Tag Archives: 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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