Knowing your painting tools: tips for painting beginners with Jill Whaley

Taking up a new hobby, like painting, can be exciting yet daunting at the best of times but throw in equipment and new terminology and it can feel a bit overwhelming before you have even started.

FEAR NOT! We have teamed up with Jill Whaley, our painting holiday host in France, to ask her some important questions beginner painters may ask.

Painting holidays in ToulouseJill and her husband Terry worked together in France and Spain when they were much younger, but it was in the French Alps where Jill learned to really appreciate French food and wine, and where she learned to cook dinner party style food. About 16 years ago, they decided to follow a dream and move to France full time. After Jill’s son started school, she found time to take up painting again, something she always loved but had previously never had time for with a busy working life. She started attending a weekly art class in oil painting and from this, she developed the idea of painting holidays. Jill and Terry have been running their painting courses for 6 years now.

1. What’s the difference between watercolours, oils, and acrylics?

Watercolour and acrylic are types of water based paints, odourless and dry fairly quickly. Brushes can be cleaned easily in water. Watercolour is transparent and acrylic is opaque but both can be diluted or thinned with water for the desired effect.

Oil is opaque and dries more slowly. It can be used with a medium or thinner such as Turpentine and brushes and equipment should be cleaned with a solvent. Water based oil paints are now available and a good option for traveling and painting holidays as they dry more quickly, making them easier to transport. As a general rule, in watercolour paintings, paint is applied from light to dark and oil, from dark to light.

a. Is one easier to use in your opinion?

I personally like pastels. It’s very spontaneous. I like the texture, vibrancy of colour and the fact you can smudge and rub it with your fingers. Not for everyone, some people find it ‘messy’.

b. Is one more affordable than another?

The price of equipment very much depends on your budget and the quality of paints, brushes etc. This varies enormously with all mediums.

2. As an artist, is there one in particular you prefer to work with? If so, why?

I paint sometimes in oil but more recently in soft pastel, a medium I was introduced to by Pam Cox, a fabulous artist and tutor who teaches on our painting holidays. I love the immediacy, fluidity, expressiveness and colours of pastel.

I love painting the people and scenes around me – grape pickers are a favourite, as well as my family. I also love to paint sunflowers, landscapes and animals.

3. If someone uses a different medium than you, are your tutorials still beneficial? How so?

Some tuition might be specific to one medium, but a lot is relevant to all, such as composition, perspective and colour.

4. Is it easy to switch between paint types?

All types of painting requires lots of practice. The more you do the better you will become. There are techniques and guidance that will help you improve in all mediums and skills learned in a certain medium can often be applied to another. Some people will find the look or texture of a medium suits them better. Oil can be very forgiving because you can wipe it off with a cloth or paint over it for example.

5. Is there a material better to paint on than others for each type of paint (paper, wood, cardboard, scrap, fabric, canvas)?

Some supports are traditionally more suited to a specific medium than others, such as canvas or board for oils and a sandy or textured surface for pastels, but artists have always experimented with surfaces and supports and there are no rules. Some types of paper are specifically made for mixed media, where various mediums can be used together to make a painting.

6. Any advice for a beginner painter?

My advice – don’t be afraid to try something new. You may be surprised by what you can achieve with friendly expert tuition, encouragement and a beautiful relaxing environment.

Follow this link for more information about Jill and her painting holiday in France.

Or, feel free to explore our full range of painting holidays here.