Monday, September 30, 2013

Six Ways I Use Oleogel

I push Oleogel on all my friends and I've even done time for selling it in a schoolyard.  After using it regularly for the past year and half I've come up with a variety of uses for it and I thought I might share them:  

Oiling in:  First of all, oiling in is bad.  Extra oil equals extra yellowing, and layers of pure oil and no pigment are not structurally sound, so the only place where excess oil is welcome is at a cheap massage parlour.  If you do oil in you should pull your blinds so the neighbours don't see.  But sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  Sometimes I just have to oil in the damn painting, take a look, and then noodle at my edges and shadows.  I apply Oleogel with a make up sponge very sparingly.  When it dries, the silica in the oleogel give the painting surface some tooth, compared with the slick nasty surface pure oil would leave behind.
I oiled out this head study to restore all my colours before deciding that instead of a purplish background, I really out to have a greenish background.
    
Laying down a couche: For those who haven't come across this term before, "couche" is French for "paint layer," and in the context of classical technique, a couche is a thin layer of oil that you spread over an area that you are about to work on, usually an area that you are going to bring to a finish with fine detail and blending.  The oil makes the fresh paint flow onto the surface better (great if you're working with tiny amounts of paint on little itty bitty brushes) and at the same time saturates the old paint layer so that you can match your colours perfectly.  Snort.  As if anyone manages that.  I used to use linseed oil cut with Gamsol in a 1:1 ratio for my couches.  But now I've seen the light and I've found that Oleogel serves this purpose better because it is a gel.  My paint doesn't thin out or go runny when I paint into it.  It's not as slippery and my brush strokes stay in place, meaning a completely new "look" for my finishing layer is at my disposal.

I applied a couche to her hair before doing my final pass.  If you look closely you will see that there is a slight halo around her head where the green background is more saturated.  This is the Oleogel.  The brushy quality of her hair is something that would have been difficult to accomplish with a runny couche of oil.
Cleaning up a surface: I have bad mahl stick hygiene, meaning I rest my fat hand on my paintings a lot.  Paint smears are an unpleasant fact of life.  I used to clean up with a bit of OMS, but that always leaves a streak somewhere and makes the paint surface look milky and hideous, and besides, if the paint isn't completely dry, you might just ruin the area you're trying to clean.  Been there, done that more times than I care to count.  I've found that a little Oleogel applied to a make up sponge will clean an area perfectly without lifting off the paint, even if the area is only just barely dry to the touch.  Sometimes I do one better: if I know an area is going to get a smear on it, I will put some Oleogel down first and then wipe it off later when I'm done.

If you can't tell where a giant gob of flesh tint hitched a ride on the heel of my hand and landed square on my six hour old black coat, I'm not going to tell you.  Bone Black doesn't dry very hard, and since it was so fresh, it would have come right off if I had used OMS to clean it.  Olegel saved the day.
Softening out a penumbra: I try to paint wet into wet as much as possible, meaning that my shadows are completely worked into my lights.  But sometimes you will get the job done faster and dare I say better by just glazing the damn shadow.  Case in point, any area with texture should have a shadow glazed over top.  Oleogel, because it's a gel, makes it easy for me to manipulate transparent colour without streaks.

See the shadow her hat casts on her hair?  I totally painted that hair without a cast shadow, let it dry, and then Oloegeled that bastard and glazed a shadow over top.  And then I learned Russian with all the time I saved.
Cleaning an edge: For when you paint outside the lines.  I usually use Gamsol on a chisel edged brush to clean up a bad edge in my early stages of a painting, but in the later stages it can be a right pain in the ass to put Gamsol down adjacent to an area of fresh, delicately modelled paint.  It tends to seep over farther than you want, or make an edge too hard.  It's especially bad if you're trying to clean an edge above the area you're working on, because then that relentless jerk gravity is working against you and that Gamsol will trickle down no matter how sparing your application.  In these cases, I will use a little Oleogel on a chisel brush (or a soft or ratty brush if I want a really soft edge) to clean up edges.

Branches are one of those tricky things.  You want them to be crisp, and yet if they're too hard edged, they look graphic.  I used Oleogel quite a bit to clean my edges with a soft touch.
Mixing directly with paint: This lends the paint transparency and flow, but it still handles like regular paint.  It will make you brushstrokes longer without the paint turning runny or drying any faster than usual.  I often opt to use Liquin to make my paint flow better (mostly because I have a bottle of it sitting on my taboret.  If it was hidden in a drawer I would probably forget it existed), or straight up oil (Natural Pigments makes a bunch of different oils that are a pleasure to use), but one nice thing about the Oleogel is it doesn't turn your palette into a runny mess when you premix it into all your paints.  The paints stay put in their respective spots, thank you very much.

NOTE: Please do not use Oleogel to paint big goobery brushstrokes, a la maroger medium.  Some people see the word "gel" tacked on the end and they get the wrong idea.  Oleogel is simply linseed oil plus fumed silica.  A lot of linseed oil.  (I think George said something like 95% oil and 5% silica?)  So when you add it to your paints or your painting surface, you need to remember that you are adding OIL, and we all know that oil is the devil's plaything.  Be sparing.  If you wouldn't normally cut your paint 50/50 with linseed oil, don't start now, and if you do want to add it to your paints for that special occasion that you need the right effect, keep the rules of fat over lean in mind.  Someone has pointed out to me that Oleogel will dry gummy and yellow.  Only if you're applying it like you're icing a cake.  If you want to apply juicy fat brush strokes, there are better mediums you can try.  I would recommend anything with an alkyd drier, or better yet, see if some Impasto or Venetian Medium will work for you.  The latter two are technically paints because they are composed of oil plus a colourless pigment.  This means that you can add as much of them to your paint as you want without upsetting the ideal pigment to oil ratio.


