My First Oil

Having worked with acrylics, watercolours and pastels for some years, I decided, finally to take the plunge and start to use oils. The scene is the view across to the River Severn and Wales from Selsey Common.

I’m still pinching myself that I managed to pull this off. 

The foreground gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Grasses were quite straw like with subdued green, and there was lots of undulations.

I remembered to use a little red to ‘knock back’ the greens, and then added combo of yellow ochre and white to progressively lighten it; and some raw sienna in the other direction (to darken), maybe a smidgen of red too in places.

Also, some slightly larger brush strokes in the foreground to suggest more resolved grass.

I remembered to ‘think tonally’ to observe and think about light and dark – there was a huge range to cope with here. I used some Prussian Blue to help with the deep shadows.

The distant fields was just a kind of noodling around trying to get a sense of distance – so cooler, more muted and less defined the further away.

Wales is just a light purple sliver beyond the Severn, which itself is just a hint of reflected light.

The two fields on the right were compositionally crucial to me as they helped establish a near-ground scale beyond the foreground.

Some flecks of white on the mid distance right for buildings – never forgetting the power of gestalt to allow the viewer to see what their mind reconstructs based on the tiniest of visual clues.

The sky was a struggle – I miss the dynamism of working with acrylics or watercolour, so need to practice my skies – but the good thing is that the dark clouds suggest a darkening of the distant land below, and the few yellowy green bright streaks suggestive of sun breaking through on some fields. A little green in the sky is another fully transferrable trick of the trade.

The foreground is in full sun with slopes facing the sun almost white.

The pros of oils are also the cons.

You can keep fiddling for days if you want (although I finished this over 5 hours on and off); so blending on canvas, and wiping away sometimes, is all possible. Acrylics allow for multiple layers and drying in between, with spraying and all sorts of jiggery-pokery; but the palette needs constant attention to stop it drying out. I think they are both wonderful – its like trying to choose a favourite dish – why choose?

I think I’m going to fall in love with oils … just like I did before with acrylics, watercolours and pastels!

(c) Richard W. Erskine, 2021

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