The first time

I used oil paint for the first time in January 2016. Only black and white, because I didn’t want my colour-blindness to stand between what I was seeing and what other people would see in my paintings. (6 months later, I’m taking that challenge on)

Oils behave differently to the acrylic paint I was experimenting with before. I knew immediately that I preferred the oil paint.

Here are the first marks I made with oils, and I still think about and refer to them now. I mixed the paint with Liquin, because I (wrongly) thought oil paint had to be mixed with a medium in order to thin it out to a useable consistency. The Liquin made it thinner and glossier, and I liked how that looked on the canvas-effect paper – even though the canvas effect is artificially embossed into the paper and therefore kind of kitsch (no “truth-to-materials”).


1601a (2016) oil on paper 30.5 x 18.8cm

I was interested in the streaky-looking brush strokes that happen when one colour is brushed into another, impasto, with no blending.

Afterwards, I was struck by how quickly the mind looks for images in abstract paint marks. These marks reminded me of black and white ruffed lemurs.


This associative potential in paint marks makes me think of something Gerhard Richter said1 about his abstract paintings in 1986:

Richter  They do set up associations. They remind you of natural experiences, even rain if you like. The paintings can’t help functioning that way. That’s where they get their effect from, the fact that they incessantly remind you of Nature, and so they’re almost naturalistic anyhow.

Benjamin Buchloh  But of course that then has to be defined. Not naturalistic in relation to Nature?

Richter  Only in relation to Nature, that’s all we have.

I also found that oil paint blends very easily and smoothly (esp. with a medium like Liquin), like in the soft-edged grey patch on the lower left. I liked everything about the way the brushwork looked, maybe because it reminded me of other paintings that I like. That grey patch made me think of blended areas in paintings by Karen Kilimnik, like the sky in this one.


Karen Kilimnik Returning Home from Washington Through the Jungle in Fairmont Park – Apollo’s Pavillion (Cupid’s Folly) (2002) water soluble oil on canvas 45.7 x 61cm

  1. Gerhard Richter, extract from ‘Interview with Benjamin Buchlqh H.D. Buchlqh’ (1986), in Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, ed. Hans Ulrich Obrist (London: Anthony d’Offay/Thames & Hudson/Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1995) 161-6. 

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