10 Things to Experiment with in your Next Breathtaking Art Piece

As an artist, you have unlimited access to mediums. Oil painting is such a versatile medium and has proven to offer artists a variety of options for their works.

Whether you are new to oil painting or you are looking to add a new spin to the style of your artwork, using these mediums in addition to oil paints can drastically change the effects of your artwork. These mediums can also be added to a variety of artwork besides Oil painting- which will be discussed.

This article will review oil mediums to add to your artwork. There will be an explanation of how adding something like varnish will change the finish of your final piece. Or how adding a solvent can change the way the colour dries. If this is something you are interested in learning, keep scrolling.

1. Molding paste

Molding paste/Plaster

There has been more of a trend to work with molding paste and plaster in recent years. It can offer a bohemian vibe and be more texturally pleasing to the eye.

When using molding paste with oil paints it's important to remember you can paint on top of acrylic modelling paste or paints. But you cannot put acrylic on top of oil paints.

Part of the reason you may want to add acrylic molding paste or plaster to your work is for depth and texture. With other mediums like oils, can take weeks sometimes months for that paint to dry, especially if it is thick oil paint.

Other ways to use the molding paste include the junction with plaster. If you want to use a wood canvas, molding paste can be used to enhance the wooden grain. Or you can cover the rough canvas and smooth it with a putty knife. The newest trend is using modelling paste to make petals or track-like U shapes on the canvas.

2. Gel

When it comes to using gel in your future works there are some things you need to know. The gel was derived for oil paintings to help change the appearance of paint. The gel can be used to change the consistency of your paint. Some gels will change the properties of the colour making it appear more translucent.

When looking to build upon light or effervescent colours this may be a viable option to get that angelic or fairytale look.

You can use gel in other mediums where you want to slow the drying process or change the consistency of your medium. For example, If you are working on a large project that needs the colours to blend for over hours gels can be a good way to help you keep the colours wet enough to mix over time.

3. Gel with aggregates

If you are looking to add gel without altering colour or texture then consider the option of adding gel with aggregate. This gel will help keep your paints wet longer than you can. Longer without replenishing your pallet.

Gel with aggregate will have things inside of them like small glass beads, or a clear granular gel. This can create a coarse texture on your canvas. If you are using a medium and want to add some texture but still want to see the colours you already painted, or plan to paint with then this is a great option.

This would be a fun medium to mix with sculptures. Even if you don’t plan to paint your sculpture this may be a fun way to add sand erosion effect for underwater sculptures.

Artist Jessica Drenk uses all kinds of mediums to create her sculptures. She has some inspiring work to help you consider how to add texture to your sculptures using gel with aggregates.

4. Slow drying medium

Gels are used to help slow the drying process. But let's talk about a medium created specifically for slow drying.

When you are wondering how this may benefit you it is not only used for oil paints. It is also used for acrylic paints and can be added to your pallet in later stages. If you forgot to add your gel or another drying retardant, slow drying mediums are a good substitute.

5. Tar and levelling gel

At this point you may be asking, how many different gels are we going to go over? I can safely say this is the last one. The Tar or Leveling Gel can provide longevity to your paints and mediums. This Gel is known for its string-long drip also known as “Long Rheology”

This word means very little to most artists unless you are looking for a medium that can make long stringy lines without the fear of beaded drops. Tar and Leveling Gel will always have a long straight line of fall avoiding any unwanted beading in your lines.

Another way to explain this is by thinking about glue. When glue can be strung up until you are almost out, then it only comes out in long beads. If you were to add white glue to tar or levelling gel your glue will always have a straight line, no more beading. But your glue may not have the same tackiness.

This is a great way to get straight textured lines without the tool markings from a putty knife. This medium can be mixed with paints and added to most mediums.

6. Oils

Oils with oil paints what a revelation! The fun fact about oil paint is that it was first discovered in the renaissance age when you would get dry pigments from places as far as Egypt. Then the artist would add their own oil to the dry pigment to create their own range of colours.

