Until the mid 1990s, traditional oil paints had to be cleaned or thinned with toxic, flammable chemicals such as turpentine. For small art studios and schools such as Pastimes for a Lifetime, teaching traditional oils was not feasible for both health and safety reasons.
One day, Pastimes’ owner and founder, Linda Wehrli received a local art store’s invitation to attend a demonstration of “water mixable” oil paints by Grumbacher®. With cautious optimism, she attended the event. After seeing the results, she purchased whatever they had on hand. The Oil Painting Course as Pastimes for a Lifetime was launched.
Water miscible oil paint, also known as water soluble or water mixable oils, is basically a modern variety of oil paint engineered to be thinned and cleaned up with water. It can be mixed and applied using the same techniques as traditional oil-based paint, but with one important difference. It can be effectively removed from brushes, palettes and rags with ordinary soap and water. Its water solubility comes from the use of an oil medium in which one end of the molecule has been altered to bind loosely to water molecules, as in a solution.
Handling water soluble oil paint requires a slightly different skill set than traditional oils. Care must be given to thin paint with water soluble thinners such as water soluble linseed oil, not water. Brushes should not soak in water in between brush strokes as too much water can make the paint lose adhesion if over-thinned.
Brands of water soluble oil paints carried by Pastimes for a Lifetime’s student store are Grumbacher Max® , Winsor & Newton Artisan® and Royal Talens Van Gogh H2Oil®.
Linda Wehrli’s preferred brand to date is the Winsor & Newton Artisan® line. Artisan’s formula does not include water; the linseed and safflower oil allow the color to accept water, which creates a stable oil color. It is also combined with a high proportion of single pigments for vibrant colors and clean mixing.
To order your water soluble oil paint kits from Pastimes for a Lifetime, click on either the website’s student store or the Facebook Fan Page’s store. Individual oil paints may also be purchased at the studio during studio hours.
Thanks to Jessica Lee Sanders for her research that made this article possible. We hope you found it helpful.