My 4th Oil Painting – My White Pepper (2007)

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I was thinking to myself, before I can paint human beings, I better start practicing on teddy bears. After all, it is a lot easier to ask a teddy bear to stay still for 4 hours than a human being. Knowing the peppers that I deliberately bought as oil painting subjects were expiring soon, I have this ambitious composition of having a teddy bear next to a plate of peppers. As though it was not already a challenge, I placed a tiny candle light in front of the teddy bear. I have also chosen my living room for the more gentle background colour (all 3 rooms of my home have different tones). Satisfied with the composition (click here to view), I started with my sketching.

(Click here or the thumbnail to view a larger image.)

Not sure if I have deliberately taken my time painting this picture or the composition is kind of complex, it took me a long time to finish. By the time I was done with the painting, the candle light was out (about 3.5 to 4 hours). There was a lot of colour switching from the 3 primary colours to the different shades of white. The candle light took me a long time to model as I took time to observe what effects it has on the surroundings. First it was the reflection of the orange light on the glass holder itself. Some reflection on the rim. Parts of the teddy bear was lit up in faint yellowish light. The reflection extended to the green pepper as well. Very challenging to model glass object as whatever behind the glass tends to be a bit darker.

Cynthia has already commissioned me to draw some of her other teddy bears. I wanted to title my 4th oil painting as “Three Peppers and a Teddy Bear” but Cynthia suggested “My White Pepper”. “My White Pepper” that is then.

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My 3rd Oil Painting – Seletar Reservoir Under A Cloudy Blue Sky (2007)

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One day I woke up early ready to send Cynthia to town. I looked out of my window and what a lovely view! I saw a slightly hazy blue sky casting a misty silhouette over the Seletar Reservoir. The urge of wanting to paint was overwhelming. But first I must send Cynthia off.

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On the way back, I got more and more excited. Clouds of fluffy shape floated above me waiting to be painted. Once I reached home, I wasted no time and set up my humble painting studio in my living room. Using my window frame as the view-finder, sketching exercise was a whole lot easier. In retrospect, I shall sketch the clouds the last and use a colour other than light blue. By the time I finished my sketching, the clouds have already moved and formed into somewhat different shapes. Oh, one more thing. Windy days post extra challenge to painting clouds as well.

It is so true that always paint from life. I saw so many different shades of blue from the sky and so many different shades of green from the trees. I took a picture right after I finished with the painting and the photo just does not do what the nature offers justice (click here to view the photo).

My buddy Tong Kiat thinks that the cloud on the top-right-hand corner looks more real (does he mean that the rest of the cloud …). Cynthia thinks that the cloud looks like a horse (hmmm). And my sister Lora told me that one morning she stared at the painting and saw the clouds moving. Hope you like it as much as I do. To tell you the truth, beautiful clouds aside, my proudest achievement is that tiny chimney and the tanker from a far distance. I was tempted not to put the tanker into my painting. It is the smallest subject that requires the highest concentration.

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My 2nd Oil Painting – Giant Lettuce and Five Tomatoes (2007)

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My 1st Oil Painting was a plate of fruit, a bottle of wine, and a small magazine. This time round, I wanted to try something slightly different (click here or the thumbnail on the left to view a larger image). Too bad, all the grapes I have bought couple of days ago are already inside my stomach. Since I didn’t have flowers in the house, I have decided to paint my lettuce inside the refrigerator together with five tomatoes. The working title of my second oil painting was “Dinner at Seven (You Are Mine Tonight)”. That explains the knife by the way.

(Quick look at the painting against the live setup)

I found painting the lettuce was the most challenging part of all. Looking closely, there were lots of light and dark areas in a certain pattern. Comparatively, making the tomatoes to look 3D was much easier.

