Guide to Non-Toxic Oil Painting Methods | Adele McFarlane Wile | Skillshare

Guide to Non-Toxic Oil Painting Methods

Adele McFarlane Wile, Visual Artist, Educator

Guide to Non-Toxic Oil Painting Methods

Adele McFarlane Wile, Visual Artist, Educator

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9 Lessons (55m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Board Preparation

    • 4. Subject for Assignment

    • 5. Assignment with Water Mixable Oils

    • 6. Clean up with Water Mixable Oils

    • 7. Assignment with Oil Paint

    • 8. Clean Up with Oil Paint

    • 9. Assignment Notes

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About This Class


Guide to Non-Toxic Methods of Oil Painting

Oil paint is a medium that can sometimes be intimidating to work with because of its inherent toxicity. This class will introduce students to methods of working with oils in a non-toxic way. We will explore the use of water soluble oil paint as well as methods of working with traditional oil paint without the use of mineral spirits or turpentine. Say goodbye to your toxic worries and ventilation issues because this class is your ticket to a safer way to oil paint. 

Class will include:

Overview of different oil paint types, beginner palette colours, and mediums

How to prepare a painting surface

Techniques for water soluble oils

Techniques for traditional oil paints without the use of toxic paint thinners

Simple painting assignment that can be completed with either water soluble oils or traditional oils. 

Music in this class: Industrious Ferret  Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Meet Your Teacher

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Adele McFarlane Wile

Visual Artist, Educator


I am a Canadian visual artist and educator based out of Nova Scotia. I have a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Nova Scotia Collage of Art and Design University and a Bachelor of Education from St. Thomas University. I currently teach in the Art Department at St. Francis Xavier University and maintain a studio practice out of my home in northeastern Nova Scotia.  

My medium of choice is oil paint but my work also includes drawing, collage, and sculpture. A significant amount of my life has been spent living rurally and my art practice is heavily influenced by the forest, tidal waters, and changing seasons of my environment. I am particularly interested in how the stimuli of the natural world connects deeply with image making and storytelling. The subject of my work often fo... See full profile

