Depending on what level you're at and how much of an understanding you have of oils, you may or may not benefit from some "homework". Here I will create a list of things I suggest you try. They will range in complexity and time.
Some of these are just quick exercises to familiarize you with techniques, while the more time consuming or in-depth exercises are to help you evolve into full blown traditional oil painting, by following the same steps I took that helped me.
When I first tried to pick up oil painting it was a complete disaster! It would then be years before I wanted to take another shot at it. This time around I approached in in a less daunting manner. That was to start with basics like playing around with supplies until I properly understood what they did, as well as learning and using oil dry brush, then slowly adding colour (adding more colours each time) and then slowly adding more paint until it was no longer dry brush, but full blown painting. By the time I was properly painting, it evolved so naturally and I had a great understanding of how the colours blend together and what sorts of brushes I prefer, and the pros and cons to different surfaces, and what each medium did, that puzzle of oil painting finally made sense when putting all these individual pieces together.
The more unknowns we can strip from the process of traditional oil painting the easier it becomes to learn. This homework is targeted specifically to strip away these unknowns one at a time in a less overwhelming way.
The goal is to be able to tackle all of these with no issues, and have a thorough understanding of each.
Work through each exercise and make note of any questions or hurdles you faced along the way and feel free to send me an email with these questions so I can try to tackle them in upcoming additions to the guide. Make sure to stop if an exercise gets too confusing and you're unsure if you're doing it properly. I do not want you to build bad habits. Bad habits can take years to un-learn.
You're going to see I've chosen a singular subject (a rose) for the lessons. By recreating the same image, you'll have familiarity going through, see what takes longer when referencing the same piece to other techniques with the same subject, and know without a doubt that your strengths and weaknesses aren't a result of the subject changing to something more complicated or easier, and be able to properly assess what you need to work on more and where your strong suits are. Feel free to swap out this subject for anything else that works well palm sized that has some level of dimension to it, but it's more beneficial to keep the same subject through these exercises.
1- MEDIUM EXPERIMENT: Take whatever medium(s) you decided to start with (Galkyd? Liquin? Impasto?) pour a tiny bit on your palette (if its small, using a small cap/cup may be easier). put a few small dollops of different colours of your oil paint on you palette. Grab a small scrap piece of watercolour paper, or scrap panel, or canvas, mix a tiny bit of you medium with your colours and try it on the surface. Take mental notes of how each medium not only behaves differently, but each paint is affected by it differently. Some will go transparent, others cloudy. This will show you what will work for glazing and what wont. You'll get an idea of how much of what goes a long way. Mix colours together and see the tinting strength of them- sometimes you need a lot of one colour to tint another, where as other colours the tiniest bit will change the whole thing. Mix transparent glazes together to see how they look when a medium is used, vs when you mix them without any medium.
Keep a mental note of how much medium is in each test patch. when you're done playing around with them, do not throw it out. Put it aside, and the next day see what is dry and what isn't. This will help you understand how long you'll have to wait between sessions depending on how much medium you use.
2- OIL DRY BRUSH- If you've never tried this, take scrap paper, a small blob of oil paint, a plethora of brushes, and dip in the paint, drag along the paper, and get a feel for how much and how little paint you need to create different shades as you blend it out into the paper. When you have a feel for that, attempt to do one small thing in oil dry brush on a surface suited for oils (oil paper or canvas is a great place to start). An eye study is a good way to try different values/angles/textures and work on knowing which way direction to push brush strokes to accentuate form, and I also recommend doing a rose study so you can use it for other upcoming homework lesson, But feel free to explore this by painting anything). You'll want to practice this until you can get a black/greyscale oil drybrush piece that you're happy with. This can take a while. You'll quickly note certain brushes work best for this than others. Read more about dry brush here
3- GLAZING- To break you into understanding glazing, this is where you will take the finished dry-brush piece you made- MAKE SURE ITS DRY! (smudge your finger along every part of it and make sure no black is being left on your finger). You'll want to pour a little of your medium (galkyd or liquin) and select a colour or a few colours that are best suited for glazing (you can read about which ones are well suited here) . put a very small amount of oils on your palette . (a little goes a loooong way!) and pour a little medium on your palette. Mix a bit together and mix it out until you have a line going from opaque to transparent. Now starting glazing over your rose, using the more opaque glaze over the shadows, and the transparent glaze to the lighter parts where your paper or canvas are making up the highlights. The end result should be your same rose with all the same values, but now in colour.