My second painting aside, I currently run into some unresolved logistic difficulties. Depending on the colours I use, some parts of the paintings may take up to 2 weeks to get reasonably dry. According to the experts, oil paintings take up to 6 to 9 months to dry to a stage that can be varnished and framed up to the walls. So meanwhile, what do I do with all my wet paintings? I have already used up 3 boards (coming next: Seletar Reservoir Under A Blue Cloudy Sky) and each board costs slightly more than S$5. I have to find a way to temporarily hold my paintings to dry for at least 2 weeks and to store them nicely thereafter for 6 to 9 months. Right now, I have no clue (any suggestions?).

In an attempt to quicken this drying process, from my second painting onwards, I use a drying agent called Alkyd Flow Medium. It supposes to work wonder and I can see the immediate effect on how fast my paints dry up on my palette (I must have overdone it a bit). After I was done with the painting, time for washing up and I have ignorantly used my hands to clean the dippers that had Alkyd in it. All of a sudden, my hands were covered with this very sticky stuff that could not be washed off. Whatever I touched got sticky too. It took me 20 to 30 washes with lot of hand soap to get the Alkyd off my hands. After that horrifying experience, I use lots of paper towels to wipe the dipper clean after each painting session instead. Not everything can be learned from the books I guess.

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My 1st Oil Painting – Fruits and Wine (2007)

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Trivia Quiz: What activity can be messy in nature, requires lots of paper towels, yet fun and enjoyable, and with a scent that can make you go high the longer you do it?

Answer: Oil Painting, that is!

Well, this is it. My very first oil painting (click onto the picture to take a closer look). At the back of my head, I know one day I will regret on posting something so amateurish in my website. However, true to what my website is about – where good things are meant to be shared – I am exciting to share with you what I have learnt so far.

(Quick look at how this painting compares to the real setting)

When I first told people around me that I wish to do oil painting, I have some interesting responses. Mark, for instance, thinks that I can do it because he has seen some of the doodles I have posted in my site. I think he has more confidence in me than I have with myself. Tong Kiat is more pragmatic. He suggested watercolour instead as the medium of oil painting can be smelly. Breathing in too much of it can get people high. Turned out that his sister has painted in oils before and he even knows someone who can be the critic – as I cannot afford a tutor – for merely S$20. A friend of mine (better not write her name down) even volunteered to be a live model. Again, amazing confidence she has in me. And Cynthia’s response can at times be flattering as she thinks that whatever comes out of my hands are good.

Took me nearly an hour to unpack all the stuffs and set up my oil painting studio. The entire set, including the brand new lamp that I got it from Ikea today for S$19, costs me just over S$200 and I think it is a worthwhile investment. This first oil painting of mine titled “Fruits and Wine” took me 1.5 hour to paint and am definitely looking forward to my next one. The books I have read all suggested to paint something simple as a beginner because success breeds success. I guess I just wish to skip the boxes and single fruit for now.

Click here for my oil painting “gallery”.

First Experience With Oil Painting

Consultants are as such: we try to learn something fast, repackage the information, and sound as though we know the topic in depth. As you can see, my first oil painting is still amateurish and this article is definitely not about how-to-paint-oils. But rather a sharing of the fun experience I have when I temporary converted the common bedroom into a humble painting studio.

As shown in the picture above, I have a humble setup painting from “life”. To give you a better appreciation of what are the items for, I have created two larger images with some labels on them.

An easel is a stand that holds a canvas or a board. Traditionally, easels are made of wood. I chose a modern folding one. If you pay attention, easels are commonly used in the shopping malls for advertisement.

Since I am not going to spend an insane amount of cash to paint on canvas, I use oil painting tablet and have it stuck onto a board with double-sided tape. A good light source is important because light brings out the colours of the subject. I made a simple view-finder (aspect ratio must be maintained) to help me in sketching.

I have oiled my palette with linseed oil before first use and guess what? I oiled the wrong side. Moving on, we have the paints and lots of brushes. Dippers are the small tiny containers to hold the turpentine (to make the paint thinner) and linseed oil (to thicken the paint). Paper towels are useful in cleaning the brushes between colour switching. Some paint with a palette knife while for me, as of now, I use it to scrap the paint off the palette at the end of the painting session.