The woods in oil

A few years back I bought a sheet of Arches paper that’s made especially for oil painting. It looks like a full sheet of watercolour paper but it has a semi-absorbent surface and requires no preparation before painting. The sheet sat on my shelf for several years, protected in its plastic bag, but I finally cut it in half and decided to give it a try.

I guess I jumped right in with this, without reading much about how to proceed. I set up my tray with a limited palette of red, yellow, and blue and a blob of white paint. And then instead of painting it like I would an oil (and I’ve only ever done a few of those), I worked it like I would a watercolour. In other words, instead of toning the paper like I have toned canvas in the past, I left the paper white. And then I painted from light/mid tone to dark, in an order that was something like this: sky, foreground trees, background trees, snow shadows and then details. The white you see (for the most part) is the white of the paper, just like in watercolour. The consistency of the paint was very thin for some of this because I mixed lots of mineral spirits into the paint.

This process was much easier for me than painting with thick paint. I mixed the colours more intuitively, like I do with watercolour or gouache. I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong way to do this but this felt right for the way I paint. And I will certainly try it again, because I still have the other half of the sheet in its original bag.

21 Comments on “The woods in oil”

  1. Gretchen M Graner says:

    Well, it’s beautiful, so it must be right! The bark textures and drifted snow shadows are particularly effective. Thanks– Gigi

    Liked by 2 people

  2. nikiraa says:

    I love it! The main thing is thy oil won’t eat the paper, but relationships are gorgeous.


  3. Donna says:

    Interesting. It does look like a watercolor. Using that paper lets you create that effect I guess. I don’t think it would be that successful on canvas because of the texture. But then again it might be a whole new look! It’s always fun to experiment.


  4. loisajay says:

    whatever you did–it’s beautiful!


  5. Bernadette says:

    What a beauty of an experiment. It is absolutely beautiful. Love the flowing shadows from trees, twigs and footprints. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Emily Neel says:

    Wait a minute. This is an oil painting?! Just beautiful. I can’t get over that it’s oil, though, because it looks almost transparent. And your signature snow throws me off too, of course, because you do the most gorgeous watercolor snow. Funny as I’ve been dabbling in oils lately as well (Carol Marine style – btw- she mentions you in one of her posts as an artist she would like to emulate. Also she’s buddies w the oil artist you mentioned at the Sanibel workshop—Lori Putnam, I think?). Anyhoo- this oil painting is so interesting- I hope you do more! You are going non stop lately! Man! Wish I had your painting energy!


  7. Bravo! This looks great! I think it is really challenging to switch mediums and switch gears in the way you think about painting. Treating oils like you do watercolor really worked. I’m glad you jumped in! I’ve been dabbling in acrylics and gouache this week– it’s a mind-bender for me to use white and black and to put light colors on top of dark. Still, it feels good to push myself in new directions. Hope you felt that way too.


  8. Ruth Bosveld says:


    I have seen an unfinished painting by an early Tasmanian artist, John Glover, done in watercolour. He normally painted in oils. He had put in lots of heavy darks as his first step. I guess we can use each medium in any way we like – defy the “rules”.


  9. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Morning dear friend Shari,

    Good one and very pleasant to view. I love those shadows and the background.
    Beautiful color combo.



  10. Theresa Lee says:

    The colors are so rich , I love it !


  11. hariette says:

    How lovely- gorgeous colours, and a wonderful 3-d effect!


  12. Betsy says:

    How fantastic! So much to explore in this deceptively deep yet minimalist painting. For one thing, I’m enjoying the warm sienna and ochre “earth primaries” placed against the voluptuous, yet chilly, blue. And the lumpiness of the snow blanket laying on the uneven ground in the woods is utterly convincing — how well you have modeled the light and shadow there! and the scale of the shadows recedes convincingly toward the background, too. That’s quite a feat of perspective. A last observation: The push and pull between ‘abstraction of paint surface’ and ‘representation of real objects’ is just “>*<" (that's supposed to be a kiss sound).


    • Betsy, thanks so much for taking the time to send me your thoughts. I think I did hear that kiss sound. In case you are curious about the lumps, those are big rocks in the woods. When there’s a lot of snow, and it’s a sunny day, they create great shadows.


  13. Suzanne says:

    This painting will look very nice on somebody’s wall. The crispness and the sunlight convey what I see and feel on a calm, cold but sunny winter day. And I hear the crunch and snap of snow and twigs. It’s so nice that you expériment and share details with your fans. Thank you!


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