Oil painting is one of the most difficult yet aesthetically pleasing art forms. The beautiful thing about it is that no two pieces ever look the same and that everyone has their own idea of what is considered engaging. Although oil paint has long been used to create artwork, oil painting as a technique did not gain popularity until the early fifteenth century. The process of creating oil paintings traditionally involved mixing pigments with drying oils like linseed oil, poppy seed oil and walnut oil, however today artists often use water miscible oil paint as it allows for a much faster drying time (usually between one to three days instead of one to three weeks). Artists use oil paints and oil painting techniques to create artwork covering a wide range of genres from abstract and art deco to figurative, expressionism and impressionism. Some of the world’s most famous oil paintings include Water Lilies by French Impressionist Claude Monet, Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh and Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci (arguably the best known painting in the world). The unique attraction and beauty of oil paintings is undeniable, making them perfect for adding a special touch to any room, in any home.
There is no doubt that oil painting is a diverse and popular genre, with artists able to adapt and adopt a variety of techniques to bring their visions to life. Before pigments and materials became widely available, artists used protein-based ingredients and animal fat as a binder to make their own oil paint and extracted colour sources from a wide range of medium, making it an inherently creative, fluid and highly visual style. If you are looking to buy an oil painting online, it can be helpful to understand the many differing techniques used in oil paintings:
Technique 1 - Glazing: This popular technique was used by Vermeer in many of his works. Artists use glazing to build up many transparent layers, each applied over an opaque base layer on canvas. The subsequent colours are applied to the canvas and built up one atop the other, creating a beautiful multi-faceted look. The base layer or underpainting is usually done in a single colour. The upper layers are optically mixed and give a ‘shine through’ effect not possible by standard paint mixing alone.
Technique 2 - Chiaroscuro: Chiaroscuro was a technique adopted by many renaissance artists such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio. These paintings offer a significant contrast between light and dark. This technique creates a 3D illusion and pushes the subject to the foreground.
Technique 3 - Blending: One of the beautiful features of oil paint is that it stays wet for days at a time. This means that artists can take their time blending colours and grinding pigments and create perfectly subtle hue and tonal transitions. The finished effect you can achieve by blending oil is unlike other mediums such as acrylic or watercolour, which are quick drying and force artists to work faster.
Technique 4 - Scumbling: Scumbling refers to the technique of using a dry, stiff brush and applying thin layers of paint to canvas. Artists such as Turner was a big fan of this technique. Scumbling paintings do not always have a smooth finish and often some of the under-painting remains exposed.
Technique 3 - Impasto: Van-Gough often used the Impasto technique in his artwork. These paintings feature purposeful strokes of thick paint. Each brush stroke is visible in the finished piece. Artists commonly mix colours directly on the canvas. Some oil paintings for sale in our store feature a combination of the Impasto technique and other styles in order to make the area more prominent in the piece.
Technique 4 - Alla Prima: This is a method of painting in layers without allowing the base layer to dry first. Another style popular with Van-Gogh and Monet. It creates a beautiful multi-layer soft finish.
Browse the full range of oil paintings for sale online to see examples of these techniques.