Oil Paint Was Made From Plants - History

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History of making oil paint from plants

Oil paint is a type of paint which consists of color pigments suspended in a drying oil. A drying oil is one which hardens to a tough, solid film after it's exposed to air. The oil hardens because of a chemical reaction between the components and the presence of oxygen. Drying oils are a key component of oil paint for painting. This oil comes from different kinds of plants.

What plants were used in the past to make oil paint?

There are many kinds of oils that were used in the past for oil paint. A few examples of oils that were used by the artists are linseed oil, frankincense oil, Tung oil, perilla oil, poppyseed oil, walnut oil and safflower oil.

Linseed Oil

The plant Linaceae is the source of linseed oil. Linseed oil is extracted from the Linaceae plant and a clear to yellowish colored oil is obtained. Sometimes certain solvents are added to it in order to decrease the drying time of the oil. In the field of oil painting, the usage of linseed oil was a giant leap. But as time has passed and new techniques have been found, the usage of linseed oil has dropped. Mainly, because of the artificial materials introduced which have the ability to resist yellowing. In Modern & Abstract Oil Paintings, they still use linseed oil.

Frankincense Oil

Frankincense is a scented resin. This is obtained from the genus Boswellia trees. The bark of the tree is peeled off and a milky white liquid is exuded from it which hardens on its contact with air. Oil is then extracted from these hardened resins by steam distillation. Due to the difference in soil and climate conditions, many different kinds of species are found. Among all the species, the opaque resins are believed to be the best kind. These are found in Oman, Yemen and the North coast of Somalia.

Poppyseed Oil

Poppyseed oil is obtained form the small, dark seeds of opium poppy, commonly known as the poppy flower. Although the poppyseed oil is used for many purposes like cooking oil and moisturizers, the foremost usage is in the production of paints. Poppyseed oil takes more time to dry as compared to linseed oil. That is the reason why poppyseed oil is not used as a ground layer for painting.

Walnut Oil

As the name indicates, walnut oil comes from walnuts. Walnut oil dries very quickly and it also does not give a yellow shade. For this reason, it was very popular amongst the Renaissance painters. It is considered to be a good oil paint thinner cleaning brushes for the same reason. Now the demand of walnut oil has decreased with the passage of time. This is because, walnut oil is considered to be of lesser quality than that of linseed oil by some people and also, the stock of walnut oil may go bad if not kept by care.

Safflower Oil

Safflower is a plant having spiny leaves and bears red or yellowish flowers on an upright and stiff stem. The height of the plant is between 30 to 150 cm. Safflower has been used for edible oil extracted from its seeds, coloring and flavoring of foods, and medicines. The safflower oil, used as edible oil, is also used for painting and is sometimes used instead of linseed oil mainly because it does not give the yellow shade as that of linseed oil.

All the above mentioned oils have been used in the past by artists for oil paintings. Now, these oil paints are being used in modern abstract oil paintings and decorative modern paintings. Considering the different properties of these oils and the desired effect for the painting, different oil paints may be used in the same painting.

This article is written by Nanine Masclee. Art Gallery Nanyna is an online modern art gallery with a unique collection of original oil paintings, Modern and Abstract Oil Paintings, Flower Paintings, Modern Seescapes, Animals, Africa, Sports, Dance, People and Children Paintings.

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