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My First Oil Painting


The first painting I made with oils was probably when I was fourteen years old. It was on a piece of A4 (=US letter size) canvas paper, and it was a pointillist-style picture of the sea, painted from the cliff top near Whitley Bay in the northeast of England where I lived.

I don’t remember where the picture ended up, but I do remember that the paints were in small tubes inside a wooden box. I got them from the daughter of an old gentleman who was an amateur artist with lots of materials that his family got rid of after he died. The paints were in an ancient balsa wood box with a small clasp, that gave off a smell like old vinyl records when you opened it. I got some brushes and a traditional painting palette, too—the kind with a thumbhole so that it rests against your forearm.

I can even still remember the colours I used in the painting: ochre, ultramarine, and a cyan colour that I mixed from pthalo blue and white. Why do I remember that? I don’t know. It was not a good painting, not the sort of work that you would take one look at years later and say: Hmm yes, no wonder he turned out to be an artist. But I still remember that first oil painting, despite all the paintings that have come along after it.

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