How to Oil Out a Painting in The BP Awards

The 271 To ARSENAL (Xavier and Max) exhibited in this years BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery is painted by my sister Teri Anne Scoble.

Oiling Out
The day before the exhibition opened I went along with Teri to the gallery’s conservation room to watch her oiling out the painting. I wanted to know what ‘oiling out’ was all about.

Varnishing Day

I’ve heard of Varnishing Day which historically was the day when artists would go and do last minute touches to their pictures before the opening day of an exhibition such as The Royal Academy. The RA still has a ‘varnishing day’ but even though artists don’t use it for ‘varnishing’ or ‘oiling out’ anymore it is retained now as a celebration with a procession, prizes and refreshment (so maybe it’s the artists who are getting well oiled now instead of the pictures!). Mind you, I don’t think it was beyond many a painter in the old days to get ‘well oiled’ either. But I digress.


As I was saying, my sister likes to carry on with the oiling out practice.



Oiling Out versus Retouching Varnish

I asked Teri “Why are you ‘oiling out’ with oil medium and not using a *retouching varnish?”

“I like to oil out as I feel the medium allows the painting to breathe. Whereas,  using retouching varnish is covering it with a coat of film and seems less organic, and doesn’t allow the newly painted picture to breathe so well.”

“What medium is it that you are using?”

“Today, I am using Windsor and Newton Oil Medium”

*Similarly to oil medium, retouching varnish can be applied when the painting is touch dry’

photo montage (clockwise) The  271 to Arsenal –  oiling out – Teri oiling out at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (photo also shows ‘Pieter’ by Susanne du Toit winner 2013 and the feet of  Daniella Astone’s self portrait)

  How to Oil Out

Apply an oil medium sparingly with a clean ‘lint free’ cloth (to avoid unwanted tiny hairs and fluff sticking to the picture) and gently cover the work using a small circular motion.

An oil painting may have some dull areas caused by the oil colour sinking into the canvas or ground, and some shiny patches where a glaze has been used. Perhaps the ground is unevenly absorbent, or the painting technique has been varied with the use of fine over glazes in some areas and layers and not in others. Some colours have more oil content than others too. Whatever the reasons are for the surface sheen patchiness – to ‘oil it out’ will even out the differences and variations between the parts of the painting that are dull and the parts that are shiny leaving it with an overall equalised surface appearance. Not too shiny and not too dull but just right! As Goldilocks would say.


The 271 to Arsenal is the second painting that Teri has had accepted for the prestigious BP Portrait Awards Exhibition 2016


Teri’s first painting to be accepted for the BP Awards was Mrs Damon and Mrs. Healey (The picture below shows her oiling it out at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery when it went on tour following the London Exhibition.)
Teri oiling out Mrs Damon and Mrs Healey

This painting was also on sale as poster prints and postcards in the gallery shop…

On sale as postcards and posters

And in a promotional film on the big screen in Trafalgar Square.

Mrs Damon and Mrs Healey on the big screen in Trafalgar Square


During the 2013 BP Portrait Awards Teri came to know another exhibitor Leslie Watts (who lives and works in Stratford, Ontario, Canada). Together they have formed a new society of painters called The IMPS (The International Midnight Painters’ Society).
You may have heard of the Impressionists… you may have heard of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood…and you also may have heard of numerous other artist groups and schools of painting such as the Venetian, Dutch, French, British and so on. Well, now you are hearing about a brand new gathering of artists who keep in touch around the world via Skype and Twitter supporting each other online.


I shall tell you more about this exciting group of artists in another post, but in the meantime –


Keep your paintings well oiled!








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