Now we get our paints with the oil already in them. Oils used in this medium usually include Linseed Oil, Poppy Seed Oil, Walnut Oil, and Safflower Oil. There can be a lot of creativity on how to add these oils to a new type of medium.

When working with a new medium, it's important to be patient with yourself. The best mistakes will allow you to learn new ways to incorporate oils into your own art.

Much like the gels, the oils can help prevent the paint from drying too quickly. Although it can dilute the colour. It may change the ratio of pigment and can muddy your colours. That’s why there are other options like gels.

7. Solvents

For some artists, Solvents will bring back memories from secondary school chemistry. Luckily you won’t need to know much chemistry to use this medium. There can be a variety of options for Solvents. Some oil painters still use turpentine as a solvent. This is the harsh smell some remember from oil painting. Make sure that you have gloves and a well-ventilated room if you choose to use turpentine.

The new age solvents are odourless and less harsh on our hands. The more solvent you use the more transparent the paint coverage. This can create a watercolour effect with more handle on where the colour will go on your canvas.

Famous artists who heavily used turpentine include Van Gogh and Monet.

8. Varnishes

When you are finished with your artwork and want to leave it with that fresh paint shine, then you are looking for a Varnish. This is the final touch to a piece. It is usually see-through and glossy but there are a variety of options of varnish. There is matte, Satin and Gloss.

The biggest advice we can give for varnishes is to ask for help if it is your first time. There are stories of new artists using varnish only to find out that they have ruined their own piece of work. Make sure to wait until your piece is completely dry. This can take weeks, sometimes months depending on how much gel or paint you decided to use.

Varnishes can be used to preserve some Resin pieces. Of course, we usually see a glossy varnish with Resin pieces, but consider a matte resin if you have a crystal/rock-like piece. This can add another element of texture to make it feel more realistic.

9. Primers

If you have chosen to paint a room or an old piece of furniture then you have been told that you may need primer. Or you may have walked into the hardware store looking at paint options that say Primer + Paint 2-in-1.

Priming is a great idea if you want your colours to pop on your choice of canvas. Some primers are off-white and almost grey. This can offer a change in the colours you use.

We suggest that you try different primers after a few practice rounds. That way you can compare how each primer affects your work.

You may have heard the term Gesso before, this is a primer that can change the effects of your canvas of choice. Primers also help prevent your paint from chipping from the canvas of choice. It can help you to prevent breaking your piece when you choose to clean it or dust it.

It is a good idea to use something like gesso, specifically for the conservation of each piece of artwork. This combined with varnish can help keep your piece as vibrant as when you first painted it.

10. Resins

Oil paint has the basic recipe of pigment and binder, usually linseed oil. Before tubes of paint, great painters would mix their own pigment to oil ratios.

Resins were added to change the dry time and style. For example Mastic, a traditional resin from Greece will dry the paint faster and have a high gloss effect.

Traditional resins used in contemporary fine art came from tree sap, like Mastic, Dammar, and Copal. There are modern resins used like alkyds, matting agents, drying agents, and texturizing agents.

Resins can be used to change the effect of how your paint dries. You may feel a little overwhelmed with how fast some resins cause the paint to dry. No worries, you can add one or two drops of linseed oil until you feel more comfortable with this medium.

The Final Product

Now that you have more insight on what to add to your oil paints consider getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. We gave examples of styles of art that have used each medium but don’t let that limit your own creativity.

If you want to mix the resin used in contemporary art with the modern effects made with waxes or molding paste don’t hold back. If you ever are worried about the chemical reaction of the mediums and the oils there are sites that have safety sheets for their products.

We also would love to see your creativity! Please do not hesitate to comment on what you learned, extra tips, or your experiences of using these mediums.

Molding paste and oil paints https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNbeVHq9cBc

Gels https://www.naturalpigments.com/artist-materials/gel-medium-oil-painting/

Tar Gels https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8zoapGT-HU

Solvents https://www.emilymccormack-artist.ie/understanding-solvents-and-oil-painting-mediums/

gesso https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2021/08/23/size-primer-gesso-and-ground-explained/

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