Oil paint is a thick paint made with ground pigment and a drying oil such as linseed oil. Oil paints provide flexibility and depth of colour. They can be applied in many different ways.
Oil paint can be applied as a thin glaze diluted with turpentine or quite dense as a thick impasto. Slow to dry – artists continue working the paint for much longer than other types of paint.
Oil Painting – Fat Over Lean
‘Fat over lean’ refers to the principle of applying ‘fat’ oil paint, which has a higher oil to pigment ratio, over ‘lean’ oil paint, which has a lower oil to pigment ratio, in order to ensure a stable paint film. The idea is to prevent upper layers of oil paint from drying faster than lower layers, which can lead to an oil painting cracking.
Oil paint straight out of the tube is considered ‘fat’. Adding more oil, such as linseed oil, will make it even ‘fatter’, further increasing the drying time. Even when it feels dry to the touch, it may still be drying under the surface.
‘Lean’ paint, on the other hand, is oil paint mixed with turpentine or some other fast-drying medium. ‘Lean’ oil paint dries faster than ‘fat’ oil paint.
The key thing to remember, in order to avoid cracking, is that every layer in an oil painting must be ‘fatter’ than the one beneath it. That is because if ‘lean’ oil paint is painted over ‘fat’ oil paint, the ‘lean’ layer could be subject to cracking as the ‘fat’ layer dries and contracts underneath it. Also, lower layers tend to absorb oil from the layers above them, especially when ‘fat over lean’ is not followed.
Another thing to consider is the quality of the oil paints you are using. Cheaper oil paints often have drying agents added, making the drying times more consistent.
Conversely, quality oil paints generally consist of oil and pigment only, leading to varying drying times. For example, Prussian blue, titanium white, and flake white all have a lower oil content and dry more quickly. However, cadmium yellow and cadmium red, both of which have a medium oil content, usually take about five days to dry.
According to some oil paint manufacturers, it is possible to circumvent the ‘fat over lean’ principle by using synthetic, alkyd-based mediums like Galkyd and Liquin. However, while these products do provide consistent drying times, increase the paint film flexibility, and promote adhesion between paint layers, their long-term stability is not known at this time.
If you would like to learn more, please visit http://www.oilandpigment.blogspot.com where I discuss my own paintings and works in progress.
Tips On The Care And Handling Of Your Oil Painting
Buying a genuine oil painting for display in your home or office is a cause for celebration. Whether you purchased an old oil painting or commissioned a brand new oil portrait, you probably realized as soon as you removed the wrappings that you don’t have ‘just another picture’ to hang on the wall.
Oil paintings, which are not mounted behind glass (except in some museum circumstances for preservation), require special consideration regarding handling and maintenance. A few tips will help you avoid making mistakes that might damage your oil painting and help you preserve it for many years as a keepsake or family heirloom.
Handling and Storage
Oil painting is a sturdy, long-lasting, and durable art form, and with proper care and handling will last for generations. A visit to any good museum will confirm this, but keep in mind that museums go to great lengths to safeguard their masterpieces.
- Always handle an oil painting by the frame without touching the painted surface.
- Never let any object press again either the front or back of an oil painting canvas, as it pliable and will cause a dent or hole. If an accident occurs, have an expert repair the damage. An amateur repair job may look okay at first but given time will inevitably show.
- For temporary storage or transporting an oil painting, place cardboard or plywood on both front and back (slightly larger than the outside dimensions of the framed oil painting) and then wrap in ‘bubble wrap’ and tape or tie securely.
- Permanent storage should be in a custom-sized plywood container with the painting braced to allow air flow on all sides without shifting.
- Never expose an oil painting to extremes of heat, cold, or humidity, whether hanging on your wall or in storage. Neither basements nor attics are good storage locations. The best place to store an oil painting is on the wall for all to enjoy.
- Occasional dusting with a clean, soft-bristled brush is recommended. A very old or dirty oil painting should be taken to a professional restorer.
Hanging Your Oil Painting
Here is the fun part. Oil paintings, especially portrait oil paintings, demand pride of place in your home. Involve your spouse or family in deciding the perfect location.
Hang your oil painting on two picture hooks which are appropriate to the wall (wood, plaster, drywall) and strong enough to secure the weight of the picture. Two hooks, rather than one, will allow the picture to maintain a horizontal position.
1) Choose a place for your painting that does not get direct sunlight or is subject to hot or cold drafts.
2) Hang high enough to be able to see the painting clearly from anywhere in the room. A spot over a mantelpiece or over a sofa (above head height of anyone sitting on the sofa) is usually ideal.
3) Avoid hanging oil paintings in hallways or on walls where there is frequent family movement or furniture may be brushed against the wall.
4) If you have central heat or air conditioning, that’s great. If not, a rule of thumb is, if people are comfortable in the room your oil painting occupies, chances are your oil painting will be comfortable too.
If you do not own a genuine oil painting yet, you can turn a favorite family photograph into an oil portrait as a way of displaying it and preserving it forever.
An inexpensive way to acquire an oil painting or oil painting portrait of any photograph is to commission one from oil portrait website.
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