Australian Fine Artist

Impasto for Oil Painting

Adding Texture and Volume to Your Paintings

If you have ever tried to create volume to your paintings by using your paints alone, you have probably encountered the same problems that I have in the past.

To begin with, it takes a lot of paint to build up a thick covering on the canvas. A lot of paint means a lot of cost.

A lot of paint also means extra drying time. A normal or thinner application of oils, depending on the colour and medium added to it, can mean weeks or months for it to dry all the way through. Make the paint extra thick on the canvas and it may take years.

Thicker application to the canvas also means the risk of it cracking and falling off the painting eventually. Thick and thin (glazed) layers can react with each other with the result of sections not adhering to the surface and falling off. A famous artist that many of us know of, William Turner, experienced this during his lifetime. He experimented with the application of paints, and ocassionally, bits fell off when they were initially exhibited.

A way to add volume to your paints, without losing the intensity of the colours, or risking bits falling off too soon, is to use Impasto. I recently discovered how useful this can be when you want to extend and add volume to paints. Impasto and Olepasto are two products from Winsor & Newton. I have only experimented with the Impasto but was very impressed with how it made a small amount of paint spread so much further and thickly on a painting.

An important thing you will notice, and I did to my delight, was that the intensity of colour reamins strong when mixing in Impasto. I chose a strong blue for my first test and was so pleased to see that it stayed the same intense colour once mixed with a fairly large blob of the Impasto. I then tired it out with Titanium white, and there was was no change in the purity of the white. The slight yellowish colour of the Impasto did not taint the white at all. I have been watching the painting as it has dried, and have not seen any change in these colours.

For my initial mix, I treated the Impasto as I would any mixing or prepration of oils on the palette. I blended it with the paint on the palette with a knife, as normal, and wiped off any excess to make sure nothing stuck to the knife making cleaning difficult. I haven’t allowed the Impasto to remain on a palette knife, so don’t know if it would stick badly, but it is best to be careful with good equipment. Similarly, with my brushes or knives used to apply the mix to the painting, I cleaned them as soon as I was finished to make sure that nothing remained in the brush, especially that might ruin the bristles. Cleaning was easy; I used pure soap in warm water, the same way as I normally wash my brushes.

An added benefit, I since discovered from the initial test, was how fast impasto dried. Within days I had a nice dry surface that flexed with the canvas. It has been on the painting for several weeks now and has not shown signs of cracking or falling off. The Impasto also left a slight sheen to the surface, so no need to glaze over it to bring out a dark as often is the case with dark colours when they dry.

The Olepasto dries with a matt finish, so if you don’t want that sheen to your finished painting, I would suggest testing it out. I havn’t used this product yet, so can not comment on it further.

As with all new products, try before you purchase a large quantity, to make sure it works for your style of painting. Also, keep in mind that there is a significant odour to these mediums, so work in a well ventilated area and store the painting in a well aired room to dry. Once dry the odour should disappear.

I hope this helps you to enjoy and extend your painting experience.


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