Let’s Paint Farm Pond in Oils!

I use to paint in oils all the time. Then I stopped. I remember falling in love with watercolors and pastels and kind of just forgetting all about oils. suddenly, I had this urge to paint will oils again and I said, “Why did I give it up so fast?”

Well, it quickly came back to me…oils are a pain in the #@&###! God bless the artist who paints in oils and has a lot of patients. That is not me! Don’t get me wrong, oil paintings are beautiful and luminous, but definitely a pain for three reasons: they are a mess, they never dry, and colors quickly blend to make mud.

So this may be the one and only oil you see on this site step-by-step…

Here is my reference photo. It was taken the first week of December. This is Farm Pond at the Little Red Schoolhouse, Willow Springs, IL. It is named Farm Pond because there use to be a little farm/garden right by this before construction took place. I do not know where the new farm/garden will be if at all.

Step 1: I am using Rembrandt oils, turpentine, and artist oil medium. I am painting on a 20×16 canvas that has been double primed. First, make a rough sketch with a piece of vine charcoal.

Step 2: Create a value painting by using one color (burnt sienna) and turpentine. For the lightest color like the sky use a little pigment and a lot of turpentine. For the darkest part, use lots of pigment and a smaller amount of turpentine. A value sketch is a good road map. It helps you to have good contrast in your painting.

Step 3: When painting in oils you lay your darkest colors down and then highlight on top. In this step I blocked in the dark tones. The sky is a mixture of manganese blue, titanium white, and a touch of brown. The trail is a purple mixture of white, blue, and red. The rocks are not white but gray, blue, and purple. It is hard to take a photo of a wet oil painting because the light catches the shine and it looks a little strange.

Step 4: Paint individual trees with a darker brown and indigo blue mixture in the background. The smaller the branches, the smaller the brush you use. For fine twigs I used a rigger brush. When painting fine lines or highlights, you need to thin your oil paint with artist medium or any oil medium you prefer like linseed oil or liquin. Don’t forget the reflection in the pond, painting the trees down and with a soft clean brush sweep it side to side over the reflection to make it look like water. A blue cast is good for shadow color under the benches and big willow tree. If you don’t paint a shadow, they will look like they are floating in air.

Step 5 Final: The willow tree is still holding on to a few of its leaves. It is the most gorgeous green/gold/yellow color. Very welcoming against a drab winter sky. The problem with oils is that the colors take so long to dry, if you paint wet on wet, you need to lay down your color, wipe off your brush, lay down your color, wipe off your brush, again and again. This is how I painted the willow leaves. If you do not constantly wipe off your brush, you will get dirty leaves not bright yellow leaves. Don’t forget the leaves floating on top of the water.

“Farm Pond”
original oil

Click here for purchase information.

I hope you liked this one and only oil painting step by step demonstration.


  1. Thanks for posting this. My daughter wanted to try oils, so I bought her some for Christmas, but never having used them, I had no idea what to tell her. She really liked your tutorial, and we both think the painting is lovely.

    Love, Cindy

  2. Kudos to you! I tried oils…once. I also had to relearn that using an airbrush is a total pain in the @$$. I’m trying to sell the dang thing now (cheap, too,) but no takers. <:(

  3. Cindy: Wow what a great gift…art supplies! Thanks to both of you for kind words about the painting. Let me know how she likes the oils. Every artist should try all the mediums to find out what is best for them. Have fun!

    Lana: I think you have a taker on the air brush! Way to go! 😉

    Joan: Thank you! You might like them, you should try…you never know!

    Mr. Brown Thumb: Thanks! It’s never ever too late to pick up right where you left off. You can still do it. Just like riding a bike, you will pickup fast. Taking an art class can be a great way to start off 2010 and if you can’t find a class near you, just learn off the web!

  4. Hi I liked the way you painted in oils, you should do more. I am starting on atelier acrylics and find them good. I am trying to paint a lake in winter (in my head) but am not too sure what colour, any ideas? Wendy

  5. Wendy: Ooooh painting water is tricky! Our brains want to paint it blue because we think water is blue, but not always, water is reflective like a mirror. Usually water reflects trees and sky. In the winter time the trees are brown and the sky could be white, gray, blue or even purple. If you have a small body of water, like a tiny puddle or pond, you might not even see the sky at all, so your water is brown or a little green. If your pond is frozen over it might be white to represent ice, but remember even ice reflects color so it wont be completely white. Deep ice without oxygen is blue, like the glaciers’. I have confidence that you will be successful, keep practicing and never give up!

    Adam: Thank you very much! Oils are hard work, I’m sure you know…Hard work and time consuming!

  6. Thanks for all the ideas, painted water colors in High School and some Acrylics remember Artex? Don’t have much history with oils but my sister in law is a great painter so i think i will be asking her for more help.Have bookmarked this one

  7. Vortex or Globe is very suitable for the library or study.
    Always have a focal point for your art, around which
    the images will be displayed. On the contrary, the high pressure sales gallery employs
    staffs and associates who go to any extreme to make you buy the art pieces.

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