Art Oil Painting Watercolor

Farewell Oil Painting; Hello Watercolor, My Old Friend

The watercolor paintings in this post are from 10-20 years ago. I haven’t been posting new work for several months because I got stuck working on one oil painting, overworking, reworking, starting over, rinse and repeat. I’ve also became sensitive to solvents…

Strawberries, Cheerios and Milk, 20×21″, watercolor 2013

The watercolor paintings in this post are from 10-20 years ago. I haven’t been posting new work for several months because I got stuck working on one oil painting portrait. I struggled with it, overworking, reworking, starting over, rinse and repeat. There’s something about being able to endlessly work on an oil painting that triggers my perfectionism, and not in a good way.

Pink Rose, 2003, Watercolor, 16×12″

Watercolor and gouache have natural stopping points. You have to pause to let the paint and paper dry. You can’t keep painting layer on layer endlessly or you have a muddy mess. You either call it done or you start over.

Sister City Parade, Watercolor, 22×30″, 2001
(An actual parade going down the street in my neighborhood
when I was moving in 22 years ago)

I also became sensitive to solvents. I stopped using Gamsol while painting but even the smell of drying oil paint without solvents made me feel icky. Just using a little Gamsol for brush and palette cleaning left me with the taste of metal in my mouth and a headache, both signs of chemical sensitivity. I already have funky lungs so that was it. Bye-bye oils.

Ruth Bancroft Gardens Old Barn, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
Ruth Bancroft Gardens Old Barn, ink & watercolor, 5×8″ 2013, SOLD

I’ve always preferred the look of watercolors to oil paintings anyway. In fact the only paintings I have hanging in my home are watercolors. I thought I would go through a grieving period but it’s been a couple months and I’ve felt only relief and excitement.

Sleeping Neighbor, Watercolor 30×22″, 2009, SOLD

I have thousands of dollars worth of oil paint, oil brushes, canvases, panels and oil paper that I will sell at some point. In the meantime, I’m finding it thrilling to watch water and color flow on paper again.

Sold. Michelle’s Rose, Watercolor, 2015 (SOLD)
(Painted as a demo in a watercolor class I was teaching)

30 replies on “Farewell Oil Painting; Hello Watercolor, My Old Friend”

Hi Jana!! So good to see your work again! Very lovely indeed, and I am so glad that you have decided to work in the media that you like best. As for cleaning brushes and more, Masters Brush cleaner and preserver works perfectly!!
God bless, C-Marie


Thanks dear. I do use Masters brush cleaner but only after I’ve cleaned with solvent. Do you use it instead of solvent.
Mine is like a bar of soap but in a tub. Is that what you’re referring to?


Hi Jana, The Masters Cleaner and Preserver one that I use, comes in a tub …. I have the Classroom size and it is around $25 at Dick Blick. I wipe any excess paint off with a rag or towel and then wash with the tub soap … puting a little water in the tub, and then swishing the brush. Rinse, remove excess water, and let dry, lying down on taboret. I have used it for years. I have even left it on a few brushes with dried paint and much has come off, but I do wash my brushes after each session. I use maybe a tsp of gamsol to really thin the paint when putting the desired composition on the canvas board, with just a few strokes. If the paint must be thinned, I use a bit of Liquin, the least amount needed.

In the beginning, maybe forty years ago, I used turps all of the time, and after a few years got the itchy nose, etc. and learned about allergies!!
🤗🤗🤗 C-Marie


I don’t know how you got my email, but

I’m glad you did. Are you part of MOC?

Is your studio open for visitors?



Hi Colleen, I’m glad you were happy to get my post by email but I didn’t add you to the list. The only way my email would have come to you is if you signed up to receive my blog posts by email at some time in the past. They are sent out directly from my blog on WordPress and only people who signed up and confirmed get it.

I’m not sure what MOC is. I don’t have open hours for the public to visit, but if there is something you are interested in seeing, I’m happy to make appointments for a visit.



Omg, Jana! These watercolors are amazing! I can’t believe they’re watercolor and not oil. I can’t get over the level of detail you are able to accomplish. Clearly you have exceptional skills in this medium 💜

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Hi Jana. I’m the Michelle who has the rose painting hanging in my art studio wall as we speak!! I, too, walked another road in acrylics because no one wanted paintings behind glass and I was tired of framing. Now I’m working with a combination of watercolour and high flow acrylics. It’s so much fun! Wish we could paint together again one day!


