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  1. #1
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    Advice on setting up 'studio' for oil painting

    So i dont have much room, in fact what im thinking of doing is setting up a chunk of my bedroom into an oil painting area. I figure ill just put sheets on the ground and walls in the general area, get an easel and table/shelves for supplies to sit on.

    Will this end in disaster? How messy can oil painting get? Any advice at all is appreciated, im sure theres things im not considering.

    thanks..
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  3. #2
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    Oh dear....this is what I also have. The fact that I say "oh dear" is that I have found I can paint without any consequences when I have my window (which is rather big) open all the way to ventilate the air in my room.

    Depending on how wild you paint, there isn't going to be any trouble with the mess you create. Putting sheets should do the trick. But please, make sure you're room is well ventilated.

    I remember the first few times I painted with oils in my room. I went to sleep in the scent and all the bad "gasses" that came from the turpentine and some of the oils. The next morning I had a tremendous headache. Once I realized it was from the oils and all the other stuff I open my window when I paint. That does the trick

  4. #3
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    [QUOTE=Will this end in disaster? How messy can oil painting get? Any advice at all is appreciated, im sure theres things im not considering.

    thanks..[/QUOTE]
    When you are an oil painter there are only two type of things you own; those things with oil paint on them and those things about to get oil paint on them.

    If you have to paint in a small space the most important thing is to have great ventilation and lighting and to be organized
    and neat otherwise you are inviting disaster; better to paint in a garage with the door open or a carport where you have to set up and break down every time.

  5. #4
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    Use Gamsol. I get terrible headaches from turpentine and odorless mineral spirits. I can paint all day with a container of Gamsol next to me and it doesn't make me sick or give me headaches. It's more expensive than turpentine, but well worth it.

  6. #5
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    Even with Gamsol or odorless stuff that doesn't give you obvious symptoms, ventilation is the most important thing!

    If you set up your workspace efficiently then you can minimize mess. Make sure your area is well lit and arrange it so that your palette is on the side of your dominant hand. Have some old towels handy. Give yourself enough room so that you won't knock stuff over and make a clear exit path from your easel so you can get up easily without moving something out of the way. Between my palette, my easel, and my props, I used to box myself in with my painting. That caused some anxiety and it also caused me to get mess everywhere because I couldn't move. Perhaps this is obvious...

    Also try not to paint in the same room you sleep in.

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  8. #6
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    I had the same problem in my apartment. Cloth won't work since the paint can seep through. Buy painter's plastic. Tack it on the wall and lay it on the floor. I also laid some cheap plywood on the floor as extra protection, plus it added stability to my easel since my floors are carpeted.

  9. #7
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    I have a plasticized tablecloth under my easel because that or a waterproof tarp won't let paint soak through the way a sheet might.

  10. #8
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    If you're really short on space a standard easel might be a problem as it will protrude a few feet out from the wall and eat up space, I knocked up a painting table from an old cabinet and some hardboard, it has a similar footprint but allows me to use the space more efficiently.

    The board sits flat against the wall, glass pallette (put grey card underneath the glass ) in front of it and I can store materials underneath. If you're using canvas on stretchers hit a couple of pins into the backboard to support it. I rarely use stretched canvas though so I tape or blu-tack paintings onto the wall until they are dry enough to throw into a folder.

    Not ideal but my flat is tiny and if I had a regular easel in that space I couldn't open the door..

    Attachment 1017795

    Regarding solventy whiffs etc, google "solvent free oil painting" , it's perfectly possible to paint in oils without filling your flat with billowing clouds of poison..There should be a few threads on that in this forum.
    Last edited by Flake; July 12th, 2010 at 11:07 PM.

  11. #9
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    thanks very much everyone. i have enough room for an a-frame easel, and i think ill get some gamsol. Ventilation is ap roblem not because i dont have a big window but because its VERY cold for like half (or more) of the year here but i will soldier on. maybe ill get a small fan. nothing shall stop me from oil painting!
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  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lumar View Post
    nothing shall stop me from oil painting!
    I like your attitude.

    http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/...ttle-room.html

    It's all too easy to put things off until you have this centrally heated, perfectly lit North light studio that most of us will never get.

