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Oil and Water Do Mix

January 6, 2010

Blackhawk Path Oil Gessoed Paper 8" x 6"

Over the holidays, a family member was examining the oil paintings which I have produced over the last couple months and questioned “Why?”

Why the switch from watercolors? To this point, watercolors have been my principle means of artistic expression. The works which gained acceptance and awards in exhibitions and competitions have been watercolors. My watercolor techniques have brought alot of interested students to my Rock Valley College classes. People at art fairs and exhibitions find it hard to believe that the works exhibited are watercolor. So why change?

My way with watercolor is unique. To satisfy my artistic vision, I find that I have to apply layers of pigment to yield the chroma intensity that I desire. Watercolor is a medium that does not appreciate, nor necessarily obey, the range of tight control which I desire in my studio works. These studio works take many hours and days to complete. On location, en plein aire, is difficult enough without having to wait for the paper to dry before laying in a second passage of color. Or worse, freezing on your palette and paper when painting in colder weather.

Why the switch to oil paints? For several years, the desire to return to oils has been smoldering. I last worked in oils while in college. I have missed the feel and smell of the paints and solvents. While watercolor is a negative medium (we remove the white of the paper to acheive our design, saving the white of the paper for highlights), oils are a positive medium ( build up the mid range of colors and add the lightest colors for the finishing touches). With watercolor, misplaced color can spell disaster. It also becomes a learning experience (I will cover that comment another time – if needed). With oil paints, misplaced color can be easily scraped off or even covered up. Less stress perhaps.

I have missed the impasto effects which can be achieved with oils. Working with oils, I can establish my darks much quicker than with watercolors. Working on location, I find that I can establish the intense darks quicker and more accurately than with watercolors. In the studio, I am able to tackle images and effects that I was not yet able to conquer in watercolor. In the process of working my oil paintings, I find that I am realizing new ways of approaching my watercolors. My sketchbook is filling with notes and ideas for future works in both watercolor and oil paints.

I am not giving up on watercolors. I will continue to create and exhibit watercolors.  Through oil paints, I am developing new skills, working new tools, tackling new effects and designs. I may attract a new audience of patrons and students. I am expanding my artistic  repertoire.

Imagine, working in oil paints to devise new strategies for my watercolors. I guess Oil and Water(color) do mix.

Dusk13 Oil on Canvas 11" x 14"

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