Sunday, July 3, 2011

What is Oiling Out?

Blog reader Mark asked a good question: “I've asked a few of my oil painting friends about what the term 'oiling out' means and they don't know what it is. Do you know what artists are referring to? I get the idea that they're rubbing oil onto the painting for some reason.”


Yes, Mark, you got it. “Oiling out” means rubbing a little linseed oil or clear painting medium over a dry surface of paint that you worked on earlier. You can apply the oil with a clean, lint-free rag, or scrub it on with a large bristle brush and remove most of it with a rag.

That oil layer resaturates the colors and makes the paint surface more receptive to the new layer of wet paint, so that it will look like it was all done at the same time. Without oiling out, the new paint application goes on too dry and scrubby. You don't need much oil to get the job done--just a hint of oil.

An oil painting manual from 1845 by J.S. Templeton defined oiling out like this: “The surface of colours in drying, frequently assumes a state that renders it difficult to lay fresh colours thereon properly. To correct this, previous to commencing work, the picture must have a little oil, (either Linseed or Nut) sparingly applied to it with a brush and then perfectly removed by wiping it with a soft silk rag, this will be effectual.”

My wife tells me it’s like putting on makeup. Hydrating the skin with a little moisturizer makes it more receptive to make-up. Not that she paints her face very often!

LINKOLOGY:
Templeton quote
More information from Virgil Elliott
Traditional Oil Painting: Advanced Techniques and Concepts from the Renaissance to the Present
 Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

13 comments:

Marianne said...

Thanks I am relative new at painting with oil, and I have been wondering what this oiling out means! Your blog is a great help!

MrCachet said...

Color & Light arrived today. I skimmed, then realized that if I'm going to get what I want out of this book I'm going to have to forget the skimming and read it the way you put it together. THANK YOU!

James Gurney said...

Marianne, you're welcome!

Mr Cachet, I tried to organize the book so that it builds concept by concept, but skimming is cool, too.

One of my favorite Amazon reviews says: “The way it's written, you could read it like a regular how-to book, or stick it in the john and it will be the best bathroom book you've ever read.”

elgin said...

It is my understanding that oiling out should be done some months prior to varnishing so that the varnish will give a uniform surface appearance.

Blackbird_9 said...

for those who are new to this idea I would suggest trying it on a study piece first. The first time I did this I did not heed my instructor's warning and used too much. There was much delicate wiping and cussing, and wiping and cussing. It's a great little method, but takes just as much care and thought as the rest of what you do.

Roberto said...

Hey Jimmy G-
This is a little off topic, well actually a lot off topic, but I thought you would enjoy this.

http://www.artofscience.caltech.edu/exhibition/index.html

It’s an on-line art gallery called 'Art of Science,' set up by a few of the Brainiacs over at Caltech. Each thumbnail links to a different science project, with info and contacts about the authors/artists. The archive links to past years’ exhibitions/projects.
Have fun -RQ

knoxblox said...

I did my first oiling out the other day.
In addition to making the paint surface more receptive, it helps to restore the look of certain colors that have "sunk in" as they dry.
I'm partial to the colors viridian and French ultramarine, which sink in more than I'd prefer. Oiling out makes them look as fresh as the day they were applied.

I read an interview once with the artist Malcolm T. Leipke, and he says he does this every day, as he tends to be working on 30 different paintings at any given time.

Shoki said...

It's like when you're painting in the zone, man.

People will walk past and comment "Duuuuude, you're totally oiling out!"

James' explanation is pretty good too.

Richard said...

Moisturizer for faces does not add water to the skin,a fairly common misconception added and abetted by advertizing. Moisturizer covers the skin with a film of oil that prevents further water from evaporating from it.

It may be also true of oiling out. It may not add oil but merely put a thin film of oil on drier paint.

Richard

Tom Hart said...

Oiling out is one of my favorite oil painting techniques. I frequenly take many days to finish a painting, for no other reason than that my painting sessions are usually sporadic and interrupted by long stretches of what's incorrecty referred to as my "real job".

Oiling out is a quick and effective way to accomplish all that's mentioned here. On top of that it seems to sometimes serve to slightly blend and unify - in a helpful way - areas that are nearly, but not completely dry. I can't prove that last point, and it may be an optical illusion caused by the uniform "shine" (for want of a better term) that is caused. But I always feel that the painting is helped by the process.

Lenora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lenora said...

I'm interested in trying the "Oiling Out" technique. My question is: if I'm painting on a large canvas and may not apply paint to the whole surface in one session, do I apply the oiling out technique to just the active painting area or to the whole canvas surface. If I did apply oil to the whole surface, wouldn't areas unpainted that day build up too much oil over time as I repeated the technique. Thanks Lenora

James Gurney said...

Lenora: Just the area you plan to work on. The oil should be very thin. The finish varnish should even out the final patina.