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1. Introduction : I've been oil painting for over 20 years. It's a significant part of my practice. E I also teach introductory color course on introductory painting course at a local university. About three years ago, I was working on a series of multiple panels. It was it was a really huge project and I was spending a lot of time on it and I was actually using ah lot of paint thinner. So it's thinning down the oil paint, and I just totally overdid it. And I started to have really adverse reactions to a painting, which was horrifying because this is what I do, and I didn't want to switch my materials. I love oil paint. I wanted to continue to use it. So I started doing a lot of research and experimenting with different materials so that I could find a way to work with oil paints that wouldn't be toxic. And what I found is that you don't have to use toxic paint thinners. There are many different ways of working with oils that can be completely safe and nontoxic , So I'm excited. Teoh share those methods and techniques with you today, so this is really a beginner costs were going to be working on a very simple oil painting assignment, and we're going to explore the use of water soluble oils as well as traditional regular oil paints, but without the use of toxic paint thinners cystic around. And in the next video, I will talk to you about all the materials that you're going to need to complete your simple assignment. I'll discuss with you some beginner colors to start with and other mediums that will be using in the next. 2. Materials: in this video, we're gonna be talking about the materials that you are going to need for the class. You're going to need a pallet to work on. This is a glass palace. You certainly don't have to use glass palette. Paper works really well. Wax paper is actually really cheap alternative Teoh palette paper, and it also works fairly well if you really enjoy it while painting, I do recommend getting up glass palette made. You can have him cut at any place that does like glass windshields. And the only thing that I would say is when you get them to cut the palate asked them to swipe the side so that they aren't sharp. Four brushes. Isis. Really nice to have a variety of brushes to work from, so there's hog hair. Purcell bristle brushes with really nice start to start it with because they're fairly inexpensive. They hold the oil paint really well, and they last a really long time. They're firmer brush. They have a lot of texture When synthetic brushes are softer brush, so they're made it of a synthetic material is opposed. Teoh naturally occurring. One. If you want a surface quality on your paint. That's a lot smoother than working with the synthetic is a nice idea. They could be a little more expensive than the hog hair bristled different shapes of brushes that you confined. You have a flat, which is a longer bristle, and it's flat on top and have a right, which is a shorter bristle tends to be a little bit wider, and it's also flat on top. You have the Filbert, which is a longer bristle, similar to the flat, but it's curved on top you have around, which is a rounded brush you can see has around it top. It's really nice for holding on putting down a lot of hate. Everything is that when you're just starting out, you don't necessarily want to spend a whole bunch of money on brushes, so you can definitely, you know, if you have. If all you confined is a short handled brushes and and they will work Teoh theme Biggest thing with the Oil brushes that you want to make sure that the bristle is firm enough to hold the oil paint. So a lot of times a short handled brushes meant for water basing it such is acrylic or watercolor, and the longer brush the longer handle. Brushes are more suitable for a thicker paint such as oil, so you'll are going T o is, uh, palette knives to mix your paints. Metal has really nice to work with, but if all you can find this plastic than that's fine as well, Palate Scraper is is also really excellent tool that you can get a hardware store. If you're not working with glass and you don't really need the scraper you're going to need , you're going to need a big brush to prime your board with. This one's pretty huge. I would use this paint a larger. I would use this to paint a larger surface, so I'm going to use this a little bit smaller. But it's still nice and big surface to paint on. So this is a Masonite board. You confined masonry at hardware stores and have it cut down. It's a really inexpensive material to work with. It's really excellent painting surface. However, you do have to prime it, and I will talk about that, and I will talk about that in the next video. Thea other thing that you can do is use a pre prime, pre stretched canvas that you can buy at any art supply store, so those are readily appear. So those air readily available there a little bit more expensive than going the road of working with just that boards. You're going to need a big brush to prime your board with. This one's pretty huge. I would use this paint a larger. I would use this to paint a larger surface. Eso I'm going to use this a little bit smaller, but it's still nice and big that I can prime my board pretty quickly when we're talking about prime ings my board. I'm talking about using a jet so which is an acrylic based product. You can buy it any art supply store. So if you don't have Justin when you can't find it or whatever, you can also just use regular paint primer. We're going to need two jars 14 clean and 14 dirty, depending on the material you're working with. Whether it's water mix, herbal oils or traditional oil paints, you will either be putting water in these jars or oil in the stars. If you were working with traditional oil is you're going to need some type of oil to add into your oil. Paint a zoo well as to help you clean up. This is a wallet oil. It's definitely one of my favorites to work with. It's very, uh, very lights, and it works super well for cleaning brushes as well as kind of thinking. The oil paints a cheaper alternative to that would be the linseed oil linseed oil. Super easy to find at any art supply store, and it's a little bit thicker than you walnut oil. But it will do the trick. So four oils. I am going to talk about both water. Mix herbal oils as now as traditional