What I’ve Learned

I’ve now been oil painting for a little over a week. I’ve had my successes, and I’ve had my failures. Granted, one week isn’t long, but I have already learned a lot.

  • Some days are better than others.

Yesterday, my painting session was a disaster. Today began with a bit of a disappointment, but by the time I put my paints away, I was reasonably happy with the work I’d accomplished. I suppose that’s how it will always be. Some days I’ll be dancing on air, thrilled with what I’ve put on the canvas; other days I’ll quietly slink away from the easel, muttering under my breath.

Here’s the scene I painted this morning. I’m not sure what that pinkish blob really is. I thought a pink bush would look good but it didn’t come out quite like I’d imagined. I tweaked it a bit, but only made it look even more conspicuous. Other than that, I like the painting.

Winter Scene by Judith Kraus Oil on Canvas Panel 12 x 15
  • I can’t tell how a painting will look while I’m working on it.

Now, this might seem like an odd thing to say, but it’s true. It’s really, really true. As I’m painting, I’m usually shaking my head, frowning, and thinking that “This just doesn’t look right.” It’s only after I step back from the easel that I can actually see that all my little blobs of paint really are creating the proper illusion. In the picture above, for instance, I initially thought the pine trees were hideous, It was only later that I saw they actually did look like snow-covered branches.

  • It’s so important to find “a happy medium”.

My first painting was done without any oil painting medium. It turned out better than I’d expected. My next painting was done with a little too much medium, and the result was a drab, colorless forest. With some of my recent paintings, I’ve gone way overboard; with others, I’ve got it “just about right”.ย  It helps to keep “thick to thin” in my mind as I’m working, and I’m learning how to create the right consistency for each application of oil paint.

  • I prefer working on canvas panels rather than stretched canvas.

I really didn’t think it would make much difference, but it certainly does! There’s a very different “feel” between a panel and a stretched canvas, plus the 18 x 24 stretched canvas I used yesterday had a wooden bar running vertically down the center. It was awkward to paint over it. As much as possible, I want to work with the panels. Eventually I’ll give stretched canvas another try. Maybe I’ll find it easier after I’ve gained a little more oil painting experience.

  • Bigger isn’t better…at least, not for me.

Although I was very excited about painting my first “large” canvas when I bought the 18 x 24 size, my excitement soon faded. It’s going to take a little getting used to for me. I feel most comfortable using 12 x 15 panels, probably because that’s the size of my biggest sketchbooks, and I’ve learned to “see” scenes in those dimensions.

Here’s a painting I recently completed on a 16 x 20 canvas panel:

Mountain Reflections by Judith Kraus Oil on 16 x 20 canvas panel

I do like the clouds. Maybe that’s because I had more space to play with. My mountains, however, got very “streaky” as I tried to highlight them. My reflections are horrible. Even my colors are a bit off from top to bottom. I gave this one a shrug and an “Oh, well”. It’s not a disaster, but I’m not fully satisfied with it either. It’s going to take a bit more practice before I’m comfortable moving away from my familiarย 12 x 15 dimensions.

  • I am an extremely messy painter.

I’m getting better. I don’t think, though, that I’ll ever be able to do an oil painting without leaving a mess around me. It’s partly from working in a tiny corner of my kitchen, of course. I think if I had a spacious studio, I’d be a little more organized, and not so likely to spill, tip, smear, or otherwise wreak havoc with paints and brushes as I do now. I end up with paint all over my old T-shirt, paint all over my hands, paint all over my easel. Earlier today, I discovered a lovely bit of blue-gray oil paint on a door knob. Oops! Fortunately, it wiped away easily. I’m lucky that my husband believes little “accidents” add charm and character to a home. I don’t share that sentiment, though. I don’t want a home with splotches of paint here, there, and everywhere. I don’t want to ruin any clothes. I especially don’t want to worry about friends or family accidentally getting paint on their hands or clothes all because of my oil painting.

  • Painting is most fun when I play around with it.

It would be very easy to take myself too seriously as “an artist” and totally spoil the fun I’m having.ย  Oil painting is most enjoyable, I’ve learned, when I don’t think too much about the results. As long as I approach each painting with a “Well-let’s-see-how-this-turns-out” attitude, I feel free to do as I please, and if I make mistakes, so be it. Like that odd pink bush I painted in today’s scene. I like the color, at least. And the painting was fun. Even though I did do a bit of head-shaking and really hated my “hideous” trees, at first, I still enjoyed my painting time today. The real pleasure, of course, came when I stepped back, looked at what I’d done, and realized that it actually isn’t all that bad.

simple-flourish-divider-clipart-1I hope you enjoy my oil paintings and other art works.
Thanks for visiting my blog.






  1. I always follow your blog with interest but have little time to leave comments. But after reading your statement that ‘you have only painted with oil for one week..” Oh my goodness, you are so talented!!! I especially love your winter scene with dreamy snow and beautiful winter color. Lovely work, so yes, more of this please! Cheers from Ohio, Johanna

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Johanna! Oil painting has been a very pleasant surprise for me. I avoided it for such a long time because I never thought I could do it. I can hardly believe the progress I’ve made in such a short time. It seems, at last, I’ve found my calling in art. Of course, I do have those discouraging days. I’m sure there will be many more to come. I think right now I’m having a stroke of “beginner’s luck”. ๐Ÿ™‚


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