Over the years I’ve met many artists who’ve wanted to try painting in oils but they’ve been put off by the down side of oil painting, the need for solvents like turps and white spirit. For many people using hazardous materials in the home or studio is not an option. There’s the smell, problems with allergies and concerns about safety around kids and pets. But there’s a very easy way to get started with oil painting without any of these worries, water soluble oils.
Working with water soluble oils is a joy. I’ve been painting with them for years now, they’re very easy and simple to use. Good quality water mixable oils are just like other oil paints except for the additive that makes them water soluble. They look, feel and handle the same way. The difference is you can thin the paint with water instead of solvent, and wash your brushes with water too, so no nasty or dangerous fumes. It makes it easy to clean up after a painting session so it’s something you can do on the kitchen table without a lot of complicated equipment.
I use Holbein Aqua Duo from Jackson’s here in the UK, but available in other countries too. A superb range of high quality water soluble oils. Jackson’s has a starter set of 4 20ml tubes that would be perfect for anyone wanting to give oils a try.
Jackson’s also have their own range of Jackson’s Aqua oils. Lovely soft paints to use, they flow off the brush and blend beautifully. They’re a very good price too!
You’ll need a couple of brushes and they need to be suitable for acrylic painting because they’re going to see a fair bit of water. If you don’t have any already try one of each of these; Jackson’s Akoya brushes, stiff white synthetic bristle brushes that are great for working with thicker paint, and Jackson’s Procryl brushes, a little softer than the Akoya and great for thinner layers of paint and blending colours together. These or something similar will get you started.
You can buy some pretty cheap canvases these days but personally I think a great surface to work on is oil paper. It comes as a pads or blocks and I think it’s much less intimidating than a blank stretched canvas, staring at you as if daring you to spoil its lovely white surface! A paper block is easy to use and easy to store. Daler Rowney, Arches, Clairefontaine and Hahnemühle all make good ones.
Here’s an oil sketch on Arches oil paper…
And here’s a close up of the paint on the surface of the paper…
So why not give water soluble oils a try? They are easy to use, easy to clean up, no nasty smells and you can try them without breaking the bank. And you might just fall in love with oil painting.
Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.