oils. When you're first starting out with oil painting, you don't have to have all of the colors. I think a limited hell. It works really well, so I think it's good to have a nice big tube of titanium whites. Three primary colors to work with. You can mix every color with the three primaries. Sometimes it's tricky to find which red, blue and yellow you wanna work with. I personally really like the Eliza Ring Crimson French Ultra Marine and Cab Me in yellow or a lemon yellow to work with. I think it's also good to add in sort of a neutral color. You could. I would recommend a burnt Sienna or a burnt number for this either or will work fine. These are the artist San Windsor and Newton Water Mix Herbal oils. I think they're kind of like a mid range. They're good, uh, water mix herbal oil. They're fairly affordable, and I think you can get pretty vibrant colors with them if you would like to use traditional oils, and that's fine as well. This is a brand that I really love gambling, especially because they have really focused on keeping things non toxic. And they also on their website. There is a really great list that talks about each of the pigments and whether or not they would have any heavy metals in them or anything like that to worry about. So this is the Flake white replacement. I think it's really excellent white to work with. This is a Hansa yellow light, ultra marine blue, Eliza in crimson, and this is a transparent earth orange, which is like an earthy, neutral color, which is nice to just have on hands and get again a very limited palette, which is fine traditionally with oil paints, you would use a solvent. And really solvent is the biggest problem with oil. Paints some pigments with oil paints you might not want to work with because they could be derived from heavy metals. For example, pure cadmium colors, a cadmium, yellows and cadmium orange is if the paint actually has cadmium in it that it is going to be toxic. It does have that heavy metal in it. However, this is a canyon yellow hue, So usually when a paint uh, color, says Hugh, it means that the pigments used in the paint are not necessarily true. They're made to be similar to the original, but there are also a lot cheaper and in this case probably weigh less toxic than the actual cadmium. But when it comes to the solvent, even if it's a voter lists element, it's still super super bad for you. So solvents traditionally would be used Teoh wash your brushes with and also to thin down your painted, especially in the beginning process of painting where you might be blocking something in, and you really want to find that oil paint down solvents would also be mixed in combination with some of the oils to make a medium to use with the paint, however, you don't have to use solvents. You can take this really talk sick material out of the equation completely with oil paints . So join me in the next video, where we will prep our boards. 3. Board Preparation : So when your prime in your boards, you're going to work in one direction first so that your brush strokes all head in the same direction. Uh, the other thing that you want to do is make sure that you paint an X on the back, and this is going to ensure that your panel doesn't work. So once you have the first coat on and it's dry, then you can put the second coat on and you're going to go in the opposite direction, so you make sure that all of your brush strokes had in the opposite direction. 4. Subject for Assignment : The other thing that you're gonna need for this project is something that you would like to paint. This is really gonna be just about experimenting. Eso if you have a sketchbook that's got some old sketches in it, um or, you know, even just image is an image that you found from a magazine or something that you just want to play around with. You can really use anything for this. It could be abstract, whatever you. So this is an old sketchbook that I have, and I like this image. So I think this is what I'm going to use to experiment with if you can find a simple drawing that you wanna work from or, you know, some simple image and that then that will work. Really, really well. So grab an old sketchbook, uh, or find an image that you want to experiment with. 5. Assignment with Water Mixable Oils: in this video, we're going to be working with water mix herbal oils. I'm going to set up the pallet. I have to Jars of water. One's gonna be used for clean, and the other is going to be used for dirty. So I'm going to put some weight down yellow read blue in a little bit of the bird number. Okay. So to begin, I want us for this assignment to basically just explore the quality of the materials. So what I've done with my Jess owed board is I've done a really simple line drawing drawing that I just took, uh, rate out of my sketchbook. If you do keep both sketchbook than you can take a drawing from there or just do a simple line drawing the actual image doesn't matter for this arm. Basically, you just want something to work with so that you can explore the materials. I'm going to mix up color. And I think I want to mix up a green because my image is a plant. I'm gonna take some blue yellow, and I'm gonna use my palette knife to you. Mix them together. So I have a nice, dark green here and I'm gonna make a light green by adding some white or a lighter. Agree. Okay, more yellow to that. It's a little bit too blue. Basically, for this, I just want you to kind of explore the texture of the paint's Makes a color. Add some way, mix it up until you find something that you like, something that you want to refer. So I'm gonna take a bit of this color, put it right here on and grab brush. Basically, I just want to take some of this color without mixing any water with it with a nice dry brush. And I'm going to make a little swatch color, just a little square of color at the top of my board just like that. So the brush that I'm using is just a bright brush that has a nice flat edge to make a nice little green square. Okay, so the next step for this is I'm going to add a little bit of water just to see how that reacts to you. The paint. So the really interesting thing about water mix herbal oils is that they are pretty much exactly like oil pains, except you can add water to them, which is super counterintuitive, with oils with oil and water don't mix, but whatever they do to the