Three things to know to start oil painting

Since we’ll talk about the painting of the tradition, we need some historical notes.

Oil painting technique belongs to the evolution of the history of art and pictorial techniques since it has revolutionized the very way of realization of the artistic work with its appearance.

The invention of the oil painting technique is attributed to two famous Flemish painters, Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, who painted in oil colours on wooden boards.

It was probably the influences of these Flemish painters that allowed the spread of oil painting in Italy and especially in Venice where this new method was also welcomed thanks to particular environmental conditions such as the high humidity rate, which did not allow a good preservation of the frescoes.

In addition, this more flexible "medium" allowed to paint on large dimensions, since the oil colour is suitable for large paintings on canvas. The paintings were in fact completed in the studio and then transported, suitably rolled up, to the place they were commissioned for.

The first Italian painter who used this technique, preferring it to the more traditional tempera painting, was Antonello da Messina, influenced by the presence of Flemish painters at the court of the King of Naples and from his period of study in Venice.

The use of oil painting then quickly developed from the mid-16th century, and for more than four hundred years it became the most-used painting technique.

The oil colour consists of powder pigments mixed with vegetable oils from flaxseed or poppy, until it reaches a soft viscosity.

The sensitivity to oxygen and linoleic acid cause a strong tendency to yellow and, above all, a slow drying due to oxidation that guarantees the possibility of working inside the colour, creating very delicate nuances very similar to those available in nature.

From 1470 to the end of 1700, each painter created his own colours by mixing oil pestle and pigments in the mortar with the flax or more likely gave the apprentices of the workshop this task, giving rise to an infinite series of unique and personal shades that can be seen still today.

In the 18th century, it was produced and sold inside animal guts, to avoid oxidation on contact with air, and only in the middle of the nineteenth century will it be sold ready-made, when the first modern pre-packaged tube appears. 

The current of Impressionism makes oil painting a means for painting freely, even in outdoor environments; the technique spreads more and more up to the present day.

Today we can find on the market many oil colours, from the Studio series to the most selected Extrafini Monopigmento series for artists, with very different viscosity characteristics and with a thousand possibilities of solvents and diluents that help us in the best colour performance at our level of work.

Let's fix some necessary points to understand how and where to start in the best way:

  • The oil colour is pasty and needs, especially in the early stages of processing, to be “mixed and blended” by a rigid brush that maintains its shape and that manages to be strong enough to be able to spread the layers on the canvas or on the prepared support.
    Natural fibres such as bristle or synthetics that have a strong and elastic structure are therefore preferred, but also a good flexibility to keep the mark in pictorial surface is important. Ideal are the latest generation synthetic fibres such as Borciani e Bonazzi Unico Silver and Off White.

  • Borciani e Bonazzi Unico Silver, with grey and full-bodied fibres, leaves sensitive pictorial traces in pasty colour, and has an excellent resistance to solvent that is used to accelerate drying (turpentine, odorless thinner, oil essence) and to remove traces of colour from brushes, despite being a synthetic. Borciani e Bonazzi Unico Off White, on the other hand, perfectly matches the characteristics of the natural hair, from the gradual release to a flexible softness that help in large stretches.

  • Each artist prefers different techniques and the extreme ductility of oil painting allows it: from material coating with almost embossed signs to hyperrealist veils, the choice of the brush type will be influenced by the result you want to achieve. Therefore, the shape and type of fibre will be chosen according to the desired type of effect. First of all, it will be necessary to avoid leaving the chosen brush soaking in the solvent for too long, as this could damage the fibres, especially if natural. Instead of turpentine and thinner, use a freshly moistened patch, which will give the possibility to remove the colour matter in a gentler way.

  •  The shape and size of the brush will be chosen according to the work to be carried out: flat, round, cat’s tongue or fan-shaped, will be the sign that you have chosen for your work. 

To maintain the best softness and flexibility of the recommended brushes for oil, it would be optimal to use Borciani e Bonazzi vegetable soap after solvent washing, to allow the fibres to be rehydrated and to maintain the best shape and characteristics.

The optimal drying is always with the tip facing upwards or in the appropriate brush case (elastic nylon protective nets for fine-arts brushes) which helps keeping the brush shape. 

For the care and maintenance of your brushes you can find: Vegetable soap for brushes, in aluminium box gr. 100, a kit containing 12 nylon elastic protective nets for fine-arts brushes, ideal for storing brushes and maintaining their original shape, a kit containing 1 cleaning pad and 1 mini size 25 gr vegetable soap.  

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