(using alizarin is a great start to try this lesson with- it allows for nice deep rich reds and light pale pinks)
You can try this lesson again, using more colours with the eye study. This will give you a better idea of how colours blend, and if you will need to wait between layers to let it dry and add another layer on top if they mix poorly when wet.
Once done the rose and the eye, after they are dry, take a smidge of white, and a very small amount of medium (impasto or g-gel work well here if you have- if not use the galkyd or liquin) mix them together, grab a tiny brush, and add some white highlights what were lost when glazing, or extras to add impact.
4- DRY BRUSH IN COLOUR- Here you will take the dry brush technique and attempt it in colour. You're going to want to try this several times, using a bit more paint each time until it almost becomes proper painting. You may find it helpful to use the smallest bit of medium as you work with more paint.
Once these are dry, you're going to try glazing over them. Play around with where to lay more opaque layers and where to lay more transparent layers.
once these are dry, add in your white highlights.
5- ACRYLIC UNDER OILS- If you've painted with acrylic and have some old FINISHED paintings laying around, I want you to trying glazing over them using oils and your medium. This will show you that where acrylic stop, oils can take a piece further. Your goal here will be to create as much depth as you can through several glaze layers. Allow each layer to fully dry before you attempt a new layer. Once you feel you've reached a place where it's no longer being improved by glazing, go back in to redefine your highlights.
6- GRISAILLE- This is where you will attempt your first wet oil painting, but in greyscale. Mix some Vandyke Brown and white for a neutral grey, or ivory black and white for a cool/bluish grey. Mix a range of values on your palette, put a little drop of medium in each value... just enough to make it more fluid and help speed up drying. Attempt to paint your same rose as before in this method. Read more on grisaille technique here.
Once your Grisaille painting is dry, try the glazing technique to turn it into a colour piece.
7- ALLA PRIMA- This is where you will use colour and medium and wet application- working up from dry brush now, to paint your same rose in one sitting while its all wet and pliable. Mix any colours you need. Make sure to use a little medium. Try this a few times, slowly adding more paint until no canvas is showing through and you begin to see a little texture.
8- UNDERPAINTING- This is where I want you to try the different underpainting methods. Again I want you to use the same rose you've been using. Try an umber wash in the two methods, my take on the grisaille, and one coloured underpainting. You should have 4 under-paintings (you already did the grisaille above, so no need to repeat that one.) If you need a refresher on what they are, click here.
9- TRADITIONAL PAINTING- This is where you take those 4 under-paintings of roses (I know you're so fucking sick of seeing this same stupid rose...) and apply what you learnt in the Alla Prima lesson, and glazing lessons to finally create a proper oil panting from beginning to end. Put all four in front of you, I want you to work on them at the same time... This is going to be a long day! Mix all the colours you will need on your palette for these roses.pour a bit of medium. As you begin to paint them as you painted your alla prima rose, you'll quickly notice the way each type of underpainting effects the look and approach of the painting unlike a white canvas did for that alla prima rose. You'll right away see the pros and cons to each.
Once they are done, put them aside to dry, and once dry, you're then going to glaze over them- again until the glaze layers are no longer helping it look any better. Then complete each of the four with adding in your highlights
Pick your favourite underpainting method and do it again, this time add a background colour in the first layer. Be sure to blend the edges of where your subject meets the background. No harsh edges).
Boom. You'll now have completed your first oil painting. These all may be a bit shit, keep doing this until you produce one you're happy with. Hit me up for any suggestions on how to improve. If you can't dissect where you're going wrong, this is where I come in to help trouble shoot and guide you out of it.
Once you can do a little rose from beginning to end as a proper oil painting, we can then start adding backgrounds and other elements, new subjects and grow from there.