paint, you can add water to it. So what I'm doing is adding a little bit of water at a time, mixing it up with my brush and then putting it on the board. And as you add water, you're going to see how the paint reacts. What I'm starting to see now is the more water I add, the pain kind of separates. It gets a little chunky on it stops having kind of a nice, smooth quality. I'm just going to do one more swatch, a little bit more water just so that you get a sense of how the paint reacts and you add water to it. And I've got this, you know, direct that's going on here. And that's OK actually going to do one more. So now I'm really seeing a separation of the yellow and blue, and that's a really losing kind of bubbly paint. So this is my clean water. This is my dirty water, and I'm gonna actually just wash my brush in that water. So, with traditional oil paints you would be using a paint thinner instead of water. With these paints, you can actually just use water, so that's really incredible. And that's what makes these paints way less toxic. The other thing working with Use Windsor and Newton uh, water mix herbal oils is that they really there really as safe as like an acrylic paint. So we can see how the quality of the paint changes, the more at water we add. And it's really nice to do an exercise like this so that you get a sense of how much water you can add to the paint for it. Teoh be kind of easy use, but so that it still maintains its really nice quality. So today we're gonna be working, uh, pretty direct and sick with the pain. So I'm gonna go with at a very small amount of water to my paint. Just enough. It's got a really nice quality, and it's easy to work with. Once you've done your little test, are at the top. I want you to mix up some different colors to work with my color composition, for this is going to be pinks and greens and browns so I'm gonna mix up, um, a bunch of difference colors to work from. And I encourage you to do the same to explore the paint. So I already have greens here. I think it might mix up like one more really light. I agree. I'm gonna make mix up some different pinks, just like a tiny bit of yellow that read. - So I'm gonna have a dark red, a medium on light on a dark read in a medium in the late green. And then I want to mix up just and neutrals. I'm gonna take my number and actually some of my red cure it because I want really nice and warm neutral. So it will be, like, almost like, really, really darken neutralized. Red might even take a little bit of the start green? No, thank you. The same thing. So I have a dark and I want to make a medium and for my really light actually yellow. So now I have a bunch of colors to work with, and I really just want Teoh explore the material. So to give yourself an opportunity, Teoh, use some different brushes. Teoh play around with the different colors that you've created on and play around with the amount of water that you're adding in and really explore the quality of the paint. So I'm gonna start just adding just such a small amount of water to my brash. And I've got a rag here that I'm going to also lot just so that I don't add too much water . You need, like, a little bit more plot a little bit. And I'm going to start with this darker. Agreed. And here goes E. 6. Clean up with Water Mixable Oils: Now it's time for cleanup, so I'm going. Teoh, wipe all my brushes. Get a majority of the paint off of them as well as my palette knife. Get most when it comes to working with oils, we have to be very careful with oily rags, so they need to be stored in a safe container. Something metal. This is ceramic. Actually, Um, the key with storing the rags is that if oily rags are left piled up on top of each other, then it's possible that they could combust. So it's important that we store them in a safe container, but also store them in a way that they're very loose so that air can still get around them . And, um, they can dry so they're less of a hazard. The other thing that I do with my cotton is that I will hang them so that they can dry, and then I can use them the next time on. Then when I'm ready to discard them, I can put them into the safe container. So for these brushes, now that I have wiped most of the oil paint off of them, I can switch them around in my dear. You are the ones that I need to get, You know more of the oil are, and I can take them. Um, I think, um, and just wash them with soap and water. So clean up is super easy with the water mix herbal oils. 7. Assignment with Oil Paint : So in this video we are going to be working with traditional oil paints. No, actually sure how it's going to turn out as a painting. I just wanted Teoh pick like a quick Contour drawings. I chose this drawing of a shoe which I actually think works a lot better. Just a za drawing. I'm not sure how this is gonna work out is a painting, but maybe it will end up being abstract. I figure it's a good thing to show you two because really, for this we are just experimenting, as I said, And you can really use any, you know, line drawing or any image on your board and just play around with it for this. So starting off, we ever two jars of oil. I have one jar that's for clean, and that's dirty. And this is for washing the brushes. This oil is for adding into the paint. I am using the walnut oil here. What I'm gonna do with my jar, that's for clean. Add just a drop of lavender oil, maybe two drops. You don't want to add very much. This is sort of like my little secret lavender oil smells really nice, but it also is similar to ah, solvent on. And how did it adding it to the oil helps Theo oil. Clean your brushes better if you're sensitive at all to smell. I don't recommend you use the lavender oil, but it's something that I like to do. That I find helps clean the brushes and also makes my painting experience smell wonderful. Okay, so we've got our oil set up. We've got some palette knives to work. Like got brushes on. I'm going. Teoh start to put paint boat. All right, so I have my sleep weight. My hands yellow, my Eliza in crimson, Ultra marine blue. And what's this one called Transparent Earth Or so neutral color that I'm gonna mix with my ultra marine blue to make a really dark color? Okay, so starting out we're gonna do a really similar exercise to what we did with the water mix herbal oils. And we're going to be playing around