Hi Michelle! I just had a really fun stroll through your website to see what you’ve been up to. Gorgeous work! I partially had sales in mind, and the issue of framing, when I switched to oils. Ironically I was able to sell my unframed watercolors for a lot more than my oils. And then I got hooked on portraits and only did a couple on commission but selling portraits is even less likely.

I tried acrylics, both regular and open acrylics, but only turned out 2 successful paintings, one of each. I had the same problem as with oils only worse. With oils you can keep layering but if you don’t like a passage you can just wipe it off. With acrylics you lose everything beneath it if you work opaquely. I took photos of one painting in process and it was a completely different painting every session.

I never tried using the high flow acrylics though. I think I still have a few little sample bottles (or I might have given them all to my sister who has just started working in oils with cold wax and doing beautiful work). When you use them with watercolor, do you actually use them at the same time, or start with WC and then layer acrylic on top (or vice versa)?


Interesting because I’ve been thinking the same thing! I haven’t touched oil for a year and was wondering if I should just give it up? I hit 70 this year and feel the need to get rid of stuff and my studio is cluttered with a lot of materials. Watercolor has always been my favorite but I often felt oils were were substantial as a painting.


I apologize if I never replied. My app is telling me I didn’t. I moved all my oils to the garage so they’re there if I want them again, but they’re not cluttering up the studio. I agree that oils are more substantial, literally—thicker and heavier and maybe just have more gravitas. When I initially painted in oils I think I used them more like watercolors, with thin washes and not a lot of layers, but very large, usually 30×40 or bigger. I didn’t see the point of little oil paintings. Then I switched to watercolor when I lost my studio (second kid came along) and did that for a long time. At this point in my life I’m less interested in “substantial” paintings, gravitas, and more interested in light, joy, fun and instant gratification—finishing a painting in a day or two rather than a couple months or more. And quick clean up and no smells!


Wow, what lovely paintings! I’m relatively new to watercolor painting…am still finding my way. I thought about branching out into oils, but after reading this post, decided against it due to my sensitivity to chemical smells. Thank you for sharing your experience with oils AND your beautiful paintings.


Thanks July or Julydase (not sure of your name). But I took a look at your website and I love your style and delightful happy colors. The painting of your sister in the garden is wonderful. And you’re a poet. Wow. You seem like you’ve got a good understanding of watercolors already. And I’m back to finding my way too. It’s been so long since I’ve used them. Oil painting is exactly the opposite of watercolor so it was a hard transition.

Watercolors are usually painted light to dark, oils are painted dark to light, with the lights added with thick paint. And you use lots and lots of white paint, something I never did with watercolors. The cleanup is time consuming and usually involves solvents, even if you don’t use them during painting (which can be limiting).

I originally started painting with oils on very large canvases and then switched to watercolor when I had my second kid and didn’t have a studio anymore. In a way I wish I had just stuck with watercolor.

Now I feel like a beginner again. Hopefully my skill will return soon. In the meantime, lots of practice and so far, awful paintings.

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I have a large stack of awful paintings, some, so-so, and a few I think are pretty good. I wish I could keep my colors more muted, but most of my paintings come out more vivid than I want them to. But, I’m slowly learning pigment/color mixing to get the desired effect. After I had committed to watercoloring, I read somewhere that mastering watercolor paintings is more difficult than oils and acrylics. If I had known that before hand, I may have gone another way.

I browsed your site, and am impressed with your work, both oils and watercolors. I hope someday to be as good as you.



We all have that stack of awful paintings! I actually go through my paintings each year and toss the worst, if I haven’t done so already. It’s not as much of a problem with watercolors since the paper doesn’t take up a lot of space, but oils on canvas or panels can take up a lot of room. I’ve given away a lot of big old oil paintings for people to paint over, to reuse the canvas or stretcher bars, which are expensive because I know I will not be painting that big again and I’d like someone else to be able to make use of them.

Watercolors do have certain qualities that make them more challenging in some ways. You have to not only know how to mix colors but also which pigments are staining, sedimentary, opaque and transparent and how they react to other pigments and different levels of wetness. Also the colors you mix dry much lighter and duller. With oils it’s just mix the color and put it down. It stays in one place and the colors don’t change. And of course you can paint over and fix things and add lights at the end, not preserve them from the beginning.

A good middle way is gouache. It is more forgiving than watercolor, is opaque and allows for a couple layers of paint, and can be used thinly like watercolor or thickly like oils. It does change color when it dries, gets a little darker but otherwise, it’s loads of fun.

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I will have to look into gouache…sounds interesting. Thank you for the information re paint mixing.


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