Painting & The Art of Timing

Painting & the Art of Timing |

We often read about color choices and painting techniques but what about timing your art? Sometimes you shouldn’t touch your painting while other times it’s advantageous to work into the wet paint. Keep reading for some insight that will surely make you think twice about your painting habits.


Timing is Everything

What I write about today is aimed mostly at oil painting but with some creativity can more than likely be adapted to acrylic painting techniques as well.

When I was younger and working in oils I just could not get the hang of the paint. The medium always seemed to work against me. As I gained more painting experience I came to find out that many of my blunders had to do with my lack of timing.


Let it Dry

When you are learning to paint you will definitely be making some mistakes along the way. As I eventually learned, many of my mistakes were a result of how I was timing a painting. Repeatedly adding more paint in order to fix a problem usually leads to more problems; most notably an unwieldy buildup of paint and muddy colors that seem hopelessly unfixable the more you paint. In this situation you are best to scrape back the entire area in question, and then repaint that area another day when it has fully dried. With the painting support in a dry state you can redraw things if necessary and then paint in your corrections…ahh so much more relaxing when we are patient.

It’s very difficult to achieve a full range of values within a painting that is created wet into wet in one sitting. Yes there are some masters like Richard Schmid who seem to be able to, but for the rest of us mortal artists our paints will always seem to revert to the medium values. Our lights will not be quite as light and our darks will not be quite as dark as we would like as we continually work into our painting and perfect our blends. I used to fight this, but now I just accept it. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I can simply let my painting dry and it will be so much easier to darken the darks and lighten the lights at another time. It’s less stressful as well, knowing I can wipe off my highlight if it’s overdone or in the wrong spot. Try that with a detailed wet into wet painting style!


Working Into Wet Paint

There are times you do not want your paint to dry and this is when you are blending paint and creating value gradations or painted color transitions of any kind. This is where most artists really fall in love with the oil painting medium. Its ability to blend for hours is such an attractive attribute of the painting medium.

Keep’n It Soft From The Get Go

Now when I paint, I make sure I soften all the edges of nearly every object’s edge in my painting while the painting is still wet. It’s easy to do and I can always easily tighten up edges later, but once a hard edge has dried it’s really difficult to make it soft again.

A little Patience Goes a Long Way

Sometimes our paint ends up a little bit runny and any attempts at blending it and softening up edges of defined areas result in an uncontrollable mess. This is usually from adding thinner or a medium to your paints or simply the nature of some paints right out of the tube. Under these circumstances I typically let the painted area “setup” and sit untouched for 20-30 minutes. I find that when I go back into this area to blend it, the paint responds much more favorably and has that sticky drag that I like when blending my oil paints.


How Are You Timing Your Paintings?

Hopefully this post made you think twice about some of your painting habits. I would love to hear about your efforts to time your paintings. Please leave a comment below!



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