with the amount of oil we can add to our oil paint on , see what that does to it. So one thing that I really want to talk about first with the traditional oils and this is also something that you will find with the water mix herbal oils as well any oil paint. There's this rule. It's called fat over lean. And what that means is, that s o oil paint his oil based so that oil is the fat. And so that means that more oil you have in your paint, um, the fatter it is to the biggest thing is you don't want to add paint that doesn't have a lot of oil mixed into it on top of paint that has a lot of oil mixed into it, because when it dries, it's gonna crack. So that's really a fundamental rule when it comes to oil painting. So we wanna work with thin paint and then oil your paint over talk. Now, what's tricky about that rule, and working with oil paint in a non toxic way is that we're not using any Solvents were not fitting down the pain with anything. This is a little bit tricky, and we have to work in a different way. So rather than doing, you know, layers of paint where we're adding solvent and it's really, really thin, and then we can add oily paint over talk. We're going, Teoh work fairly sick right away. And that's sort of how we worked in the last meeting as well. But to start out, we're going to do a little exercise. We're gonna play around with how the oil contracts with the oil paint. So I'm gonna mix up just a mix up like a gray color, almost Lebanese on this earth orange and my ultra marine blue. I use it away. That gives us a nice look, but a great player. So we're gonna start off rib a Russia, and we're gonna get a little bit of paint on the edge of our brush. And we're going Teoh exactly the same as we did with our last exercise. And just of the top, we're going Teoh, pop a little bit of that oil paint here. So this is without any oil? Mixed it. Okay, We're just gonna take a tiny bit of oil. We're gonna mix it in and we'll do another watch, okay? And we'll keep going. So just keep adding a little bit more oil and more so this is a really a different process than adding water to our pain. When we added water Teoh our water mix herbal oils. It was We got a very similar effect if you were adding in saw fit to your oil paints. And this is a little bit different because oil is cutting the pavement, but in a different way. And we've sort of ended up with this really oily gets better and better. If I'm gonna do one last one here. I just want to go until I really see um, you know, some drips happening. So one thing that I notice about doing this exercise is that the paint becomes way more glossy. The more oil I add into it, it becomes more transparent, looser. It'll start to drip a bit, and what I want to do is kind of decide where the sweet spot ISS for the amount of oil that I want to use. I definitely don't want to be using it this thin. It's too transparent, and I would have to maintain that consistency, that amount of oil in it. I wouldn't be able to put like the thicker oil paint on top because it would have more pavement than oil on. That would kind of break our rule. So I really want to find a nice kind of sweet spot, and I actually think the 3rd 1 is where I want to go three or four, but probably three. So that paints a little bit bigger. It's going to hold some texture, but it is still loose enough that it will be easy to move it around the surface of my board . So once you've done this exercise and you've kind of played around with adding oil in, then you can just start exploring. So mix up a bunch of colors, as I did in the last exercise. I kind of mixed a light, a medium and a dark for every color that I wanted to use, and then you can kind of go for it and explore. So that's what I'm gonna do right now, and you can along with me way , way, - way 8. Clean Up with Oil Paint: Mrs Clean up with that regular oils, Um is a little bit more challenging then the water Mexico oils, but it is pretty similar. So I do have some rags here that I need Teoh put in my container again. I'm gonna put them in really loosely because I want to make sure that there is a lot of airflow around them and I'm gonna wipe as much of the paint off of my brushes as I can. First, you're gonna dip your brush and get lots of oil on it, and you're just gonna press it to your rags or paper towel, given another dip. And as you press it to your eyes, your paper towel, you're going to see the paint come out of it. Same thing you get it nice and saturated and the oil is gonna help pull the paint off of the brush. Actually, for this I think I'm going to switch to the rag because it just absorbs. I find it absorbs a lot better that the paper towel saturate my brush and I'm gonna just pull that paint out. - So now that I've cleaned all the brushes with oil, I'm going to take my rag that I was using, and I'm gonna hang it so that there's lots of airflow so that it will dry. I don't want to leave it bunched up because there's always a risk with oil on a rag that's left bunch up, then it's could combust. So we don't want that. I want to be a safe as possible so we'll keep our rag. They're for cleanup. You can use gloves E. And I would recommend using gloves. If you're not absolutely sure about the pains that you're using. I'm I'm very careful about the pigments in my paints on DOF course, the medium that I use with them. So I'm not really concerned about getting on my hands so much. But I'm absolutely when you're painting when you're cleaning up, you can wear gloves. Oh, that my brushes air all cleaned with oil. I have to clean them with hot, soapy water. I recommend using a bar, a white bar off soap like ivory soap. Something like that. There are some or expensive soaps that are made for cleaning brushes, and those work really well. But I find just a bar of ivory. Soap is a really excellent s soap to use, so make sure that you thoroughly wash your brushes with hot, soapy water 9. Assignment Notes: So for your assignment, you're going to complete a one hour painting sketch using either water mix, herbal oils or regular oils without solvent. Don't worry about what the finish painting will look like. Just explore the paint and enjoy the process. Post. You're finished paintings in the project section of the class and share your experience with the materials. Thanks, and I hope to see you again in my next class.