10 painting tips for beginners

Here are some tips I've used to improve my painting skills.

My painting titled 'Chaining Day' Oil on canvas

My painting titled 'Chaining Day' Oil on canvas

I’ve been professionally painting for three years now. Before dabbling in oil paints, I was only ever experienced with acrylic paints in secondary school and thus credited myself with little painting ability, at best. It wasn’t until I took the following steps myself that my love for oil paints positively prevailed.


 

  1. Your subject should be something which resonates with you; if you paint with passion, you will paint well.
  2. Experiment with various painting mediums such as acrylics, oils, gouache and watercolours. Then pick one medium to master in order to progress efficiently.
  3. Research your chosen medium before delving into the deep end. Watch YouTube videos, read art books, find blogs on the essentials, ask artists on social media for their preferred materials and brands and never be afraid to ask them for tips or advice. Remember that most of us began with very little knowledge ourselves.
  4. Find a large, clear area to work in — be it on the floor or kitchen table. All your materials need to be out in view and easily accessible until your piece is finished.
  5. Invest in high quality brushes as the cheap brush heads will only shed their hairs as you are painting, breaking your concentration and leading to unnecessary frustration.
  6. Get into the habit of cleaning your brushes after every session. Don’t be lazy with this part, you will only regret it later! Particularly when it comes to oil painting — always clean your brushes with turps when you’ve finished for the day.
  7. Paint in YOUR own style. This will be unique to you as an individual and will imprint your work with authenticity.
  8. Post your work on social media, sharing as often as possible. Works in progress are often favoured over completed work, so be sure to include them. Instagram is the best place to post your artwork for further motivation from encouraging comments. Don’t forget to add the correct hashtags pertaining to your work.
  9. Work at your own pace and don’t get caught up in internet hype. Follower counts are not a reflection of your artistic worth. Let your work speak for itself.
  10. Practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way to improve. It may well take years for you to see any improvement (as is the case with most professional artists) and others will probably notice it before you do, but I promise you that it will all be worth it in the end.

If you wish to ask any painting questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me on any of my socials @rhymesandoils. I’d be more than happy to help! Please tag me in any work you’ve created after digesting these tips, I would love to see what you’ve created.

(This blog is also available on Medium)

Preserving Artwork: Care and conservation of original oil paintings

Traditional artists whom work in oil paints are guaranteed a body of work that will outlive their own lifetime, serving as a legacy to any collectors. Oil paintings last for thousands of years after the time of creation and become a lifetime investment. With this in mind, to be kept in tip top condition, oil paintings require special care and conservation.  

 

Oil paintings can be cleaned with a piece of bread

Oil paintings can be cleaned with a piece of bread

As a collector of my original oil paintings, it is important to understand that my work is much more than a commodity; it is an eternal piece of my soul, shared with the world. Here are some basic points to follow when caring for a piece of my he(r)[art]:

  • Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will fade the colours in your oil painting. Please be aware of this when choosing a location to hang the work.
  • Oil paintings need to breathe, so should never be framed under glass. Oil paintings can be safely hung without a frame.
  • Instead of using big nails, hooks must be used to hang the painting as inserting nails can develop cracks in the painting, while using hooks provides extra support without any threat of damage.
  • So that a thick layer of dust does not build up, very lightly and infrequently dust the surface of the painting with either of the following: a lint free silk cloth, a feather duster, a piece of bread or a soft bristled bush. Do not spray anything (such as household cleaners) on the work. Watch this YouTube video for further guidance. 
  • If you must transport the work, lay a flat piece of cardboard, over the front and back surfaces and then wrap in bubble wrap or styrofoam wrap. Try not to keep it wrapped up for too long as to avoid moisture buildup which may cause damage to the work.
  • If something bad happens to the work (i.e. it crashes down on someone’s head and gets a big gash in it) bring it to a professional conservator who can fix it properly. Don’t do it yourself! Bring it to someone who knows what to do. I will greatly appreciate you doing this.
  • If you ever need to get rid of my work for any reason, always contact me, to be informed of the work’s new home so I can update the work’s provenance records. Please never, ever destroy or throw away any of my original work! If you absolutely can’t keep it for any reason, offer to give it back to me.

P.S. For inspiration on how to hang artwork in your own home, take a look at my pinterest board.

Brand New Me

As a young girl, I looked up to Alicia Keys and still continue to admire her regal elegance, talent, beauty, and heart of gold - so why wouldn't she be my favourite subject to paint? I certainly have near future plans to paint her for a series of oil paintings. 

