First Attempts At Oil Painting… A gift for Levi

A few months back my dear friend Lindsie gave birth to a sweet baby boy, Levi. I wanted to make her a special gift celebrating his arrival so I thought I’d try my hand at an oil painting.
First an important note: Lindsie’s father-in-law had been battling cancer for some time when they found out there would be a new addition to the family. During her pregnancy, if she was ever around Daniel’s (her husband) father, he always had his arm around her and his hand on her belly. (This is something I learned after giving them the gift) Unfortunately he passed away before he could meet little Levi, but they managed to snag this beautiful picture.

Stunning right?
I wanted to do something special for Lindsie, Daniel and Levi, so I decided to re-create this photo in oil paint. Although I like to paint and have done a few things here and there, I’ve never done anything with oil paint before so I knew it would be tricky.
My neighbor works for a company that distributes to craft and art supply stores and he has a huge collection of slightly damaged goods that he sells for a fraction of the cost. So I snagged my supplies at a great deal and got to it!
I used a basic framed canvas and Winton Oil color in black and white. (I decided to do just black and white and create different shades of grey instead of using color, being that it was my first time attempting something like this and I didn’t want to ruin it by having the colors turn out wrong.)
I drew out and erased the image onto the canvas… many times. I really wanted it to be perfect.
Then I started painting!
Mixing the paint was tricky, trying to get as many shades as I could, and the texture of oil paint is something I wasn’t used to so that took a little adjustment from acrylic.
I tried to add different textures with each color but it ended up looking messy so I just stuck with his shirt.
Here’s the finished product in comparison to the photo… much easier to see now that the shades are more defined.
His left hand looks a little odd but it was at such an interesting angle in the photo and I didn’t want to mess anything up trying to add shadows so I left it was it was.
It took FOREVER to dry (I read that you can actually add quick-drying oil to the paint and speed up the process. Too bad I had already finished by the time I knew that… should teach me to do a little more research before attempting a new paint style) but we got it safely to Virginia without a smudge.
I was so nervous to give it to them and I new (or thought I knew) the emotional weight behind the moment in the photo so I was a teary-eyed wreck before even getting into the house. Lindsie looked wonderful when she welcomed Z and I into their home and Levi was as perfect as his pictures told. I took a few moments to stare at him in awe before giving them the painting and, of course, I was quite emotional about it. I’m such a sap.
It was a really cool moment because they both looked at it and commented on how much they liked it, but then Daniel paused and said, “Wait, is this my dad?”. Yeah, did I mention I was on the brink of losing it? But I kept my composure and nodded. I could see the importance grow and felt so proud of what I had created for this beautiful little family. Lindsie handed Levi over to me (I was in baby heaven) and she and Daniel continued to stare at the painting.

Here’s the coolest part:
We stayed for close to an hour and about 15 minutes before we left Daniel turned to Lindsie and asked if they could keep the painting out in the main living room instead of the nursery. I was touched. He then told me a little more about the original picture and his dad. What I didn’t know was that the photo was taken the DAY BEFORE his father had passed away. As I said before, his dad was always touching Lindsie’s belly so this particular moment was no different than any other day but for some reason Daniel had his camera with him and snapped the shot.
About an hour after we left I texted Lindsie to tell her how great it was seeing her and I gushed a little about Levi’s extreme cuteness. When she responded she told me that they were so in love with the painting, especially Daniel, and he insisted they hang it immediately. It was already up on the wall.
Getting choked up again just remembering it all!
So, my first oil paint experience was one I will never forget! While I hope my skills will improve over time I don’t think I’ll be creating anything with quite this much meaning for a while.
If you have any oil painting tips, feel free to pass them along. I’m going to go cry like a baby now.
Until next time…

10 thoughts on “First Attempts At Oil Painting… A gift for Levi

  1. I think you were absolutely right in leaving the shadows out, the elegant lines work by themselves.That painting is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity. Awesome job, Sara!

  2. beautiful! I really like how you zeroed in on the belly and hands. I don't know how to give oil paint tips over the internet. Oil paint is my favorite medium, I hate acrylic (sorry), I love all the things you can do with oils. Things to play around with might be washes, when you mix the paint with a little turpentine and then apply it to canvas. It's thinner and see-through. I use it for backgrounds, but it can also be used over prexisting colors to create layers. And yeah, oils take forever to dry…

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