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Painting the Sea, Ship, and Lighthouse in Oil

Drawing on Canvas
Drawing on Canvas
The First Oil Layer
The First Oil Layer
With the start of a new oil painting, there is a need to take many factors into consideration. What do I want to paint, what kind of research will I do, do I have the supplies that I need, and when am I going to get started. I've had a nautical theme on the mind for a little while. A few months back a friend requested a lighthouse, and at paint-night more recently, the topic of painting ships came up. I don't have a lot if experience painting ships or the sea and have to admit to being a little intimidated, and this is where the next topic begins. Before beginning this painting, there is a need to do a little research. I'm not sure how my own technical abilities will pan out, but I plan to reach high. I spent time browsing examples on the Internet to see what styles and qualities of Sea paintings are out there, and there are numerous gorgeous works in oil. I like to zoom in to study the paint strokes. It's amazing how simple and imperfect strokes can be when scrutinizing them under magnification. Here comes my confidence. I can make a simple stroke like that. Quality has a lot to do with art basics; perspective, tints and shades, color palette, and overall composition to name a few. I examined different lighthouse styles, types of ships, styles of painting ocean waves, and different lighting possibilities depending on the placement of the sun. I already have the necessary supplies:
  • Easel
  • Canvas
  • Oil paint
  • Brushes
  • Linseed oil
  • Turpentine
  • Glass jars to keep them in
  • Rags
  • Clothes that I don't mind tossing
  • Soap that will cut through oil paint, my favorites are dawn dish soap and dove bar soap-good stuff.
  • A place with ventilation
  • A place to store my drying painting
  • Lighting
  • Time and motivation, I would like to become a professional painter
  • Safety
When it was time to get started, I began with a sketch on paper to help me decide the best location for the elements that I would like to include, and then I transferred that sketch onto the canvas with a little more detail. Once this was complete, it was time to set up my art space. I have supplies within reach and mix my color choices on the palette. I remember some of the pointers that really stuck out in art school:
  • Don't leave the brushes in the oil or turpentine . Be careful not to crush the tip.
  • Start with a little turpentine and oil in the first layers, build up linseed oil in a higher oil to turpentine ratio in additional layers.
  • Plan to spend several sessions on the painting, oils need to build up .
  • Don't paint at night in poor lighting. The colors will be wrong.
  • Never add black. Instead make shadows with a complementary color.
  • It's easier to start light and go dark than the other way around.
  • If major mistakes can't be wiped off, wait for the canvas to dry and paint over it.
  • Don't mix acrylic paint with oil. Oil can be painted over acrylic once dry but not the other way around.
  • It takes several days for the oil to dry and it must be dry before doing the next layer
  • Rags are flammable. Be aware of proper oil painting safety.
  • The paint is toxic. Keep it off your skin and clothing and away from kids.
  • Don't wash or dry clothing or rags with turpentine or oil on them. They are flammable.
  • Just about any mistake on the canvas can be fixed. Don't be afraid to add color, even contrasting colors to add depth in the first layer.
  • Color the entire canvas in new paint each session that you have.
  • Start with a good composition.
  • Step back and at times step away and look at the painting with fresh eyes to help identify areas that aren't quite right.
  • Don't forget perspective and value.
  • Have fun.
I used larger brushes for larger areas and small, high-quality brushes for details. The second image above shows the stage the painting is at now. It has just received its first layer of paint. I will have at least two additional sessions and each will require drying time. The painting will become more interesting and complex with each new layer. I will post the update when it is available. -Beth        

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