Why a different way of teaching
oil painting is needed

So, a few days ago I was walking through the park and came across what was obviously an art class of some kind. There were about 8 students painting landscapes, each in their own spot.

I walked past the woman in the photo who was receiving her “turn” from the teacher and I just had to listen in.

After I listened for a little bit, I thought to myself, I have to share this with the people on my mailing list and blog so I will tell you what I heard

The instructor was pointing out drawing mistakes in the students' work. That’s fine I suppose, but you don’t need to use paint to learn how to draw. You can use a drawing tool for that.

He was mentioning that a post, stuck in the ground, that she had painted in her picture should be much higher than she had it.

Like I said above, spending time on correcting drawing really doesn't teach you anything about using oil paint. Unfortunately a lot of time is spent on that very thing during oil painting lessons.

He also pointed to the background and told her “You may want to soften that area” - This is common stuff for an art class.

The thing is, he never told her “How?” to soften.The instructor then went into what I call “paintingspeak”. He started telling the student “It’s like a wrestling match and you just have to fight with your canvas and hopefully you will come out on top”

It was at this point that I left.

Look, the instructor seemed like a nice guy and the woman had some ability, but ask yourself this...

“How will any of that instruction help her make her next painting better? How will it even help her to make sure the same exact problems won't happen in her next painting?

What are the chances there be a post stuck in the ground in her next painting? So telling her that the post should be higher will not help her with her next painting. If she needs to have something in her painting be longer or bigger again (meaning a drawing correction) she'll need the art teacher to tell her where and what the correction should be...again.

This type of instruction is teaching her is to rely on the art teacher to tell here where her drawing mistakes are.

If she needs to have an area softened, did she know how to soften? Maybe they went over the "how?" of softening before, but from the instruction I watched, the student was just supposed to know how or the teacher assumed the student knew how.

And, I don’t know what the “wrestling match metaphor” will teach her. Maybe inspiration to not give up is all I can think of.

Now, let's take an alternative way to learn.

If she had a step by step plan, a sort of formula or checklist, that was a sequence that everyone could reference, would it not be easier to teach someone and make corrections?

If this was the “veilings and glazes” stage of my <a title="oil painting formula, special offer" href="https://oilpaintingwithethan.com/shop/oil-painting-formula/">oil painting formula</a>, for example, the teacher and student would both be on the same page. You could focus on things like what your color mixture was for your glaze. You could talk about a medium that you are using for the glaze and things of that nature.

There are definite steps in the complete formula that you can always reference when learning. And only the step that was being worked on would be talked about.

Talking about drawing, brush techniques(softening) and mystical metaphors are too confusing and frankly, do not give you any tangible instruction that you can apply to your next painting.

I like to bring up when you learned how to do long addition as a kid in school. You learned a formula…

Step 1) Write the numbers on top of each other like this…


Step 2) Add the single numbers in the rightmost column


A definite formula was taught. You learned the steps and then you practiced using the formula adding any numbers you wanted.

The steps you learned worked immediately. And you saw immediate results.

That’s what I try to make my teaching all about. Teaching the oil painting process and formulas of traditional oil painting and the old masters so you can paint whatever you want.

Not to simply copy them, but to use the oil painting process so you can express yourself. In your own way.

I recommend checking out some of the courses available to you when you join "The Studio" - the membership section of OilPaintingWithEthan.

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About Ethan Daniel  //  Educator & Artist

A contemporary traditional impressionist painter from New York City. He also has a passion for teaching art and has taught thousands of people throughout the world with his online instruction.

He studied at the National Academy of Design School of Fine Arts in New York City and the Florence Academy of Art, in Italy. As a student, he copied the masters extensively in museums in North America and Italy.

Artist Statement:

“I believe painting is a visual art before anything else, and I like a painting best that appeals to the senses. When it uses the full capacity of the paint itself to create a sensual delight for the eyes.” 

I use nature as inspiration to convey my impression, message or vision of beauty for whatever it is I am painting.

There are parts on a work or nature that interest me more than others. When the interest in the work wanes, I will stop work on the piece. It’s almost the same idea as the human eye. When you look at someone’s face, say someone you consider beautiful, you will focus more on the person’s eyes, hair, mouth or whatever interests you. This is the way to work, I am saying, “This is what I saw. This area interested me, this area did not. Can you, the viewer, understand me? Even if you disagree.”

Ethan Daniel

"...your information lays out the fine details and techniques which are rarely taught in today's universities..."

"I have gotten a tremendous amount of information...your information lays out the fine details and techniques which are rarely taught in today's universities. It is great for teaching as well as for use in one's own studio."

Jenny Lasswell  //  painter

"Your information is like a passenger reading it to land a plane..."

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