  13. #11
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    You don't have to use solvents.
    If you do... keep them with screw caps always on and only lift the lid when you need some. There's really no reason to have an open jar of paint thinner next to you.
    While you're painting a rag can keep your brush clean. That should be enough --- if the paint doesn't come off on a paper towel then it's probably not going to come off on your painting.

    I used oils at the illustration master class without any turpentine or smelly solvents. I used a bit of galkyd poured into a baby food jar to help my paint flow a little better.

    a little bit of linseed oil and soap/water was good enough to clean my brushes. I used only the tiniest bit of gamsol during clean-up when I misplaced my linseed oil (it was only during clean-up to get my brushes clean and not during the painting process itself)


    After that as far as I know the paint itself is no more toxic than watercolors or acrylic. (assuming there's still the cadmiums etc being used as pigment)

  14. #12
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    Exactly Kenny. People get all hysterical about oil when it's mostly vegetable oil and dirt.

    Since we can't buy the truly bad pigments anymore the vaguely dangerous substances are the mediums, varnishes etc.
    Not the coloured dirt and vegetable oil.

    They're all less dangerous than stuff that lives in most garages, under your sink or in your girlfriends makeup bag.

    Oil painting is still less dangerous than cleaning your loo.

    Don't lick anything, wash your hands.

  15. #13
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    My biggest space problem right now, actually, is storing canvas and finished paintings. But that's another whole issue.

    I have my painting set-up in one half of my general-living-room-area (this is in an apartment, so there's not a lot of space.) It's really not TOO messy. I just have a smallish easel set really low (I sit on the floor to paint) and my paints, brushes, jars of liquid, palettes, etc. on the floor nearby. I don't have anything under the easel, but I DO put sheets of paper under the various jars of gunk because they do splatter. Yes, some paint gets on the floor, but I can usually clean it all off with a swipe of solvent (heck, sometimes plain linseed oil takes it off fine. And shines my floor in the process.)

    Anything I touch while painting will, of course, get paint on it - so my stereo, headphones, teapot and mug are all multi-colored now, but I don't mind that. And naturally I wear my rattiest clothes when I paint.

    The only gunk I use (besides paint) is linseed oil and a bit of Turpenoid Natural (strictly for cleaning brushes.) I'm usually fine with these even though my ventilation is only moderate. (I used to use turpentine, which gave me headaches all the time, but the Turpenoid Natural doesn't cause any problems for me.) Though as others have said, you don't necessarily need any solvents at all. (I'm thinking of looking into solvent-free painting myself.)

    Just don't eat while you paint.
    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; July 13th, 2010 at 11:09 PM.

  16. #14
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    QueenGwenevere, I had a revelation at IMC, Greg Manchess paints on unstretched pre-primed canvases that he just hangs on a panel with tape, when he's done and it's dry he can roll it up or just pile it with the others and it takes no place at all. I moved recently and storing the paintings for the move where they won't get pointy corners poking them out of shape was a challenge.

  17. #15
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    True, that. I wish I was more of a fan of unstretched canvas... I tried it briefly, didn't like it very much. Something about it just isn't as nice as the taut, springy surface of a stretched canvas, to me. :/

    (Plus if you ever want to hang it, you have to go and stretch it - I hate stretching canvas. I'd rather be lazy and get the pre-stretched ones.)

    But I've been messing with panels for smaller paintings, they take up way less space. (Still getting used to the different surface, though.)

  18. #16
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    It doesn't have to be messy, and it doesn't have to be smelly. I only use turpentine for cleaning the brushes when I'm finished and sometimes in a little jar where I have 50/50 oil/turpentine, for when my paint becomes too chunky. I always have a lid on the jar when I'm not using it too.

  19. #17
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    I paint mostly on masonite panels. You can get a panel that's 48inches x 24inches for about $5 at home improvement stores. They'll cut them to size for you. They stack well and don't take up nearly as much space as canvases. Just gesso them, or not if you like the brown tone. But I suppose you need to like the hard surface.

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