Why Is Oil Painting A Great Hobby?

Cover image: Why is Oil Painting A great Hobby? Girl with CatDate: 1937 Artist: Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski de Rola) French, 1908–2001

Oil painting as a hobby brings with it many positive benefits to your life including health improvements, physical and mental stimulation, as well as being relatively easy to get into and can be undertaken anywhere.

We will look at why oil painting is a great hobby by looking at the proven benefits associated with it, as well as further information showing why getting into hobbies will be good for you in any case (and if you come out of this as an artist, why not?). So, Why Is Oil Painting A Great Hobby?

What Makes Oil Painting A Hobby To Consider?

Although this can be an expensive hobby, oil painting can be begun with little need for expensiveOpens in a new tab. equipment, a large space, or some massive project. If you already feel confident with acrylic painting, watercolor, or other water based, still start small by picking something basic to paint on a canvas that you can leave somewhere to dry between layers.

One way to get started is to look into getting an oil painting set. MEEDEN Opens in a new tab.sells everything you need on Amazon via their 46 piece oil painting set , including oil paints, brushes, palette and palette knife, as well as an easel.

The oil base means that these paints will take a long time to set between layers. As oil painting is fundamentally about layersOpens in a new tab. , you need somewhere to be able to leave your work in progress undisturbed.

Oil painting can also be easily done from the privacy of your home, at a cafe, or out at a park. The flexibility to bring your hobby with you, even on holidays, means it can be a constant in your life that gives you the ability to relax and enjoy the surroundings.There are plenty of in-depth tutorials on Youtube showing you exactly how to do oil painting with all the major techniques:

Florent Farges – arts

Ancillary Benefits of Learning to Paint

Learning to paint has been shown to bring with it benefits and improvements in various social, psychological and other areas of oil painters’ lives.

Painting As A Way To Relax

Since oil paints take a long time to dry, you can work on the same painting for days and days. This ensures that one painting will keep you occupied for a long time. 

Painting can be therapeutic because it allows the mind to focus on the images at hand and on nothing else.

Hobbies will help you relax by reminding you of the many facetsOpens in a new tab. to your own life. An argument with a loved one or a mistake at work may play on your mind for some time. 

However, producing tangible artwork or doing a cathartic workout reminds you of the friends or achievements outside those hard times, helping you to deal with short term issues easier.

Sharpens Fine Motor Skills

Practicing painting improves hand-eye coordination and boosts motor skills. The need to use a paintbrush or a variety of other tools, as well as manipulate the palette, further improves fine motor skills by engaging the fingers and the necessity for fine movements.

By wielding the paintbrush yourself, and smearing the oils, this draws you into the activity. This means you are involved with what you are doing and will make the task more engaging.

Positive Self-Development

The study of paintings and painting techniques will introduce you to other time periods, traditions and history. The breadth of topics that have been touched in paintings of all types throughout the years will provide source material for almost anything.

This can broaden your horizons by introducing you to famous historical events as depicted in pictures, as well as a slice of life showing previous generation’s clothing, leisure habits or similar. At the least you will become a more knowledgeable, if not more interesting, person.

To paint scenes or objects accurately, you must focus on details. This helps engage your imagination as well as stimulating the link between the mind and body. By further trying to investigate the significance of paintings, you also increase your knowledgeOpens in a new tab..

Painting is fundamentally an act of production. You put your oils on the canvas and build up an image of something you see in your mind. Trying new techniquesOpens in a new tab. and methods will improve patience, endurance, and problem solving abilities.

Painting also works on your problem solving and critical thinkingOpens in a new tab. skills. While everyone must start from a blank canvas, the end results that talented painters can produce may inspire you to think outside the box and work out how to make the next great painting.

There have also been small scale case studies that show making art seems to correlate with other positive social improvementsOpens in a new tab.. This has been successful in helping eldery citizens re engage with society, build friendship groups as well as increased morale.

Art may also help someone communicate better. Sometimes putting your thoughts, worries, and fears into words is difficult, but by just trying to express through painting, may help project these feelings and get them out. This can be very therapeuticOpens in a new tab.

Painting has also been shown to be an easy activityOpens in a new tab. for many to get into a flow state. A flow state is associated withOpens in a new tab. stress reduction, productivity, improved quality, and a whole host of other great outcomes. The documentary titled I Remember Better When I Paint also showed that dementia patients improved dramatically by painting. This is thought to be due to the act of painting helping the patients to connect to dormant memories in people as well as enabling them to find links back to the world.

Cytokines are vital in fighting off a variety of diseasesOpens in a new tab.. The Telegraph reports that scientists from Berkeley University, California say studies suggest a boosted immune systemOpens in a new tab. from merely appreciating art such as oil paintings.

Among these findings, there are certain hypotheses about why art helps with patient outcomes and general mood. Doctor Shilagh Mirgain of University of Wisconsin thinks that, “[e]xperiencing awe can give us a sense of hope and provide a feeling of fulfillment”.

