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  1. #1
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    Feb 2011
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    Default olive oil as a medium

    In a recent thread on another forum, a student posted that her oil painting teacher had the class using olive oil as a medium instead of linseed. A number of us replied that olive oil was not an acceptable oil painting medium. She replied that the teacher told her that she has been using olive oil for 30 years with no problems. Another poster replied that olive oil was widely used in Europe a few centuries ago.

    What's the scoop? Is olive oil OK to use? Will it dry or does it need some special handling or additives? Was it a popular medium in times past?

    Thanks in advance,

    Don

  2. #2
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    Default Olive oil as a medium

    Quote Originally Posted by DKetchek View Post
    In a recent thread on another forum, a student posted that her oil painting teacher had the class using olive oil as a medium instead of linseed. A number of us replied that olive oil was not an acceptable oil painting medium. She replied that the teacher told her that she has been using olive oil for 30 years with no problems. Another poster replied that olive oil was widely used in Europe a few centuries ago.

    What's the scoop? Is olive oil OK to use? Will it dry or does it need some special handling or additives? Was it a popular medium in times past?

    Thanks in advance,

    Don
    DKetchek,

    Olive oil is not a drying oil. The end.
    The AMIEN Staff

  3. #3
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DKetchek View Post
    In a recent thread on another forum, a student posted that her oil painting teacher had the class using olive oil as a medium instead of linseed. A number of us replied that olive oil was not an acceptable oil painting medium. She replied that the teacher told her that she has been using olive oil for 30 years with no problems. Another poster replied that olive oil was widely used in Europe a few centuries ago.

    What's the scoop? Is olive oil OK to use? Will it dry or does it need some special handling or additives? Was it a popular medium in times past?

    Thanks in advance,

    Don
    Someone in that chain of information is serious wrong. Seriously. Ignore that forum entirely.

    Or, try it yourself and see. Somethings are easily testable. And that would be one of them. (grin)
    Thomas Jefferson Kitts
    AMIEN Moderator

  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AMIEN View Post
    DKetchek,

    Olive oil is not a drying oil. The end.
    Basically, this is exactly what we told the poster. Unfortunately, she replied with the information that her teacher has 30 years experience with using olive oil without difficulty.

    Plus, we have the other poster and his answer about the "historical" use of olive oil.

    Anything more specific you can tell me about actual hands on experience with painters from the past whose paintings were ruined because of olive oil use? Any truth to the statement that olive oil was widely used as a medium at any point in oil painting history?

    While stating that olive oil is not a drying oil should be enough information, I'm afraid that we haven't convinced the original poster.

    Thanks again.

    Don

  5. #5
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    Nov 2007
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    260

    Default

    Don,

    In Cennini's treatise (Merrifield translation) olive oil is mentioned only to be "used for greasing things not required to dry". According to Gettins and Stout (Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia) resins dissolved in olive oil are only known to have been used medicinally, never as varnish.

    It's unnecessary, however, to delve too deeply into historical sources in order to argue the unsuitability of olive oil as a paint vehicle because it lacks the fundamental chemistry- unsaturation in the form of double-bonds- that makes a "drying oil".

    Please ask the poster who claims extensive use of olive oil as a paint vehicle to cite a verifiable, authoritative source. There's not much point in further discussion otherwise.
    AMIEN Moderator
    Utrecht Art Supplies
    Art Materials Information Specialist

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Kinsey View Post
    Don,

    In Cennini's treatise (Merrifield translation) olive oil is mentioned only to be "used for greasing things not required to dry". According to Gettins and Stout (Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia) resins dissolved in olive oil are only known to have been used medicinally, never as varnish.

    It's unnecessary, however, to delve too deeply into historical sources in order to argue the unsuitability of olive oil as a paint vehicle because it lacks the fundamental chemistry- unsaturation in the form of double-bonds- that makes a "drying oil".

    Please ask the poster who claims extensive use of olive oil as a paint vehicle to cite a verifiable, authoritative source. There's not much point in further discussion otherwise.


    And seriously, you may as well check with this lady to see if she thinks the world is flat. No, on second thought don't even try to convince this gal. A complete waste of time.

    Just tell her I, a materials authority and respected traditional oil painter of thirty years, prefers to use 10/40 weight synthetic Penzoil™ for my salad dressing. (wink) And I save all my akali-refined linseed oil to put into my Jeep because it's so much more environmentally correct. And then I fill the tank with water. And get 110 miles to the gallon.

    Really. Give up. Some folks you can't save from themselves...
    Thomas Jefferson Kitts
    AMIEN Moderator

  7. #7
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    Oct 2012
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by thokitts View Post
    And seriously, you may as well check with this lady to see if she thinks the world is flat. No, on second thought don't even try to convince this gal. A complete waste of time.

    Just tell her I, a materials authority and respected traditional oil painter of thirty years, prefers to use 10/40 weight synthetic Penzoil™ for my salad dressing. (wink) And I save all my akali-refined linseed oil to put into my Jeep because it's so much more environmentally correct. And then I fill the tank with water. And get 110 miles to the gallon.

    Really. Give up. Some folks you can't save from themselves...
    What it boils down to is that some folks don't know what they don't know-and go to great lengths to prove it!

  8. #8
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    Jun 2013
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    usa
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    Default

    try it yourself and see. Somethings are easily testable
    http://www.oilpaintingusa.com/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Londonderry NH
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    16

    Default Possible explaination?

    I remember a teacher (I am sure not the same one mentioned above) who used common vegetable oil to CLEAN brushes when oil painting. The paints have linseed oil (a drying oil) in them, correct? Is it possible that the teacher who described her process as "using olive oil as a medium" really means she was using the olive oil to thin the tube paint out as she was using it, and not as the exclusive paint medium. If this was the case could it be that the olive oil is being absorbed into the ground and any drying is done by the linseed oil from the tubes? If this were the case would there be a risk of the olive oil turning rancid over time?

  10. #10
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    Willits, California
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tfloraditch View Post
    I remember a teacher (I am sure not the same one mentioned above) who used common vegetable oil to CLEAN brushes when oil painting. The paints have linseed oil (a drying oil) in them, correct? Is it possible that the teacher who described her process as "using olive oil as a medium" really means she was using the olive oil to thin the tube paint out as she was using it, and not as the exclusive paint medium. If this was the case could it be that the olive oil is being absorbed into the ground and any drying is done by the linseed oil from the tubes? If this were the case would there be a risk of the olive oil turning rancid over time?
    While it may be possible to dilute a drying oil with small quantities of a non-drying oil, such as olive oil, and the mixture may dry adequately, the resulting paint film will be very weak and will not have the tensile strength to last long in its original condition without cracking and resulting paint loss.

    In regards the question about rancidity, I have answered this elsewhere in this forum, but let me say that rancidity is the oxidation of a vegetable or animal oil and, while this alters the taste of the oil, it is precisely what must happen if the oil is to dry, so a rancid drying oil is beneficial from the standpoint it is drying or oxidizing. This, of course, would not provide any benefit in the case of the olive oil mixed into linseed oil.
    George O'Hanlon
    Natural Pigments LLC
    AMIEN Moderator

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