Art: Oils or gouache; not sure yet.
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    Exclamation Oils or gouache; not sure yet.

    Hey I'm about to get started with some traditional painting (starting with just values), but I'm not sure if I should choose oils or gouache. I love the look of oil paintings the most so that's what I would choose in the first place, but I got a little room where I sleep as well, so I really can't stand that much awful smells. Also, I think gouache causes less hassle and smells.

    Should I just go with gouache or is there a way to use oils anyway (maybe water soluble oils)? I'm really new to all this so I hope someone could give me some tips, thanks!

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    Water Soluble Oils are something I personally stay away from. Honestly, Is being a fast drying agent important to you? If it is then I would highly suggest looking into acrylics or Gouache. If you do not mind waiting a while for the art to dry then go with oils. There are some products that smell worse then others with oils. I honestly use Turpenoid and sin dried linseed oil and sunflower oil. As long as you can get some cross ventilation in the room it should;nt be too much of a problem.

    I imagine that Elwell, DSIllustration, Mr.Visions or Dave Palumbo could help you more as they deal with oils regularly.

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    Thanks unknown_epiphany, I also vaguely remember something negative being said about water soluble oils. Fast drying isn't so important to me, I only thought of water soluble oils so I could use water instead of smelly stuff (I got a bottle of turpentine oil at home and that has a really bad and strong smell, not sure if it's the same thing as turpenoid).

    As far as ventilation, is pretty hard to do that well here, but maybe I can arrange something. Thanks for the help so far.

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    If you want to use oils, I would stay away from using even turpenoid or Odorless Mineral Spirits in the same room where you sleep- they are less smelly but still can cause harm as they still release vapors- especially over long periods. However, there are ways of using oils without turps or a solvent in general. There are a couple threads on it here, and I'm sure google brings up some stuff too. Try searching for "solvent free oil painting". You can also search here for "water oils" which for the most part brings up info on how/why to avoid them.

    Most brands of the water oils are quite terrible- bad paint consistency, lousy color selection, low pigment load, etc. But I find Grumbacher Max to be usable as it has a nice feel (with some exceptions by color), and I can get all the colors I like, including true cobalts & cadmiums rather than hues. I keep a small set for the rare times I really can't use regular oils (usually when travelling). Unfortunately it's a hard brand to find in stores- you'll usually see the Windsor & Newton, Holbein, and Grumbacher Max2 in stores, which are all pretty terrible and have rightfully earned the disdain of most artists. But hey, if they're the right solution for you, go for it.

    (BTW, water oils dry at similar speeds to regular oil paint when used without dryers)

    Gouache is fine too. No reason not to use it- though it has more limitations and won't necessarily create the oil look that you like. But a great medium nonetheless.

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    Go with gouache. No smell, easy cleanup, and minimal investment if you decide you've made a mistake and want to try something else. If you do decide to eventually transition to oils the switch from gouache is easier than from any other medium, certainly easier than from watercolor or acrylics. The trickiest thing about gouache is the color shift from wet to dry, but you'll have that to some degree in any water based medium, even water mixable oils if you're thinning them down.


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    Thanks Elwell, I'll go with gouache. It's true that it's best to start with just values right? I think I'll start with some still lifes and - if the weather gets better - some outdoors. Should I just start and see where I'm heading or should I get a book or whatever and learn some more about it first (ie technique wise)? I was thinking about simply buying the 3 primary colors and black and white, but I'm not sure if that's the right choice.

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    i have the 3 primary's and it works great.. for me. I got a gift card to the local art store and bought some golden brand paints ( they are so awesome) but i got primary cyan, primary magenta, and primary yellow, titanium white and mars black. i love the cyan and yellow but the magenta is a little pink and is harder ( but not impossible) to get very deep reds. some people use a 6 primary system to get more colors(warm and cool variations of each color.) but i dont bother with that.

    i do have a question about gouache, what are its characteristics compared to acrylics ( texture, drying times, ect.)

