Success with Oils - Melanie Cambridge

Success with Oils

Artist: Melanie Cambridge
Language: English 60 mins

In this film, Melanie sets out to show us that oil painting does not have to be a difficult or messy medium. She looks at which materials to use, colour mixing, tones, composition, perspective and much more. The basic elements of landscape painting skies, trees, water, foregrounds, buildings and figures are all covered as she paints a variety of subjects both in her studio and on location on the River Wey near Wisley. This film is ideal for people new to oil painting.

This film is available to view ONLINE through our Video On Demand service


Having just read Melanie Cambridge's book, Success with Oils, I was interested to view the companion video of the same title. Both set out to convince the beginner that oil paints do not have to be messy or difficult, and they start by showing what materials are best to use. In the film, Melanie explains how gel mediums can replace oils to cut the toxic fumes associated with oils and chemical thinners. She runs through a number of technical exercises to demonstrate how to mix colours, assess tonal values, and construct an interesting composition. She also explains how to get perspective right. A lot of information is packed into a relatively short period of time. One almost urges her to take a breath.

Melanie then moves out on location, something she encourages the viewer to do. On a stretch of the River Wey, near Wisley, she shows how to simplify a view, and then works on a small scale without making any preliminary drawing. A coloured ground is chosen, which Melanie finds helps achieve more accurate colours and tonal values. In her impressionistic style, she builds up the image, showing how to indicate reflections, and how not to get precious about finishing a painting. She develops it further off screen, but I was disappointed with the final image. What had been a lively painting became stiffer with the additional work.

Melanie produces a second painting on location - this time a priory bathed in golden evening sunlight. However, her final two paintings are worked in the studio, first from a loose sketch of a Provencal barn, and than a beach scene at La Rochelle, worked from a photograph and her own sketches. For the latter, she shows how to suggest figures without getting tied up with detail, demonstrating that less detail leads to more lively and believable results.

The video covers a lot of useful information and will certainly help beginners to start using this medium. My concern was that when Melanie 'sharpened up' her paintings to finish them off, she lost the fresh sparkle that had been present. This was a pity.
THE ARTIST - December 2002

Very welcome amongst the latest video releases are several titles that offer guidance and inspiration for oil painters. These include an excellent film by Melanie Cambridge, who is quick to emphasise that oil paint doesn't have to be a difficult and messy medium. In fact, as she ably demonstrates, here is a medium that is versatile, suiting both location and studio work, as well as allowing for a good deal of freedom and individuality in approach.

Success with Oils is ideal for the beginner and it has much to offer those artists who, while confident with oils for studio subjects, have felt less sure about using this medium for plein air landscape work. Melanie Cambridge begins with some good advice on basic equipment, colour mixing, composition and perspective, but we are soon looking over her shoulder as she starts the first of her location demonstrations beside the River Wey near Wisley. Working on a 10 x 14in. (25.5 x 35.5cm) prepared canvas she shows how to quickly set down the essentials of the scene before the light changes, and then she redefines and develops these general areas to create an almost finished painting. Back in the studio she gives the painting a "little more structure" and adds some highlights to the water.

In this demonstration, and indeed with the following location painting of a priory with reflections and the subsequent studio demonstrations, there are lots of helpful tips on colour mixing, useful techniques for suggesting water and other effects, and so on. The final part of the film concentrates on painting from sketches and photographs and shows how to add figures to your scenes to create more interest and impact.

Throughout, Melanie's presentation is confident and clear, with an obvious sense that painting is something to be enjoyed. And, as always, Anthony Parker's filming is superb.

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