Category Archives: Oil Pastel Techniques

Layering techniques with oil pastels

Oil Pastels Layering Techniques
Oil Pastels Layering Techniques

So, you’re working on a piece of oil pastels art, and you need to add some layers on top of layers. Or maybe you want to work over a piece with another color, or make something a bit darker or lighter. You start working the new oil pastel color over the bottom layer, and what happens? The colors beneath just get smudged and pushed around, or they don’t blend well, or the color you hoped for just isn’t working out. Ever been there?? I know I have!

The following article will list some of the solutions I have found when layering with oil pastels.

The most common problem involved in layering oil pastels is the type of surface you are using. Generally speaking, the smoother the paper or whatever surface, the more difficult layering is going to be. That’s just the way it is with this medium. Unfortunately it isn’t like oil paints where you can just brush over another layer of paint. Oil pastels require some grip from the surface so the color can be applied.

The solution to this problem is to find the best surface for you to work with. There are various surfaces for pastels that you will definitely want to give a try, and here is a quick list of each of these surfaces (links to Amazon products, but most are available at Jerry’s, Dick Blicks, and elsewhere):

Please note a few things about this list. 1) The list does not cover all the possible papers that are out there. 2) Even though these are titled “Pastel” paper – you can use them for oil pastels too! And 3) – Some of the papers might not be to your best liking. The point is just to try out as many different types of surfaces as you can, so that you can have a better understanding of what works well with oil pastels.

Ampersand pastelbord for oil pastels
Ampersand pastelbord for oil pastels

I would like to comment quickly about the Ampersand Pastelbord surfaces. These are by far my most favorite surfaces to work with in oil pastels. I feel that the grip (otherwise known as “tooth”) is perfect for working with oil pastels. I find that I can add layer after layer with Pastelbord, and never have a problem doing so. The amount of tooth is just right, whereas some surfaces don’t have enough tooth, and others have too much. If you are working with oil pastels and you haven’t tried Pastelbord yet, you definitely have to give these a try. If you aren’t sure about spending the money, I recommend a Pastelbord 5″x7″ 3-pack. The 5×7 is a small enough size to experiment with and get a feel for how the surface works, and the price really isn’t so bad. Who knows you could end up with a nice smaller sized piece of art in the end.

Once you get your choice of surface worked out, you can experiment with different techniques for layering oil pastels.  One tip of advice I like to give is to cover your base layer of colors with a less expensive brand of oil pastels.  It is easy to quickly use up oil pastels when covering large areas of a surface, so I usually go for a student or mid-grade quality medium for the first layer of colors.  Often, I do end up covering most of this base layer with the better quality oil pastels such as Sennelier, however it still doesn’t use up nearly as much.  Obviously if you are working on a piece where only the best will do, then don’t go for artist quality for your base layer or anything else.

If you get to the point of feeling frustrated with adding multiple layers of color using oil pastels, my best piece of advice for that situation is to just put the piece aside for awhile. I’m not saying take time to relax and calm down about it either (although that could help!) – what happens is, over time the oil pastels do tend to dry up a bit, which makes it easier to come back to later and add another layer over top. This doesn’t always completely solve the problem, though. It could be that the surface you are using is simply to slick to handle multiple layers of oil pastels. But it is something to keep in mind, to give your art time to dry somewhat, then come back to it and attempt the layering again. Most of the time, it will help, even if only slightly.

In summary, it’s really all about the surface when it comes to layering techniques with oil pastels. In my own experience, I find Pastelbord the best, but this surface might not be for everyone. Find something with a good tooth to it so that the oil pastels don’t just glide over the surface and push the base layer around.

As always feel free to comment on your own experiences using the comments form below.

Oil Pastels Painting – “Veronica”

I have a new piece of oil pastels artwork, based on a monthly challenge in the Oil Pastels forum at WetCanvas.com.

Veronica is the name of the model in this piece. The paper surface is from a pad of Canson mi-Tientes colored pastel paper, and the oil pastels used are Mungyo and Sennelier. As usual, I start out with Mungyos for the base colors, then move into Senneliers when I work out my details and layers of color.

I didn’t start out taking pictures, so the initial sketching is missed in this step by step. I do have 4 good pictures showing the main steps along the way, once the sketching and some base colors were done.

Step One

Again, moving past the first sketch (which was done with a white pastel pencil), here in the first step I have all my shapes and forms and have begun filling in base colors. At this point I had already taken the time to get into some details such as the hair, her face, and the dress. But the background and sky are all just light base colors to start out. I like to have a sense of the whole composition of a piece, and so I like to at least get a feel for where all my colors are.

