Oil Painting Study for Beginners – Water and Rocks

When it comes to practicing your skills in oil paints, I believe that painting random images that you have taken yourself is a great way to practice. This is exactly what this exercise, as I went back through my phone’s camera roll, I watched a previous video I filmed of the water crashing up on the rocks and took a screenshot. A single frame from a video that had little meaning, turned into something that I would end up spending hours on to study and paint. I also thought that this little scenery of water and rocks would be perfect for practicing to paint with oil paints. There are so many colours, tones and textures, you have the boldness and sharpness of the rocks and the smooth wavy texture of the water.

The Akoya Filbert brush size 0 from Jacksons Art is what I used to create most of the details. The shape and the length of the bristles are perfect and I highly recommend it if you too long for a perfect brush for small detailed work. I think it’s because it has the beneficial shape of being flat but not as harsh as flat brushes because it has slightly curved edges. You can check out this brush from Jacksons Art linked below.

Painting this random image was really fun and important for me. As I constantly draw animals in pastels for my job, I think its necessary I try out other subject matter and media in my spare time. I love so many different types and styles of art so I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible. I haven’t fully decided what kind of artist I want to be in the future or whether I will fully specify into one type of art. At the moment, I’m really enjoying creating realistic pet portraits in pastels for clients and I always find myself getting excited to start another one. On the other hand I’m really enjoy working on improving my oil painting skills and seeing the possibility and versatility with that media. I’m also desperate to practice more with watercolours when I find more time but I just have to be patient! I feel as though every artist goes through these thoughts, it would be interesting hearing if anyone feels the same way as me.

Materials used:

A List of Knowledge, Supplies and Techniques for Beginner Oil Painters

Before picking up the paintbrushes and starting oil painting, I realised I needed more than oils and paintbrushes. I did a lot of research beforehand and I found it rather difficult to get easy simple answers for what supplies I needed to start so I hope to list them here for you and explain clearly what they are and what they’re used for.

  • Oil paint is also known as oil colour by many brands, it is the same thing. I thought this would be useful to clarify if you’re a beginner as I once thought they were separate types of oil paint.
  • Liquin – Manufactured by Winsor & Newton is what is known as and is often called an oil paint medium by painters. A small amount of Liquin is mixed in with the oil paint to create a smoother consistency and most importantly to quicken drying time. I mix Liquin in with the paint on my pallet, depending on how smooth or transparent I want the paint. The more Liquin mixed in, the more transparency and faster drying time. Liquin makes details such as hairs easy to paint as allows the oil the flow more smoothly onto the surface.
  • Glazing – A technique used by painters to incorporate a tint of colour by using mostly Liquin with a small amount of oil paint. When your painting dries and you want to add or change colours without changing or repainting your painting fully, Liquin creates a sort of thin transparent layer that tints an area a colour of your choice. Think of it as you have just finished painting a portrait and you would like to make the subjects cheeks more of a blush colour, once your painting has dried you can go back on top with a small amount of rose colour oil paint mixed in with mostly Liquin and it will tint the cheeks with the colour while keeping the under layers visible and intact.
  • Gesso – A white paint mixture used to prime a surface. To prime a surface just means to make the surface of whatever your painting on whether it be paper or wood for example, suitable for oils to then be painted on. . If oils are painted on any normal paper or unprimed canvas, they can actually destroy the paper overtime. Gesso is a bit like acrylic paint, it dries and hardens which effectively creates a foundation for your oil painting to go on which won’t be destroyed by the oil paint overtime. Gesso is white, sort of like a rough white acrylic paint and is great as you can mix in small amounts of different acrylic colour paints and make your gesso a different base colour. For example, I sometimes like to paint on a slightly grey surface so I will mix a small amount of black with a large amount of white gesso which leaves you with a light grey surface to paint on. You can also buy pre-primed canvas’ or surfaces which solves this problem for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Cleaning Brushes – I simply use hand wash or washing up liquid in a small glass cup and swirl my brushes around, pressing them so that the bristles separate and open so that the liquid can get to all the oil in-between the hairs and then rince with tap water, doing this soon after painting when the paint hasn’t already fully dried is ideal. I repeat this step and then dry them with some toilet tissue or kitchen towel and if no paint colour comes off then I know the brush is cleaned. I then rub some hair conditioner into them and rinse one last time to keep them soft.
  • Lots of paper towels! – Paper towels are a cheap and great way of quickly cleaning up mess and wiping off your brushes. You’ll find its easy to go through many rolls of the stuff when painting with oils!
  • Disposable pallets – These have been a life saver, instead of having to clean my pallet each time to start fresh, I simply pull of a paper disposable pallet which is coated thinly with wax to avoid any bleed through so that your surfaces won’t end up messy with oil paint or medium. I purchase these: (UK: https://amzn.to/30lpmhJ) (US: https://amzn.to/3cJ4p5j)
  • Different size / shape brushes – There are countless variations of brush size and shapes available to purchase which is good as different shapes and sizes make painting different areas easier to paint. For example, small thin brushes are good for little details where as larger flat brushes will be useful to paint larger, less detailed sections. Speciality brushes like rigger brushes make painting fur details easier, this is due to the long shape of the bristles allowing more paint to be held and flow onto the paper which reduces the amount of times you have to keep applying paint to your brush. The greater variations in brushes you try, the more you can pick out your favourites for ease and control. I’m still learning!

Back to blog homepage

My Journey as a Beginner Oil Painter

Hi, my name is Shay and I go by the alias Shaymus. I am a pet and people portrait artist living in the UK, working mainly with pastels. I recently moved house and re-decorated my new one, while using gloss to paint the doors and skirting boards, it made me really nostalgic of oil painting! Soon after completing the renovations on my new house, I began picking up my painting brush in between pastel commissions. I soon realised how much of a beginner I was at painting, having been so used to drawing over the years.

I have decided to document my journey from the start to pick up on what I find difficult and what I know I need to improve on. This includes, colour mixing, understanding layers and knowledge of supplies. I thought this would be a great way to teach others who are starting out in oils so that they didn’t need to guess and fail, I decided I would like to be the one to trial and error to show you where I went wrong and what I learned. Saying that, I’m a strong believer that art is always self taught through your own practice so I highly encourage to practice on your own as well as learning from others. Your own fails are fundamental at teaching you, I just hope some of mine can assist you too.

Luckily, I have already spent years building up a skill on how to draw realistically, now all I need to do is learn how to paint realistically in oils. If only it was that easy! The straight fact is that wet media is different to dry media, I can only carry some skills through but learning new techniques and understanding how the medium works is key. As I practice throughout the next coming months, I aim to lay everything out what I think other beginners need to know and what I would of liked to be told to make life easier. I will also record my painting processes. 1, to watch my progress and 2, to visibly learn from my mistakes and improve. I hope to tell you where I know I’ve gone wrong and what I can do on the next painting to improve the overall desired outcome. I hope this method of tutoring will help as you may have similar mistakes also being a beginner in oil painting.

I will create a blog post for each video, listing the lessons learnt and what to keep in mind. I really hope this helps you out. Linking to each video will be below:

  • An introduction to oil painting. (difference between other wet & dry mediums)
  • What beginner oil painters need to get started (supplies & knowledge)
  • Lessons on painting fur

Back to blog homepage