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The History of Oil Painting

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil — especially in early modern Europe, linseed oil. Often oil such as linseed was boiled with a resin such as pine resin or even frankincense; these were called 'varnishes' and were prized for their body and gloss. Other oils occasionally used include poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. These oils confer various properties to the oil paint, such as less yellowing or different drying times. Certain differences are also visible in the sheen of the paints depending on the oil. Painters often use different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular feel depending on the medium.

Although oil paint was first used in western Afghanistan sometime between the fifth and ninth centuries, it did not gain popularity until the 15th century. Its practice may have migrated westward during the Middle Ages. Oil paint eventually became the principal medium used for creating artworks as its advantages became widely known. The transition began with Early Netherlandish painting in northern Europe, and by the height of the Renaissance oil painting techniques had almost completely replaced tempera paints in the majority of Europe.


Traditional oil painting techniques often begin with the artist sketching the figure onto the canvas with charcoal or a "clean", which is thinned paint. Oil paint can be mixed with turpentine, linseed oil, artist grade mineral spirits or other solvents to create a thinner, faster drying paint. Then the artist builds the figure in layers. A basic rule of oil paint application is 'fat over lean.' This means that each additional layer of paint should contain more oil than the layer below to allow proper drying. If each additional layer contains less oil, the final painting will crack and peel. There are many other mediums that can be used in oil painting, including cold wax, resins, and varnishes. These additional mediums can aid the painter in adjusting the translucency of the paint, the sheen of the paint, the density or 'body' of the paint, and the ability of the paint to hold or conceal the brushstroke. These variables are closely related to the expressive capacity of oil paint. When looking at original oil paintings, the various traits of oil paint allow one to sense the choices the artist made as they applied the paint. For the viewer, the paint is still, but for the artist, the oil paint is a liquid or semi-liquid and must be moved 'onto' the painting

Traditionally, paint was transferred to the painting surface using paint brushes, but there are other methods, including using palette knives and rags. Oil paint remains wet longer than many other types of artists' materials, enabling the artist to change the color, texture or form of the figure. At times, the painter might even remove an entire layer of paint and begin anew. This can be done with a rag and some turpentine for a certain time while the paint is wet, but after a while, the hardened layer must be scraped. Scraping may also be used to smooth a portrait before scumbling and glazing. Many oil paintings reveal evidence of scraping on close inspection, particularly when the surface itself is examined. Oil paint dries by oxidation, not evaporation, and is usually dry to the touch in a day to two weeks. It is generally dry enough to be varnished in six months to a year. Art conservators do not consider an oil painting completely dry until it is 60 to 80 years old.

Painting is an art that is seen rather than felt. So truly said by one of the greatest artist the world has ever seen; Leonardo da Vinci. The history and culture of painting shuffles back to years when pre-historic humans lived on this planet. And since than, this flow of creativity has no stopping; even today when we have reached into the 21st century.

In early modern Europe, the art of oil painting was developed, and from thereon, more and more artists have made it a medium for creating their art work, as it gave them many advantages. Today, we see oil paintings as a moment of time, or a passing thought frozen on the wall of some hotel, restaurant or our very own home. It just amplifies the beauty of the ambience around it. However, we should also understand that we need to select the right kind of fine art, in order to make our interiors complete.

Selecting the right kind of masterpiece for your empty interiors can be very confusing. It means one has to browse through hundreds of fine art made by popular artists. Normally, one should take into consideration various factors when buying an oil painting for your home interiors. Like, considering the empty wall space, the theme of that oil painting, the scheme of colors used, the color of the empty wall, your furniture and definition of the space.

Some people are art-crazy, and they love collecting oil paintings, like we do stamp-collecting and currencies and coins. If this sounds like you, than the best option would be to walk into the art galleries, where your favorite artist has displayed his collection. However, if you have no particular artist in mind, you can even roam around your local area, where local artists exhibit their canvas paintings in a temporary road-side stall. Many cities have “Street Art” where you can find a wide range of oil paintings done by local upcoming artists.

Many also purchase oil paintings as a form of investment. However, let me tell you that, if you are trying to do something like this, you need to have a good deal of patience. The value of paintings grow only when the artist is nationally or internationally acclaimed, or after his death. If you are expecting to become a millionaire overnight, than you are stepping in the wrong boat. Hence, it would be wise to purchase a good oil painting, after reviewing all of this criteria.

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