Before going to Polytech to study Fine arts I had only ever used Acrylic paint and Watercolour paints, but never Gouache and only attempted Oil paints twice, so I was actually very intimidated and also excited to be taught how to use these two mediums, especially Oil paints.

My very first attempt with oil paints on my own I got very confused as to how to clean the paint brushes. I’d heard that you should use terps to get the paint out of your brushes but when I tried this after the first dip of the brushes I found that the terps had turned that colour and for the lighter colours couldn’t be used anymore. Plus I couldn’t figure out how to safely dispose of the terps when I was finished. So I very very quickly gave up on oils.

On going to Polytech (Nelson Marlborough Institute of technology) and being shown a new way to clean oil paints cheaply and safely. The way was to use a plate of glass as your palette, and to rinse your brushes with a cheap fragrance free kitchen detergent with your hands protected using rubber gloves and cold water. To clean your palette you can scrape any large amounts of paint off the glass using a palette knife and wiping off onto an old phone book (you can use this page by page and therefore have a large amount waste paper which would otherwise be thrown out.) To get the oily residue off the glass you can use an old cotton rag to wipe the last bits off, and then you have a clean and shiny plate of glass again. To see true colours on your glass lay a piece of white paper under the glass.

Anyway, Here are my three oil paintings that I did at NMIT using this process.Copied from an old master sketch

This painting was a copy of a black and white photo of one of the old master’s sketches (I can’t remember who the artist was or what the drawing is called to be honest). It was our very first attempt at using oil paints via the new method we had been shown and I discovered that I enjoyed painting dry brush with the paints to produce this soft appearance, and then used areas of wet on dry paint to provide outlines and highlights.

This was a copy of Vermeer’s lovely painting “Lady in the Red hat”. I loved painting this and have actually used this technique in other paintings I have done since. The task with this painting was to study the image of the original painting and figure out, based of what we could see, how this painting was painted. I recognised that the way Vermeer had produced this painting was in building up layers of paint, starting with a base colour (orange) and working from dark to light. Anyway. This is what turned out.

This is the third oil painting that I did in learning the art of oil painting. Again it is a copy of a sketch from a black and white master sketch. I absolutely loved the honour in this man’s expression and knew that he had to be the person I chose to copy. I can’t remember the name of the actual work, nor the artist. But I decided to paint him in a similar style to what Van Gogh used painting his works with a method of painting individual lines of paint before wiping my brush to apply the next colour. This method took me literally hours and hours, and was very tedious, but I love the final image! The smudge (though I love the look of it now) was actually me dropping the paint brush accidentally and then trying to wipe the smudge off.