The past few months have been coloured by adventures with oils.
I have been tutored by a dear friend who is an experienced art teacher, with large and small classes as well as individual tuition. Mary has taken me through mixing, palettes, brushes and clean-up, fat-over-lean and things like that. She painted along while I learned to apply these new ideas, both outdoors and in the studio. Remember the hedges?

Adventures with oils-2017-14-outdoor painting-Adelaide gardens-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-colourfully parked
Parked for colour; oil on linen panel; 20x25cm; framed; $AUD340

The good news

You might already know how oils behave. And about their luscious colours and texture. They feel great on a firm brush. There is a creaminess and body AND high intensity of colour. The colours mixed don’t dry before you have finished with them. The paint can blend on the canvas, which is a plus for soft effects AND a minus for mud.

But the positives outweigh those negatives, if you learn to be mindful of their slow drying habit. In plain language that means, avoid touching or scuffing the wet surface. Try not to make a mess!

adventures in oils-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

….and the bad news

Unfortunately there is another story to tell. I have been using odourless turps but my medium pongs a bit. Technical term, sorry. The paints also emit a fume or two.

adventures in oils-splat design pink-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

On and off in the past month I have had bouts of nausea with no obvious cause. No, definitely not that.
Last week’s painting session was in more confined quarters than usual and my nausea was strong. Fresh air helped but when I brought my pot of medium back inside, there it was again, worse.

Adventures with oils – what now?

2017-24-oils-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-cut hedges Glen Osmond
Mulberry and hedges; 25x20cm; oil on linen panel; framed; $AUD340

Time for odourless medium.  Or perhaps water-based oils?

What a shame! I was just getting started and there are three or four outdoor paintings in progress. It could mean I’ll soon have a few paints to pass around. There will be some grief for ending these adventures. For the moment I will persist with outdoor painting in oil where the breezes help. You have to wonder though, about the toxicity of the whole process and knowing the fumes don’t disappear, but add to an environmental load.

adventures in oils-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

What has been your experience?

2 thoughts on “Adventures with Oils – time to quit?

  1. Patricia S. says:

    Philippa! I saw this story on my RSS feed and thought to drop in to say hello. This issue is something I can very much relate to – as metalsmiths and jewelers struggle w/ proper ventilation more than most other artist-practices. We often work exclusively in small, tight work spaces – and everything we use has a toxin or “smell” that is not good. What I would do is only work indoors when there’s an open window with a fan pushing the fumes away from your easel. There’s a brand of fan here called “Vornado” and they are small, lightweight enough to be carried with you, and highly effective. I realize you are sometimes working w/ other painters even in their own studios and do not have much to say in that instance. I know when I was working part-time in an art school many years back, any student who was found using a “smelly-type” medium or turp was asked to leave the class immediately. And this was an oil painting-only curriculum. So there must be alternatives; when there isn’t – there’s always a Vornado! Cheers. Happy Sunday to you!

  2. SPQ887 says:

    Hi Patricia, thank you for your comments and thoughtful advice. We actually have such a fan which I have used in extreme heat! Gave up because of the drying factor with acrylic paint BUT now I can see what a boon it could be with oils. Not quite time to give them up! And yes, there will be more odour-free medium out there just waiting to be found. There are some solutions for the problem. I really enjoy oils! Lovely to hear from you and know you have “been there” and worked it out. A fellow artist, ambassador for the toil! Thank you.

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