So that's my spiel.  Please consider welcoming Oleogel into your life, because if we keep buying it, they'll keep making it.

23 comments:

  1. Thank for sharing this, Kate. You've convinced me to try Oleogel.

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  2. Thanks for all the good info, I will try this miracle gel! I like gels anyway, being a long-time user of Weber Res-N-Gel during plein air (squeezes onto the palette rather than needing a cup) and Neo-Megilp (cup) in my studio.

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  3. "Sometimes I just have to oil in"

    Indeed.

    My experience with oiling in is that the lighter areas - the ones with more white - that would be more affected by yellowing don't tend to absorb the oil. It simply beads up and wipes off when I wipe off the excess oil from the rest of the painting.

    There is also the option of using safflower oil; used to bind white pigments because it's (relatively) non-yellowing.

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  4. Really love your blog , been following it for awhile and love the paintings by both of you two. Great article on this OleoGel. Are there other products similar to this one? Maybe Gamblins Gaylkyd Gel Medium? http://www.dickblick.com/products/gamblin-galkyd-gel-medium/
    I was just wondering about the archival quality - stuff like that.

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  5. Hi Dave, thanks for following. Forget that "gel" is tacked on to the end of Oleogel. It doesn't have anything in common with other gel art mediums. Just treat it like it's linseed oil.
    Alkyds are supposed to be fine to use, but it's important to remember that you should be adding as little oil or medium to your paints as possible to get the desired effect.

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    1. Hi Kate, love your blog and happy, that I have found it.
      I live in Montreal and have got from Toronto Oleogel.I read on your blog and in The Artist's magazine about Scott E. Bartner, he uses Oleogel also and likes that mush. But, I am still learn about Oleogel and have the question.I would appriciate your feedback..Do you use pure Oleogel and without any tiny amount of alkyd or resin, when you painting? Thank You! Nadya

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    2. Hi Nadya,
      I don't add alkyd resin to my Oleogel, but I don't see why you can't. In fact, Natural Pigments makes Oleoresgel, which is Oleogel with some alkyd resin added to it to accelerate drying. Some of my students used it in a workshop recently so that they're paintings would dry faster and it seemed to work really well.

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    3. Thank You very much Kate, it helps to understand and i appreciate your answers very much!! If I could be close to SF, I would take your workshops of painting with pleasure!! Here, in Montreal, I did not find yet.If you will be here,for painting workshops, it would be great!! Thanks again Kate.

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  6. I like oleogel a lot for the most part, but am frustrated that it seems to deaden the whole piece after it dries, which then requires the constant oiling out for the next session. I do rely on it to glaze with, and am happy that it requires so little for coverage. SO, a bit on the fence overall. What other mediums do you like to glaze with?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Hi Stanka, I don't glaze much, and when I do, Oleogel isn't always my go-to. Canada Balsam Medium is pretty good about not sinking in, and smells great. I think your painting method, being very additive and intuitive (it is, isn't it?) relies more on paint not sinking in than my own does (I just paint exactly, more or less, what's in front of me, so it doesn't matter if my painting goes a little matte). Have you tried using Essential Oil of Petroleum? It's no good for painting into, but if you ever feel like oiling in without putting oil on your painting, it gives you about ten minutes of time to take a good look at your painting fully saturated before it evaporates. Good for those times where your not really sure if you need to fix an area, or if it has just dried funny.

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    3. Thanks Kate. The balsam is a resin, so pretty similar I would imagine to the walnut oil alkyd I often use. I've been experimenting because sometimes it is just TOO shiny. I know, I'm a fussbudget. Although, the idea of my studio smelling of the pine woods is mighty appealing.

      I only get super fussy about these things when I paint the faces, where I'm fairly traditional, and have started using a spin off approach of verdaccio and transparent color glazes for a lot of it. And goofy paint fling as necessary ala StankaWay.

      thanks for the essential oil of petroleum tip, never tried it.

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  7. For those who can't buy Oleogel, it is simple to make....fumed silica added to linseed oil, heat treated or not. Cheap too.

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    1. Probably way easier to just buy it. I would thinking making it wouldn't be all that easy.

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  8. Thank you Kate!..and David. Like your Blog. It's one of the best of it's kind, and definitely the wittiest. Love Oleogel, and keep coming back to this article anytime I have a flashing thought like 'what else can I do with it?'

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  9. Hello

    Is the oleogel like impasto liquin?

    Mannon

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    1. "Like" in what way? Oleogel is just linseed oil that has been prepared with a bit of fumed silica and a smidgeon of wax. It behaves like linseed oil in all ways except for it's consistency.

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    2. thank you to answer, I'm from Canada and I can not find oleogel, so I thought impasto liquin was similar.

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    3. You could always order directly from the company. Just make sure they mail your package through USPS.

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    4. thank you to you and Happy New Year 2016

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  10. This sounds like the solution to all my problems! I prefer straight linseed due to having negative reactions to any solvent or alkyd, but I'm limited in the number of couche layers I can do with it. The only alternatives I've known of contained solvents or alkyds... until now! :D

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  11. Wow is just the simple word that may explain that how much I liked it. It was nicely stuffed with the material I was looking for. It’s great to be here though by chance.
    silicea

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  12. Thank you for your article. It straight up answered a question about the composition of oleogel. Your tips are great!

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