Although a little apprehensive at first, in order to develop my oil painting technique, I needed to challenge myself with this piece. My first time painting Alicia Keys required me to step out of my comfort zone of the regular 8x8" canvas size I was accustomed to at the time. The painting process took me on a treacherous but rewarding journey.  

First stage of my Alicia Keys 'Lellow Fire' oil painting

First stage of my Alicia Keys 'Lellow Fire' oil painting

'LellowFire' was created back in October 2012 and then latter turned into handmade earrings. The image that I chose to paint was Alicia Keys' twitter profile picture at the time. I felt that in this photo her hair was almost resembled the mane of a lion. It signified strength and power and this all tied in with the theme of her recently released 'Girl on Fire' album.

When painting any face, I like to focus on the facial features, in particular the eyes. Eyes are the one feature which never change as a person matures. In all my paintings, I feel if that the eyes do not look correct, overall likeness can not be achieved.

During the second stage I wanted to work on shading the nose and cheek areas. Also, at this stage I needed to roughly sketch out (with my paintbrush) where her hair was going to be. This helped me to correct the proportions of her face in the next stage.

Second stage of 'Lellow Fire'

Second stage of 'Lellow Fire'

Honestly, during this stage of the painting, I lost focus and had to take a break for a week. Sometimes I can spend so long intensely looking at the same image that it all simply becomes a blur and soon enough, frustration reigns supreme. Also, I must say that I often find it hard to see things in their simpler shape and form. To overcome this, I find blocking in areas with colour helps me to envision how the final piece will look.

Upon returning to my painting with refreshed eyes, I noticed that Alicia's face was far too long and that her jawline should be further up. This is the part of the painting which I struggled with the most but I knew that inevitably, I would have to persevere with it.For the background I chose a fiery orange colour, to again, tie in with the GOF concept and also compliment Alicia's scarlet lips.

Third stage of 'Lellow Fire'

Third stage of 'Lellow Fire'

I am proud of the end result and this piece is easily one of my favourites. During Alicia's Set the World on Fire Tour I was even lucky enough to hand my painting to her backing singers after her concert here in Manchester. They kindly asked me whether I wanted Alicia to sign it or if I wanted her to keep it. Obviously I chose the latter and never heard the end of it from everyone that I later told lol. But in retrospect, what was I ever going to gain by a signed painting hanging on my bedroom studio wall forever? I would probably have never learnt to let go of my paintings and thus would never have became an artist.

Final oil painting of Alicia Keys titled 'Lellow Fire'

Final oil painting of Alicia Keys titled 'Lellow Fire'

Why I began painting: Art and Depression

It was at one of the lowest points in my life that I decided to start painting. For as long as I can remember, I have always found solace in art but from studying Art at GCSE in school and only ever working in acrylics, I had (stupidly) convinced myself that I couldn't paint. I had preconceived notions of oil paints being difficult to master as only the true masters of art were familiar with this medium.

Up until my mum suggested I should try painting with oils, I never really even considered experimenting with them. With my self-esteem and confidence plummeting daily, I knew that I needed to express my emotions in a visual way, as words were failing me at this moment in time. So I did what any amateur would do and youtubed a few videos on 'how to start out in oil paints' and then got to work on my first ever oil painting.

From the onset, I knew that I wanted to paint a ballerina but wasn't sure of how to go about it. After one or two hours of procrastinating, I searched the internet for some inspiration and found a reference photo to work from. I chose a black and white image to make life easier for myself.

'WhiteSwan' (2013) by Rhymes&Oils

'WhiteSwan' (2013) by Rhymes&Oils

At the time, I can distinctly recall using far too much oil paint than I needed to - a little goes a long way in oil painting! I also had some trouble painting the ballerina's face. After perhaps, my thirteenth try of painting over the face, I was finally content with how it looked. Also with this painting, I wasn't too concerned with mixing correct facial tones (which is why I used a lot of olive green in the skin tone). If you were to ask me which part I enjoyed painting the most, it would be the ballerina's tutu, which I painted with a palette knife, slowly building up the layers in titanium white paint. I wanted to keep the background simple so I smothered it in burgundy paint - knowing that a warm background would contrast well against the mainly cold palette that I had used.

During this time, by no means was I ready to take my art seriously, nor was I ready for the great reception it received after posting it on my personal facebook. But thanks to all the encouraging comments I received from family and friends, I started my second piece of my Dancers series, which I had already intended to paint.