Oil Pastels Veronica Step 1
Oil Pastels Veronica Step 1

———

Step Two

In this step I am continuing to work on filling out my base colors. Getting the colors in for the rock, some of the blues in the lake, and the distant green of the trees in the background. Here I also darkened some of the shadows outlining the figure, such as the shadow under the dress and under the hands.

Oil Pastels Veronica Step 2
Oil Pastels Veronica Step 2

———

Step Three

Next I have filled out most of my base colors and I felt good about getting the green in from the background trees. I also began putting in some whites and light blues for the sky. I have also concentrated here on Veronica’s skin tones, as well as made some adjustment in the details of her face. Getting the face right was tricky, but I felt was very important for this piece. She has a contemplative pose here, as she looks down and dips her toes in the water. Finally for this step I have smoothed out and blended in the whites with some of the creases in her dress.

Oil Pastels Veronica Step 3
Oil Pastels Veronica Step 3

———

Step Four

Finishing the piece, I felt I got my blues right for the surrounding water, and also darkened some of the areas in the background trees. I have also blended in the sky and really darkened the bottom of the rock Veronica is sitting on. I was going to take more time to work on the details of that rock, but I got to this point and ended up feeling good about it. Probably getting too detailed with the rock would have taken away from focus on Veronica.

I also paid closer attention to flesh tones and some of the values going on in the figure. I continued to work on making adjustments in the details of the face and her hair.

Oil Pastels Veronica Step 4
Oil Pastels Veronica Step 4

This was a fun challenge to work on this piece, and I hope you have enjoyed this step by step. Thanks for reading, and if you are interested in keeping up with future articles on this website, please subscribe by RSS here: Oil Pastels Artist RSS Feed

If you have any suggestions for future articles, or any questions about oil pastels, feel free to comment below, or email me at eric@oilpastelsartist.com.

Oil Pastel Techniques Study – “Little Hawk”

I have new oil pastels artwork to share and for this piece again I took several pictures along the way, to demonstrate some of the techniques that I like to use.

Step One

As I usually do with oil pastels, I begin by making a sketch of my subject, then work from there. Normally I like to get a feel for the base colors in the piece, however for this one I was really focused on that beak and the eye and so I began getting detailed there first. Usually I try to avoid getting too detailed too quickly however I guess this time around I decided to take a risk with it.

Little Hawk Step 1
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 1

———

Step Two

Next I fill in some base colors, particularly the background. I also continue the focus on the beak area and around the eye. I found it was difficult here to get the finer lines with my oil pastels. I had to sharpen each pastel to a fine point for nearly every line here.

Little Hawk Step 2
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 2

———

Step Three

In this step I am still focused on the area from the eye to the beak, and I’m also adding more depth to the eye. I feel that I actually overdid it here – it got too dark in front of the eye, and as you’ll see in the next steps, I ended up lightening that area.

Little Hawk Step 3
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 3

———

Step Four

In this step I begin filling in colors for the rest of the head. In my normal routine of working on an oil pastels piece, I would usually have done this in an earlier step. I usually like to establish some base colors throughout the piece first, but in this case I felt confident everything would come together in the end.

Little Hawk Step 4
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 4

———

Step Five

Next I work out more of the details in the feathers on the rest of the head. I also have not been satisfied with the depth of the brow over the eye and I continue to work on that.

Little Hawk Step 5
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 5

———

Step Six

In this step everything is finally falling in to place. I have been focused on the feathering and the rest of the head here. Initially I wanted to get more detailed, but eventually I felt that the piece was working fine without fine details in the feathering. Since there is more detail in the eye and beak area, this helps to keep a focus in the front of the face, where it probably should be.

Little Hawk Step 6
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 6

———

Step Seven

In the final step, I have touched up everything all around. I have added more whisker detail under the mouth, added a little bit more detail in the eye, and I have made the feathering in the back of the head even darker in places. This is one of those pieces where it can be extremely tempting to endlessly continue on and on fixing details, and I had been doing that until I finally found a place I was comfortable with leaving it.

Little Hawk Step 7
Little Hawk - Oil Pastels Step 7

———

Final Words

I feel I have completed a strong piece, although I was not very satisfied with the surface I used. It is a page out of a pad of Canson Mi-Tientes paper, which normally should be used for sketching and studies rather than a more serious piece or artwork. I may do a similar hawk piece on Pastelbord next, and also possibly attempt to do that one in a larger scale.

