oil used and the pigment. Drying oils are oils that react with the oxygen in the air to gradually change from a liquid to a hard paint film, like linseed, safflower, poppy seed, or walnut oil. They differ in sheen and drying time. Other additives might be added to make the paint easier to apply, to decrease the cost of the paint, the drying time, or to change the appearance. Different pigments and the thickness of paint also have an influence on the drying time.

When you look at the drying times of oils, which are generally dry to the touch in two days to two weeks, you can immediately understand why I switched mediums. When I am exposed to the elements, the slow drying process is a big advantage. I can mix bigger amounts of paint at a time without having to fear that the paint dries. It also gives me more time to blend the paint. Another advantage is that oil colours do not change during the drying process, while watercolours get lighter, and acrylic colours darker.

Now, that I use with oil paints for all my outings, I have adjusted my painting gear accordingly. I am happy that I do not have to carry large amounts of water with me to be able clean my brushes right away. Now, I just wipe the excess paint off my brushes and wrap them in plastic foil when we change locations. Often, I do not have to clean them for a couple of days. Thanks to my painting buddies, I also found some slotted boxes which make the transport of my boards easy.

These days, after a painting trip, I really have to pay attention to my painting practices when I am back in the studio working with my acrylic paints. It is tempting to leave paint covered brushes lying around. There are still means to get the hardened paint off the brush but it might shorten the life of your brushes.

If you are interested in learning more about watercolours, acrylic, and oil paints, their advantages and disadvantages, you will enjoy my free eBook "I am ready to paint, but where do I start?", which you will automatically receive when you subscribeto my monthly newsletter at

If you would like to see most of my plein air winter paintings (and some new studio work), I would like to invite you to my solo exhibition "Winter Wonderland" at Tyros Shawarma Lebanese Restaurant at 5929 Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard South, Orléans, ON K1C 6V8. The "Meet the Artist" event will be on December 13, 2015 from 4 pm to 6 pm. This is also a great opportunity to try some of the fantastic food the restaurant has to offer. I would like to thank Adnan Bawab for the opportunity to show my works in his restaurant. Another thank you goes to my friend Josie De Meo who curates the exhibitions at the restaurant.


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