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3 benefits for women painting in oils.


Old-time approval of more 'lady-like' materials such as watercolours and pastels lasts into the present age. Cost alone once put oils beyond the reach of most women painters. Traditional roles imposed by society excluded women from the 'major' forms of Art.

Courageous women and fair-minded men created the Western world of today, where such limitations don't apply. Still, many women shy from oils but anyone who tries it, soon discovers the truth about painting in watercolour.

Watercolour is rightly called 'the Master's medium.'

It demands total self-confidence from the artist. Brush strokes must be placed swiftly, with unerring precision. Once laid down, they cannot be erased or covered over. The artist gets no chance for a change of mind. If mistakes happen – the word 'inevitable' springs to mind - the only remedy is to destroy the failed work and start over. Pastels carry the same penalty. Retardants added to synthetic paints slow their drying, yet these paints dry fast and dry hard. 

1.Oils allow infinite opportunity for manipulating the work. This is because an oil painting never really dries. The beginner must gather basic knowledge of the chemical properties of pigments, mediums and solvents. S/he also needs to learn how to stretch and prime a canvas. It sounds a lot of work and it is.
However, oil-painting is actually the easiest medium of all for beginner artists. 

Consider Leonardo Da Vinci ( 1452-1519.)

  • Such incomparable delicacy of delineation as Leonardo perfected doesn't happen overnight. He spent 4 years painting the tiny 'Mona Lisa' and 15 years working on the huge 'Virgin and Child with St Anne.' Still unfinished at Leonardo's death, this painting underwent restoration at the Louvre from July 2009 – February 2012.

2.Children can't wait but the oil painting on your easel will wait as long as it takes.

  • When the baby frets, the toddler scrapes a knee, a bee stings the 6 year-old – what can a mother do but rush to their aid and comfort? Brushes may soak in water but the acrylic paint dries long before Mum returns. Pastels may slip into boxes but the faintest breeze might mar the surface of the painting. Artistic momentum will be lost and difficult to regain when the household finally calms. In any case, it'll be time to cook dinner by then...

3. Longevity of your work is the reward for acquiring the skills and putting in the effort required to master painting in oils. You can see the evidence in museum collections of  15th and 16th century master-works, still able to withstand the rigours of restoration.

4. Value of sales is a vital consideration for any artist hoping to make an income and a professional reputation. Higher prices paid for oil paintings, in the private galleries and auction houses, reflect an enduring perception of quality by private collectors.

This is because Art buyers come in 2 kinds.

  • People who buy paintings with their own money, for personal collections.
  • Museum curators who access taxpayer's funds to build public collections.

Beginners take longer but get more room to learn by trial and error with oil-painting because it's the easiest, most forgiving of all mediums.©Dorothy Gauvin

Dorothy Gauvin gives tips for artists, beginners and art collectors from her 35 years as painter and retired  gallery owner-director. Check out her advice on Oz-Writer at


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