Why Oil Painting is So Hard

“I’m just a little terrified”

“To me it’s scary even to think about…”

No, we’re not talking world politics, death or taxes.

We’re talking ART.

Oil painting, to be exact.

The quotes above are from students, some accomplished drawers, others complete newbies to 2D creativity, talking about getting started with oil painting.

I am always surprised at how emotionally invested we can get…but then again, I’ve been in love with oil paint since I was a high school freshman, learning about the Renaissance and getting my first whiff of oil paint in art class. It smells like history, and classical artistic tradition. (C’mon, with a last name like Antonelli how can I NOT be in love with the Renaissance?)


So why is this lovely medium so scary?

Precisely because it’s so wonderful, with such a rich history behind it. As Ira Glass describes in his famous quote on creativity, the gap between what we create and what our (totally killer) taste recognizes as good art is wiiiiiide when we first begin painting.

Getting starting is FRUSTRATING.

That’s because unlike drawing, there is a LOT to know about your medium.

  • What angle to hold the brush
  • How to properly mix colors
  • What mediums to use, and for what purpose
  • Different techniques of applying paint (like, what’s a glaze vs. impasto?)
  • Different techniques of beginning a painting (To start with a drawing or no?)
  • The fat over lean rule
  • How to ensure your painting lasts and doesn’t crack over time
  • Color mixing recipes
  • What paints to buy for your purposes
  • How to blend

That is a LOT to know!

So if you’d like to overcome your apprehensions about starting out with oil, I suggest you try my motto:

“Action cures fear.”

Get into action by becoming curious about all the questions you don’t know yet about oil painting, and discover the solutions in a beginning oil painting class.

You can just jump in on your own, if you’ve got the materials and access to Youtube. But self-teaching yourself something like oil painting is more of a psychological battle than anything else. Without personal guidance, it can be tricky to tell if you’re on the right track.

If you’re in San Miguel de Allende, I’d love to guide you through the basics in my Basic Oil Painting Class, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 7th until Thursday Nov. 16th. 10am-1pm.

We’ll cover all the foundational practice you need to know so that you can begin oil painting with confidence.

And after the basics class, I’ll have an Oil Painting Studio class which will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-5, Nov. 21st-Dec 14th. For those who have the basics down, we’ll be diving into improving our skills and finishing a painting or two in a supportive group setting.

So if you think you are ready to expand your artistic repertoire, email jessica@jessicaantonelli.com to sign up for classes. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions!


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