I hope you enjoyed this study in oil pastel techniques. Feel free to ask a question or leave comments in the form below.
– Eric

Oil Pastels Still Life Study

Pears - Oil Pastels
Pears – Oil Pastels

It seems that many artists unfamiliar with oil pastels want to know how to use them, or at least how to get started. While oil pastel work isn’t quite painting, it isn’t quite drawing either, not in the traditional pencil or pen sense anyway. So in this blog post, I thought I would talk about how I use oil pastels and also go through step by step, some of the different techniques I use to achieve certain results.

Oil Pastels Still Life

Recently I did an oil pastels drawing of some pears, and I thought it would make a good example to use to talk about how I use oil pastels, generally speaking.

Every piece is different, and might require different approaches, but overall, the oil pastel techniques I talk about here can be applied to most oil pastel work.

Step by Step

First, I make just a sketchy drawing with some base colors to get a feel for my composition and how the shapes are working out.

Pears in Oil Pastels - first sketch
Pears in Oil Pastels – first sketch

———

Next I establish more base colors and get just a light a sense of how the composition is going to look in the end. I know adjustments will be made, but I want to have some idea of what the overall piece is going to look like.

Pears in Oil Pastels - second sketch
Pears in Oil Pastels – second sketch

———

In my next step I am adding more colors into the composition – not much blending yet, still somewhat sketchy.

Pears in Oil Pastels - sketch 3
Pears in Oil Pastels – sketch 3

———

In this next step I actually may have jumped what should have been two steps here before taking another picture (I should have taken more along the way!). Basically you have the blending of the pears being one step, and the other step is the stronger shadowing against the wood. Here I felt like I really had enough needed colors to really get started blending. Plus I wasn’t sure about my oranges and I wanted to see if I was heading in the right direction. Some may rightly advise I should have spent more time doing thumbnails or quick studies prior to making the final piece! 🙂

Pears in Oil Pastels - sketch 4
Pears in Oil Pastels – sketch 4

———

Next I worked out my background color. This step took longer than may appear… I had at first a lighter blue which I didn’t feel very good about. I ended up making that blue darker, and then after that I decided to add in the reds and browns.

Pears in Oil Pastels - sketch 5
Pears in Oil Pastels – sketch 5

———

In the next step, I focus on the wood and the shadows cast on the wood. I do some blending but still leave a sketchy feel to the surface. The sketchiness was left in (as opposed to smooth blending) to capture more of the sense of the cut of the wood. It is a bit more blended in on the right side as that is where a strong light source was coming from. In this step I also added in a touch more green and blue to the pear colors.

Pears in Oil Pastels - sketch 6
Pears in Oil Pastels – sketch 6

———

Final Step

This is the final step. I’ve blended the rest in and touched up some highlights, such as the stem of each pear and along the sides. I also have gone back and restudied from the photo and made some adjustments to values. For example, the highlight along the top of the wood in the center, right between the two pears – if you compare that with the previous photo you’ll see I made it darker.

And so this is the final result:

Pears in Oil Pastels - sketch 7
Pears in Oil Pastels – sketch 7

———

Thanks for reading and following along – any questions or suggestions for me please feel free to ask!
– Eric

Wet Lips – A Study in Oil Pastel Techniques

Oil Pastels Painting "Wet Lips"
"Wet Lips" - The Finished Oil Pastels Painting

Pin It

I recently posted this oil pastels piece to my personal art blog: “Wet Lips” an 8×10 Oil Pastels Painting.

What I would like to do here is talk a little more in depth about the techniques used to achieve the realism of the painting.

While I worked on the painting, I took photos of the work as it was in progress, with plans of going back and talking about the oil pastel techniques involved (and also with the hope that it would turn out alright!).

So let’s get started talking about it!

 

 

Step One

Oil Pastels Lips - Step One
Oil Pastels Lips - Step One

The first step was in simply sketching out the composition of the piece and filling in some underlying color.

I used cheaper artist quality Mungyo oil pastels for this step.  The linework and the base colors are Mungyos.

Since the piece was done on White Pastelbord, some of the brighter sections I left alone, although some areas I filled in with white oil pastels.

I took a bit of a risk by filling in the black part of the inside of the mouth here.  It seemed like a risk because I felt like it maybe wasn’t pure black and actually had shades of purple and brown.  But I figured I could go back and add in some browns and purples, which I did later.

