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  • Writer's pictureNick Pike

Tube Painting en plein air - How to create great artwork without a palette using oils

When creating artwork en plein air, I often find it easier to paint without a palette, squeezing oil tubes directly onto the canvas. I then blend the colours using palette knives and sometimes fingers! The process is far different from conventional painting - difficult to control but often more expressive and leads to thick, enduring textures. I think that Van Gogh sometimes used this method as his artworks were so heavily applied with paint.

In my new home, what jumped out at me most when gazing at the garden were the pink snapdragons. So when I set up my easel to paint them, what I wanted to achieve was for the snapdragons to jump out of the canvas.

'Pink Snapdragons'

Oil on canvas board (48 x 58cm - Framed)

Oil paint tubes were invented in 1841 by John G. Rand, before then, pig bladders were used to store oil. The whole process of mixing colours used to be convoluted and arduous. After this innovation, tubes of paint could be transported, which helped to free the artist from the shackles of the studio; “Without colours in tubes, there would be no Cézanne, no Monet, no Pissarro, and no Impressionism.” Pierre-Auguste Renoir


This is me preparing to head off to the fields of Middle Lypiatt earlier this year. As you can see, the canvas board I chose to use already had an abandoned acrylic painting, which enabled a more abstract and playful background to build on. A good thing to remember is that you can always paint oil onto acrylic but not the other way round.

To mark the arrival of summer, I intended to paint the sunrise but as it was the longest day, I decided to pace myself and stay in bed a little longer! I like the double meaning of the title for this solstice painting, a day I really didn't want to end..

Oil tube painting is more spontaneous than using a palette - it cuts out the middleman as you apply paint directly onto the canvas. Your intentions become more evident and it can also make you work quicker, this really helped on such a hot day!

This is a view from Middle Lypiatt, looking toward our home of Lypiatt Hill House which can be seen as a small yellow wedge in the trees on the left hand side.

'The Longest Day'

Oil on canvas board (58 x 48cm - Framed)
En plein air, June 21st, 2022


The next blog will focus on tube painting indoors and abroad..


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