Adventures with Oils – time to quit?

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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?

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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!

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….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.

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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?

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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.

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What has been your experience?

Painting clinics – for talkative works

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Painting clinics are sessions for a Review-Refresh-Recover approach to my work. Not all paintings are ready to meet the world immediately. Some wait quietly in the corner. Others hang on the wall, but catch my eye sometimes while I work on other things.

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Me, ignoring the talkative ones.

There are conversations that go on behind the scenes in the studio too.

Some paintings call out:  “Look at me! Look at me!”  Some say:  “It’s about time you spent time over here.”  Others whisper:  “I’m not quite right yet.”

Painting clinics

The chatter builds up. There are usually about five or six works competing for my attention by this stage. Eventually there is no option except to stop other work and focus on those talkative paintings.

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The clinic allows me to tackle them one-by-one. Up on the easel, with full attention, the painting is in the spotlight. By this stage I am quietly reading it. The passage of time has usually helped the freshness of my vision at this point. It may need stronger form and less detail, more tonal drama, or more exciting colour contrasts at the focal point.

Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes two or three. Whatever it takes I enjoy the interruption. And the surprises that emerge. Since I have been using oils, the surprises are in the colour.


I will include some thumbnails to illustrate what happens.

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Mary’s hedge. (allow for different lighting)

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Jetty Road, Brighton

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From Linear Park, Walkerville

Confession time. Sometimes there are paintings that go “west” rather than “well”. There are two lingering giants among my paintings that I have trouble reviewing right now. They have had a few clinics but suffered rather than prospered under the brush. I don’t paint giant-sized works these days and these two are at least 100x100cm or more. They have gone quiet for now as we are temporarily on bad terms.

More about them later. They are next on the clinic list!



Painting during SALA – review


Painting during SALA

During SALA I painted to provide some insight for visitors and to add an element of interest in the Open Studio display.

Here is the final look back over the shoulder at the paintings I created or started during SALA (the Festival of South Australian Living Artists).

On the whole, painting during SALA was part of the challenge but also the fun for me. Unfortunately I was unable to paint and host the studio, so I usually put the brush down unless people asked to watch rather than look immediately at the studio.

This third work is finished and has already had its first public outing. More about that later, but here it is in draft form.

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Tulips (draft)

The weather on one of the weekends was showery so I needed to paint an indoor still life. We had such luck with the sun during August weekends that this was a rare chance to retreat into the studio for a change. I had advertised outdoor painting demos weather permitting, after all.

The subject matter was close at hand. It was a bunch of tulips, a gift from a visiting niece and her husband. I was unable to complete this one in the first sitting, so the pressure was on. If you know how quickly tulips open, you understand what I mean.

I finished the painting during the following week and was able to hang it at the next Open Studio session. It took the place of one which sold and went off to a lovely new home!

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Tulips in bud

An unusual work?

There has been quite a bit of interest in this one. Although I have painted many still life works over the years, this one certainly strikes a different note in my catalogue of recent works.

The size is 30x30cm and the painting is framed in a narrow white box frame, with other choices available. I am not sure where it will fit on my website, so if you are interested, please let me know. Price is $AUD350 ($300 for newsletter subscribers) with shipping and frame included.

Cheers, Philippa

Art – Is it better to be solitary?

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Workshops, shared studio spaces, master classes, collaborative pieces, community groups – there are plenty ways for artists to work with others. Still, much studio work is done alone. Reading, researching, painting, experimenting, standing back and looking, pondering.

We no longer need to be solitary with the online community and its zigzagging connections. The elements of fun and surprise that come from these are often inspirational.

How strategic do we need to be? When to axe the android or lose the laptop? The muse sings softly at times.