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A mini return to oil painting

A mini return to oil painting

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Well this will be a first – returning to oil painting after seven years not doing it. I did two paintings in 2008 for our cadet squadron lounge at the Royal Military College (“General Wolfe” and “Joseph Brant” in my gallery), but I haven’t touched oils since then. Partially it was because it was basically impossible to do oils in a military dorm room, what with constant inspections and roommates who likely wouldn’t have appreciated being stuck in a tiny room with the smell of oils and solvents. I did the two portraits in the squadron lounge (an hour a night for a few weeks until they were done), but I couldn’t have done that just for my own artwork that wasn’t going to end up as a gift to the squadron. Another reason was that life at RMC was just a “little” busy, especially as I skipped an entire year so I compressed four years of schooling and military training into three. And then a year after I graduated, in the summer between my first and second year of my masters degree (because apparently I’m a sucker for never-ending education), I got hurt on a military training course. My neck and upper back muscles became basically completely seized, so for two years after that I couldn’t paint or draw at all due to the pain and my focus on just getting through the rest of my masters.

I’ve written several blog articles (here and here) about the ArtRage app that I started using at the end of 2013 that seemed to be a good way for me to get back into painting and drawing, albeit in a different method. I still really like the app, and I’m currently doing some anatomy drawing courses with it. But recently I participated in an online auction to help raise money for a friend, her dog needed emergency surgery that set her back thousands of dollars. One of the auction items was some little tiny canvases and mini easels, the canvases are about 2″ square. I saw them in the auction and I thought they were adorable, so I bid on them thinking that maaaayyyybbeeee I could figure out a way to prop them up at eye level and do some really little paintings. One of the main issues I have with doing actual painting and drawing is moving my arms and shoulders, and moving my head back and forth to look at my reference images and the painting. I thought just maybe I could do some real paintings with these dinky little canvases as they were so small I could just paint with my wrists and I wouldn’t have to move my head at all.

Oil paints
Oil paints

So out I went to the art shop (a completely “evil” place as I want to buy everything in there) and picked up some oil paints. I’d long since thrown out the paints I’d used for the portraits I did at RMC, and they likely would have been dried up or separated by now anyway. I always use cool colours as I find they make the most incredibly beautiful teals and purples, I hate muddy colours. So I got a white, a very dark brown (as they were out of black), cool yellow, blue, and red, and an ochre. I usually use the ochre colour as a base if I’m doing portraits or figures, as it’s a nice mid tone that I can then work with and play with. I also bought a bottle of medium the art shop clerk recommended – I like using medium to make the oils flow a little better and it makes the oils dry glossier. I’m not sure what I’ll be painting yet, possibly some closeups of some flower photos I took. I’ll do a little designing and see what I think might look best on such small canvases. I’m also not sure exactly when I’ll start on the paintings as I have silly amounts of projects on the go, but I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Of course I’ll take pictures of how I do my set up so people can see how I’m painting if they need to find a way to paint in a more “adaptive” manner as well. I do have a gloriously awesome Italian easel in a box in my storage room, it’s even got a blank canvas on it (it was given to me by a customer in a retail shop I used to work at as a thank you for giving her really good service). But it is hard for me to stand in general, as being fully upright means the full weight of my head is on my neck. I prefer reclining now, so I’ll see how I can rig up the little dinky canvases so I can paint while lying at a 45 degree angle.

Wish me luck!

Follow Dana Batho:

Artist and Designer

I am an artist, veteran, analyst, and mommy to the sweetest dog ever. I am constantly thinking of ways to use my creativity in everything I touch despite my physical limitations, and I love encouraging others to do the same.

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