Exploring Traditional Mediums

If anyone follows this blog they may be wondering why there has been a hiatus. I was feeling bored with digital painting. I was also plagued by the fear that maybe it’s the computer and not me that is responsible for how good the paintings look. I therefore wanted to see if I was any good with traditional mediums and so I’ve spent the last month and a half practicing with acrylic and oil paints. Also, I’m pretty sure staring intensely at my computer screen for hours at a time isn’t so good for my eyes.


First stop was Acrylic. It has the advantages of being much cheaper than oil paint, it doesn’t smell, and it won’t potentially kill me. HOW-EV-ER, I absolutely hate it, no words can describe how much this stuff annoys me and for one reason alone – drying time. With digital paint, unless you start painting on a new layer the colour acts as if it is wet for eternity. By that I mean you can push the colour around and subtly alter things to your hearts content. With real life paint once it’s dry the only way to correct a mistake is to apply a new layer of paint, but acrylic only gives me a maximum of 40 minutes before it is dry and unworkable. As a result the painting process felt incredibly rushed and was not fun at all. The drying time may be good for artists who like to paint in layers but the way I paint digitally is to mimick the alla prima (also known as wet on wet) technique which requires the paint stay wet so you can do the entire painting in one layer.  So after 2 weeks of acrylic painting I moved onto oil.

The best I could manage with acrylics. A painting of a statue of Artemis/Diana


Specifically water-soluble oil. Somehow scientists have created oil that MIXES WITH WATER (this blew my mind). For the artist this means that one no longer needs to use mineral spirits or turpentine to thin the paint/wash brushes, thus removing the most toxic element of oil painting. Oil paint stays wet for so much longer than acrylic- about 3 or 4 days. That means I can use the same techniques I developed painting digitally. One thing I’ve had to change, however, is that instead of painting from middle values out to light and dark (as explained here), I now paint from darkest to lightest. This is to keep the darks as dark as possible and the lights as light as possible since painting over a medium value would contaminate them and make them weaker.

Another thing I’ve had to get used to is being unable to “ctrl-z” mistakes or use the selection tool to move things around (symmetry is a real pain) but the 3 or so days I have till the paint dries gives me plenty of time to alter things but it is a lot more effort than digital.

Oil painting based on a photo I found on pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/852658141923082586/

I’m going to keep practicing with oil because I find it much more exciting than digital. Perhaps that’s because I have so much room for improvement whereas with digital I’m not quite sure how to get better. There’s also the fact that I can enter fancy exhibitions such as those put on by the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and maybe (just maybe) I could one day become a fellow of some royal society and get some letters to put at the end of my name (one of the reasons I like monarchy is the patronage of the arts and opportunities for some pomp and circumstance).

4 thoughts on “Exploring Traditional Mediums

  1. Nice paintings! I hate acrylic too. They dry way too fast. I’m an oil painter through and through. You don’t have to use solvents with oils though. I’ve been using walnut oil to clean my brushes for a year and it’s worked out pretty well. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to solvents. It can also be used as a medium to extend dry time, but I usually use liquin to speed dry time to overnight.


    1. Thank you 🙂 I didn’t go to art school, but I’ve read a lot of drawing and painting books and spent many many hours practicing. For my painting style the most important skill is drawing as I basically see painting as drawing with colour. I highly recommend Jack Hamm’s “Drawing the Head and Figure”. I also recommend watching this (very long) video as it shows the painting technique of a professional: https://youtu.be/POVAbTjiAt4


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