Back on the oils

Digital painting is a wonderful thing. Innovations like layers and the undo command let me work faster and more experimentally than I could in a physical medium. If something doesn’t fit right I can cut it out, move it or replace it. I can apply a new layer to experiment mid process or make iterative saves so that I can return to an earlier place in time without having to scrap the whole piece and I can retain colour palettes instead of having to remix them again.

In spite of all this, there is something about oil paint which simply can’t be replicated. This weekend I finally finished an oil painting I started literally years ago and the smell of turpentine and feel of the brushes in my hand felt like coming home. There is something in the physical control of working the tools, the visceral process of mixing tone and viscosity before applying the paint, the ability to move between smooth, slick glazes and heavy impasto through chemistry and pressure that is familiar, sensual and addictive.

For commercial work I don’t think I could return to oil painting. The advantages of being able to send finished pieces, roughs and process updates to a client with the touch of a few buttons or beginning a new revision without any need to prep surfaces or recreate an under-painting are simply too valuable. However, there is something about working in a physical medium that cannot be replaced, a process that engages all the senses in a way that even the most accurate of digital recreations cannot replace.

It may be an indulgence to sink into the messy, imprecise and time consuming world of oil painting but it is an indulgence I intend to keep, even if only for my personal work.

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