How To: Create an Auto-Destructive Oil Painting

How To: Create an Auto-Destructive Oil Painting

Posted by Cass Art on 1st Jul 2018

Auto-destruction is a term used to describe the process of applying and stripping away oil paint on a surface. The technique detaches itself from the traditional methods of painting, which focus heavily on application, and instead plays with the concept of removal. As it's a season of Resolutions and new discoveries, we wanted to share this unorthodox method with you!

The artist, Callum Innes, has used auto-destruction to create some of his most unusual and beautiful abstract paintings. Student, Chloe Monique Tsan, from the University for the Creative Arts lends us some of her insight into this technique, and shows how to create an auto-destructive oil painting.


Stretched canvas (any size)

Wide flat head brush

2 different coloured oil paints

Linseed oil

White Spirit


Step 1: Choose Your Paint Colours

Consider how your selected shades will work together, and avoid colours that will turn muddy when blended. I chose two complimentary colours, a red and an orange shade, which mix well and will create a solid base before the white spirit is applied. Using too many colours in the background can overwhelm the painting and distract from the marks created by the auto-destruction process.

Step 2: Apply the First Background Colour

Mix the darkest shade of paint with linseed oil, in a ratio of 1:3, and apply to the bottom 2/3 of the canvas. I chose to use Winsor & Newton oil paints and made sure to use a thinner, refined linseed oil, to ensure the best possible results. Use a large flat brush in order to work quickly and achieve an even finish. It's best to keep the canvas laid flat during this stage to avoid drips.

Step 3: Apply and Blend the Second Background Colour

Mix your second colour in the same way and apply paint to the top 1/3 of your painting. You need to make sure the two shades are blended well together, and avoid leaving white space on the canvas.

After the background is complete, sit the canvas upright and leave for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing time for the paint to settle.

Step 4: Add the White Spirit:

Time for the fun part! Cover the floor with a waterproof sheet, or place the bottom edge of your canvas into a plastic tub or container. Hold the open bottle of white spirit above the front top edge of your canvas and slowly start to pour the liquid across the surface of your painting. It's hard to maintain too much control at this point, and the best outcomes are often achieved when this step is left somewhat up to chance.

Step 5: Voila

As the white spirit drips down the face of your work it will cut into the freshly painted colour, revealing new shades and hues, and creating lines, patterns and cracks in the paint's surface.

Once your piece has been left to dry it is ready to hang and admire.