 

Step Two

Oil Pastels Lips - Step Two
Oil Pastels Lips - Step Two

In Step two, I filled in more of the reds and skin tones and got a feel for how these colors were going to look in the overall composition.

I was still using Mungyo oil pastels for much of the base colors, however, here I began working in some of the higher quality Sennelier oil pastels.

The Senneliers are much smoother and work very well for both the lip color and for the skin tones.

I also established a bit more of the shadows underneath the lips, although here I started out a little bit too dark.  It was a challenge to go back later and undo this dark area, so this is something I will definitely remember for future oil pastel paintings.

 

Step Three

Oil Pastels Lips - Step Three
Oil Pastels Lips - Step Three

For Step three, I continued much of what began in the photo in Step two.

I build onto the skin tones, making some adjustments to the shadows, and I worked more on the skin color of the fingers.

I still hadn’t paid enough attention to the teeth, and perhaps when I look back on this, I should have.

Teeth are never exactly white, and although I knew that, and I had planned on getting to it, I let them stay white for too long, and I think this distracted from the way the piece progressed.  In the final piece, I think the teeth could have gone even darker, but I never got there, possibly because I let it get away for so long.

 

Step Four

Oil Pastels Lips - Step Four
Oil Pastels Lips - Step Four

In this step you can see where the teeth finally get filled in some.  I used a purple shade for the back tooth on the right, and for the front two teeth I used a light gray.  Again, I feel it could have gone darker here.

I also develop more of the faint shadow along the inside of the finger, and take time to notice how light is reflecting off the bottom lip and on the side of the cheek, just behind in that small rectangular area behind the finger.

I felt that this area was crucial to developing a sense of the realism of the piece.  You have bright light getting through, right on the cheek, reflecting in the lips, contrasted with the darker area underneath the bottom lip.  All of these values were very important to getting the piece right.

 

Step Five

Oil Pastels Lips - Step Five
Oil Pastels Lips - Step Five

In Step Five, I really begin filling out all the areas where color is needed.  I don’t want to have any areas left where the surface is showing where it shouldn’t be.

The lips are filled in, the fingers are rounded out, I establish more of the coloring to the teeth, and I start to pay closer attention to what exactly is going on in the colors of the tongue and lips.

The tongue and lips are the obvious focus of the piece, so I want to be careful not to overdo either the actual colors or the shadows.  If you compare this with step Four, you can see where I faded out the shadowing between the bottom of the tongue and the upper part of the bottom lip.  I also gave more attention to the second finger in the upper right corner.

 

Step Six

Oil Pastels Lips - Step Six
Oil Pastels Lips - Step Six

This step is where things started to come together. If you compare this with Step Five, you’ll see more blending, less of the rigid lines, and less of the flaky bits and pieces of pastels.

I have my focus here mostly on the details in the lips and tongue, but I also am more concerned with the overall look and feel of the piece.

I also finally work in the tip of the finger and fingernail, along with the shadowing and blending of the finger.

It was also at this point in the painting that I realized I wasn’t quite happy with the skin tones, and so I added more flesh and white color, particularly in the corner in the bottom left side of the piece.

 

Step Seven

Oil Pastels Lips - Step Seven
Oil Pastels Lips - Step Seven

In Step seven, I am mostly fine tuning, reworking details, and adjusting colors.

Here you can see in the tongue I spend some time getting the purple just right, as well as more of the reflection and color variations.

There is also more detail and reflection in the lips, both bottom and top, as well as adding in some oranges and pinks.

I add a bit more shadowing to the fingernail and in the shadow of the second finger in the upper right.

Finally, I also darkened up just a bit the shadowing from the inside of the tongue, over on the left side.

 

Step Eight (The finished piece)

Oil Pastels Lips - Final Step
Oil Pastels Lips - Final Step

In this final step, there was more fine tuning, tweaking and color adjustments.

I added more oranges and pinks, especially to the upper right side of the top lip, and some in the bottom lip as well.

I got more blending in of the colors in the fingers, and overall throughout the piece made sure blending was smooth where needed.

I added a bit more reflections in the lips, but I was careful not to overdo it.  It would have been tempting to add touches of white all over the lips and tongue, but I don’t think that would have felt right.

I have actually skipped over a couple of the final steps, because there was so much time spent on reworking the fine details.

 

Conclusion

I hope this post has been useful for you oil pastelists out there, and for any artists that may have interest in this type of work.  Please feel free to offer comments and suggestions in the Comments Form below.