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Why I'm a Painter, not an oil painter

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Course Director and internationally regarded oil painter Martin Kinnear on why he doesn't like to labelled an Oil Painter.

Oil paint plus pastel, watercolour, spray - I'm not a purist !


Paint is Paint


If you get out your paints - any paints - they will do pretty much the same thing. Warm red watercolour will make the same greyish colour with blue as oils or acrylics do. The only real difference is watercolours are by and large translucent, and acrylics are by and large more opaque. We use oils because they can do everything that acrylics and watercolours do, without the bother of changing medium.


It is absolutely possible to paint Constable's The Hay Wain in acrylic (I know, I did it as a consultant for a large paint maker). Of course the outcome was different - but the creative painting fun and enjoyable challenge was just the same.


Sure, if you absolutely definitely want to learn exactly how to get the effects you see in a specific oil painting then you'll need to take one of our technical courses on oil, in oils. But StudioTalk really isn't about that; technique is much less important than getting inspired and having fun.




Oils, watercolour, Acrylic, Pastel - you can even enjoy doing this in felt tip!


The Masters Didn't Worry About It


The masters such as Turner by the way took absolutely no notice of 'media', because like all artists of the period he was mixing his paint up as he needed it with the binders he felt were best for the job.


The same batch of blue pigment in turner's paint box might become watercolour for a quick plein air sketch, and then be mixed with oil for a studio painting. He painted in any media that came to hand; and so should you. The distinction between 'oil painters' 'acrylic painters' 'watercolour painters , or 'gouache painters' has a lot more to do with artists catalogues than artists. In a nutshell; the often snobbish distinction between painters in different media is as silly as it's modern. Painters use paint - and in my book that's all of them.


This extends to contemporary painters of course, De Kooning used to pour water into his oils just to make them do unexpected things which helped his creativity.


We keep It Simple.


Because we demo in oils - we know that most of you will want to do the same, so we keep it really simple. Simple Medium , everyday brushes, easy colour mixes; and if yours is a bit different to ours then that's the whole point. Your painting is by you, and its bound to have your creativity in it.

Our StudioTalk members aced this one - which is a walk in the park once you see it done
See making it yours as the point. Use your ideas, try your favourite media, add your favourite colours. There is no wrong way to paint like you.

Yes we could boggle you with how to make modern oil pigments behave more like Old Master ones, or get bent out of shape about the 'right' type of lead white for Rembrandt (Skulptwit and Lootwit at different stages if you're interested, and yes we do technical courses on that and more).



Want technical ? We do that too - but not on StudioTalk.

But the whole point of StudioTalk is to be inspired and get painting, rather than sweat the small stuff. Trust us and roll with it.


The Perfect is The Enemy of The Good


One of the most inspirational mottos I ever heard is ' Second Best Tomorrow' . Which means get on with it now in the knowledge that making a start is infinitely better than waiting until one knows everything.


Studiotalk is all about that mindset - the artists we study are great painters - but you don't have to be to give it a go. And giving it a go, is the point; I'm a great believer in making a start - because I've seen how transformational loosing the fear of starting can be. There is no reason you can't have a crack at Peploe, Redon, Cezanne or whoever in watercolour, or mix it up and use water based paints plus a bit of dry media. It's only painting!

Yes, we could boggle you with how to make modern oil pigments behave more like Old Master ones, or get bent out of shape about the 'right' type of lead white for Rembrandt (Skulptwit and Lootwit at different stages if you're interested, and yes we do technical courses on that and more). But the whole point of StudioTalk is to be inspired and get painting, rather than sweat the small stuff.


Inspirational Kit


Here's my suggestion for a creative StudioTalk experience.

  • Two of each colour (a warm and a cool), plus black and white

  • If you use watercolour, have some opaque white acrylic or Chinese White to hand

  • Some Medium to thin them with - if they're water based paints - that can just be water, if they're oils then use a general propose medium or just solvent.

  • A large, a medium and a small brush, and a pot to wash them in

  • Something unobtrusive to draw with such as graphite stick.

  • Something colourful to draw over the painting with, such as chalk or oil pastel.

  • Something to paint on - thick paper, canvas paper, it doesn't really matter, after all we're not creating masterpieces for posterity, just having fun whilst learning.

The artists we study are great painters - but you don't have to be to give it a go. And giving it a go, is the point

Announcing the Inaugural Getting On With It Prize



On Tuesday 17 August I'll be returning from my summer break to present StudioTalk and announcing the winner of the Getting On With It Prize (£150 of online tuition - that's 3 £50 online courses of the winner's choice) for the best StudioTalk member's version of my demo posted on Studiotalk by the 24th.

I'll be looking for creative inspirational and ambitious work in any media, so make it your own and have inspirational fun!

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5 commentaires


Membre inconnu
07 août 2021

Yes I agree with what everyone is saying about your generosity and I like your frankness you really give us the courage to plunge in and get on with it and it is the only way 😀 😉 👍 😄

Being a new member 2nd week but loving everything

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Anne Toase
Anne Toase
07 août 2021

Great article Martin and I have to confess I did the "Willy Peploe" portrait from the masterclass in acrylics - because that was what I had out on the bench at the time. It was definitely about the process. Best way to learn by doing these exercises. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing

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Thalia Stones
Thalia Stones
07 août 2021

Absolutely fantastic to be able to watch Studio Talk. Each one has been so informative. Great to be back with you, Martin, again! I was a member of the Friends of NPS, years ago, and did two brilliant courses with you, coming over from Malta each time! Thrilled to be back again!!

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Nandhini Narasimhan
Nandhini Narasimhan
06 août 2021

Wonderful blog and it resonates with me more than ever before. Having shifted from being a watercolorist( after the blog it is no longer so) I learnt oils mainly from studio talk and the various masterclasses then in to simply oils course but I became confident as an artist here at NPS. I do owe my allegiance to watercolour till date and not away from it as there are transferables. Thank you Martin and your team for making my Tuesdays a place to hang out with like minded people albeit online and in the process get up and create.

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Jill Craig
Jill Craig
06 août 2021

Even more encouragement from you Martin to get us painting. There is always a challenge, a goal an inspiration at any time on the NPS website. I have learnt more, attempted more, enjoyed more than at any other time of my life. Thank you so much for your generosity, knowledge and encouragement. Long live NPS and Martin! 😁

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