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    adam278: Gouache has a similar drying rate compared to acrylics, perhaps even a bit faster if you are painting on absorbant paper. The finish is uniformly matte and opaque (unless you water it down considerably) where acrylics can range from glossy to matte depending on the pigment and brand. Gouache should be thinned to the consitency of heavy cream on your palette before you paint. If you use it straight from the tube and apply in thick layers, it has a tendency to crack. One big difference between gouache and acrylics is permanance - once your acrylics dry, they are there to stay. Gouache is workable after it drys, which makes painting layers a bit tricky. You can paint from light to dark so you won't contaminate your layers as much. Storing your work once it is finished is also a bit different. With gouache you will want to frame it under glass or protect it with a sheet of glassine (a type of transluscent protective paper) if you don't want to frame it. With acrylics you can just varnish it or leave it be.

    You will probably get the best control with gouache if you use a natural hair like red sable or a soft nylon brush (the type used for watercolor). I have a few really soft round brushes with a fine point, and a few flat nylons that are slightly more springy. This gives me enough variety to achieve various effects. You will want to experiment, however, to determine what is right for you.

    I recommend pthalo blue (red shade) and alizarine crimson (or the more light fast quinacridone crimson) for any painter. They mix together to form a beautiful black that is much nicer than the colors you can purchase in the tube, imo. You can also use pthalo green (blue shade).

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    thanks alot, Grendel, that helps so much. i think ill stick to acrylics while i have them.

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    Hi Coen...

    ..I have used Oils straight out of the tube with no mediums and then cleaned my brushes with soap. Apart from a slight smell of oil there was nothing too bad. Do you have to use additives with oil?

    And remember why oils are so good - you can move them around for days!

    Have fun!

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    Yeah it is pretty easy to use oils without the smell actually.

    However, I use white spirit to swish brushes in and turps to put washes in. I paint (when indoors) in my bedroom, since its the only room I rent in a house. Just make sure you have the window open pretty wide. Its not done me any harm so far.

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    I only use turps or mineral spirits when I'm toning a canvas or board, I just get the window open and do a batch all at once. They dry in a few hours and the smell is pretty much gone.

    The rest of the materials I use (paint, linseed oil, brush cleaner soapy stuff) have no real smell at all.

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    Thanks for all the replies! I'll probably just get the primary colors and black and white too, allthough I think I'll start with just values anyway (before I drown in my mess ). That's some useful info about paint Grendel, I wondered about that too. I kinda like the fact that gouache at best should be painted very directly since it doesn't work that well for layering. I haven't really thought about using oils straight out of the tube yet, sounds like a good sollution, but ain't it very expensive?

    Maybe I'll just try both. I just ordered "Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting" by Richard Schmid but I'm not sure if that contains technical info as well. Anyway, I guess it's about direct painting (alla prima) which I really like, so I hope I can learn something from it. Gotta wait 8 weeks for it to arrive tho..

    Anyway, any other tips on how to get started? Anything I should do or know, or should I just go ahead and start messin around?

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    That is a bloody marvellous book, good choice. 100% worth the price (and wait in your case)

    It touches on technical info, but for better stuff like that check out the Harold Speed book on oil painting, that is again a brilliant resource, and its exceptionally cheap. (Check out amazon for it.)

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    Seconding the Harold Speed book, it's one of the best art books I've read, up there with Loomis for me.

    It's heavy going in places and the illustrations are poor but I'd still recommend it to anyone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coen
    I haven't really thought about using oils straight out of the tube yet, sounds like a good sollution, but ain't it very expensive?
    My daily oil habit averages out to about $100 a month.

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    Quote Originally Posted by k4pka
    Its not done me any harm so far.
    It won't do you harm, not yet. But if you continue to ignore safe handling practices you can end up with a number of very serious complications and/or chronic illnesses. You owe it to yourself (and your environment) to learn more about the materials you are working with and handle them appropriately. One thing I feel I should mention, never EVER pour any solvent down your sink, toilet, yard etc. This will introduce these substances into the water supply. Also, flammable vapors could accumulate in your plumbling. Please take a look at Gamblin's site for more info on proper storage and disposal of hazardous artists' materials.

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