I’ve been fortunate in that one of the lessons I’ve learned in life is the value of simplicity. Of course, I have to be honest and admit that I haven’t always applied that principle. Appreciating simplicity has certainly not been part of my art journey.
Quite the opposite, in fact. In many ways I tend to overcomplicate things. I overthink. I overanalyze. I over-study — if such a thing is possible, and yes, maybe we can study too much, taking in too many different ideas from too many different sources.
Since I began oil painting in late 2016, I’ve watched countless tutorials, have read more books than I can even remember, and have spent untold hours online browsing art sites. I’ve devoured issues of Artist magazine. All of this done, of course, with good intentions. I want to learn as much as I can about oil painting techniques and how to improve my art.
Yes, I have learned a lot, and yes, my paintings have improved a bit over the last 2-1/2 years. Still, I’ve struggled in many ways. I’ve tried so many different approaches and processes that I’ve often gotten lost along the way. But, that’s all right. I see it as part of the journey. It’s how I learn best.
Now, I’m simplifying things. I’m becoming more comfortable with creating art, more willing to accept that I am who I am as an artist. I’m not fretting too much over mistakes. I’m not worrying too much about perfect proportions or getting every brush stroke right. I’m just being me and painting the way I paint.
But the way I’ve painted in the past has led to a lot of frustrations, and this is where simplicity has come into play. Many times I’ve mentioned the problems I have with my paints and palette.
I’m a very messy painter. I could never get my brushes truly clean, it seemed, no matter what cleaner I used or how carefully I washed and dried them. This led to unwanted and unexpected streaks of color where I least needed them. It led to throwing away a lot of brushes and spending money for new ones. It led to a lot of exasperation!
And mediums? Mixing them — lean, fat, and medium — was fun, but messy. I knock things over a lot. I spill things. Even with three mixtures of oil and spirits, I still had trouble getting my paint exactly the right consistency.
Is it any surprise that I finally stored everything away and didn’t even think about oil painting for months? Not really.
When I first began painting again, I almost quit before I began. The thought of dealing with all those vexations, facing up to so many disappointments, and making such an outrageous mess in my kitchen — where my art studio resides — well, it was almost enough to stop me in my tracks.
But then I found a way to reduce a lot of the frustrations and make my painting process much easier. I dug out the set of water-soluble oils I’d bought last year. I had used them for my playful painting of Korcula.
I’d heard about water-soluble oils, but I didn’t think I’d like them. One member of our local art association brought a set to a meeting one night, and that’s when I became interested in trying them.
Carrying oil painting materials to meetings — or anywhere — is more than I can handle. And some facilities clearly state no toxic solvents allowed.
So, learning to paint with water-soluble oils seemed like it might be a very practical thing.
With the Korcula painting, I wasn’t sure what to think of the water-soluble paints. I put them aside, and didn’t go back to them.
Now, I’ve dug them out again. I’ve spent more time playing with them. I’m learning to love them. I’m enjoying my little 8-tube set so much that I’ve now ordered a larger 36-tube set.
This set is not the finest quality of water-soluble paints available, but it’s perfect for me. I’m still in the ranks of hobbyist artist, not professional, and I don’t like spending too much for paints. I know, I know. Quality does make a difference, and maybe I’d see better results with higher-quality materials. And maybe someday I will move beyond student grade paints and cheap brushes.
Right now, though, continuing my art education with my new set of Mont Marte water-soluble oils is where I am, who I am, and what I’m doing.
Here is a recent project completed with my water-soluble paints:
I love the simplicity of using water instead of oil painting medium. I love the simplicity of cleaning my brushes with nothing more than soap and water. I love the simplicity of mixing these paints on my palette — for some reason, it seems so much easier than mixing my traditional oils.
Painting with these water-solubles has been fun. I’m learning, and I’m liking the results for the most part. I’m finding it easier to layer the colors, which means less mess and less mud.
Making the physical act of painting as easy for myself as possible can only be a good thing, I think. We do more of what we enjoy, and my new simplified version of art has already been a lot of fun, and that’s exactly what I want from my oil painting right now.