Studies Around The Benefits Of Painting

Concentrating on the subject you’re painting or concentrating on improving the details in what you’ve already painted builds essential skills in focus. 

There has been some research and experimentation in these areas.

In the 2008 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, there was seen to be an increaseOpens in a new tab. in medical students’ visual diagnostic skills after a combination of art observation and life drawing sessions.

Another medical usage as reference in BMC Medical Education Journal finds that the personal developmentOpens in a new tab. of physicians is improved after taking a painting elective. This elective involved both painting and art appreciation classes.

Researchers have even used MRI machines to study the brains of people looking at paintings and found the brainsOpens in a new tab. looked more relaxed. These results suggest viewing landscape oil paintings improves attention and improves memory networks.

There is also evidence that viewing art helps change the structure of your brain, possibly being linked to neuroplasticity. Brains with higher amounts of neuroplasticityOpens in a new tab. are thought to be able to build new neurons, connections, and improve your memory.

Even the mere act of looking at art has been shown to increase blood flow to the brainOpens in a new tab.. Also known as cerebral blood flow, encouraging healthy blood flow has been linked to positive health outputs as well as reducing effectsOpens in a new tab. from conditions like migraines. 

Positive effects on improving mood have also been observed through art therapyOpens in a new tab.. This involves giving crayons and water colors to participants with depression over several sessions, and asking them to paint whatever they want and talk about the paintings.

The patients significantly on a rating scale used for depression. Participants also reported improvements in anxiety symptoms, sleep, and ability to take initiative and emotional involvement.

A 2010 review appearing in the American Journal of Public Health looked at how painting improves various health outcomesOpens in a new tab..

Many articles considered in this review showed medical benefits from painting including increased self-care, improved psychological well-being.

These findings are also underscored with Harvard Medical School findings. They found that activities including oil painting promoted stress relief, aid communication, and the arrest of cognitive declineOpens in a new tab. amongst participants.

Why Care About Hobbies?

Hobbies have been shown to increase civic engagement per Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone. The decline of this community spirit has been shown to lower social engagement, volunteering, trust among neighbors and many other negative externalities.

Increase Contact With Your Local Community

While hobbies or activities may be solitary endeavors, at some point many hobbies involve engaging with a community. Loneliness and social isolationOpens in a new tab., particularly in elderly citizens, has been shown to be a significant population-wide public health risk.

Hobbies also help introduce you to people you would never have met or shared interests with, widening your social circle and helping combat prejudice.

Change Your Routine To Keep It Fresh

By incorporating a hobby into your existing routine, it may help switch up your outlookOpens in a new tab. on life. If you’re feeling like you’re in a rut or bored, oil painting can be a very dynamic hobby that always offers room to improve.

The act of taking time out of your day to pursue your hobby will be great in and of itself. Sometimes the day to day grind of life requires a few moments to escape, and even just 10 minutes dedicated to an activity such as painting will help refresh you. 

Hobbies Help Your Career

There has also been clear evidence that hobbies can help your career. This could be from better work performance, improved health, and reduced stressOpens in a new tab..

Whether or not you have a hobby has even become a common question asked by recruiters or at job interviews. The logic behind this question is that a hobby shows passion, drive, and a willingnessOpens in a new tab. for a person to follow their gut.

On top of this, hobbies help align your passions with self improvement. This means that by pursuing your hobbies, you may add layers to your identityOpens in a new tab., increase your curiosity and find sources of inspiration.

If you find yourself lost for things to talk about with your family, colleagues or strangers, finding a hobby will introduce you to new experiences. These can form the bedrock of your personality, making your obvious passion and enthusiasm a magnetOpens in a new tab. for others.

Finding Time For Hobbies

While many may claim they don’t have time for hobbies, research has shownOpens in a new tab. that instead it is because people waste their time rather than not having enough of it.

Counterintuitively, having hobbies in effect forces you to better manage and structure your time. Sometimes referred to as Parkinson’s LawOpens in a new tab., this is the phenomenon of work or tasks filling excessive time until their deadline.

This can mean that being busy can be solved by picking up hobbies, rather than exacerbating the situation.

On top of this, your passion for your hobby can easily spill over into other aspects of life, improving your productivity and achievements.

Hobbies may also involve a physical element, helping avoid health problems caused by inactivity.  Not only may this help with staying at a healthy weight, but you could also improve cognitive ability due to increased blood flow and active engagement.

Final Words

This is a healthy way to channel the never-satiated human desire for purpose, direction, and fulfillment.

Actor Jim Carrey is attributed as saying, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so that they can see that it’s not the answer”.

This message warns people to not depend on believing that riches or fame will solve all their problems, and it is clear that many celebrities are deeply unhappy despite apparently achieving their dreams. One only has to look at some of the tragic young deaths to see.

Hobbies will help direct your life so that it is active, rather than passive, towards voluntary fulfilling goals.


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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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