Oil pastels are a wonderful medium to work with and the colours are quite magical, the ones I am going to use are are opaque; oil based and have a creamy, slightly greasy feel to them. There are various brands on the market, which range from quite hard (similar in texture to a wax crayon) to very soft and almost buttery in texture. Even pastels within the same box may ‘feel different’ this is quite normal so it is always good to experiment with them before you begin a picture.
Within the same box, the softer, more buttery pastels will sit on top of the slightly harder ones, but NOT the hard on top of the soft, so it is really important to get to know your pastels otherwise you may think that they ‘aren’t working’ properly!
Tip- If you are using Oil Pastels for the first time, open your box so you see all of the colours, once I have used a pastel I place it so it rests on the edge of the box, this way I always know which colours I have used in the picture I am working on.
Lets practice all of the techniques one by one but instead of just trying them out on a piece of paper lets put them together to make a poppy picture.
180gms smooth drawing paper or sketch paper
A scraping out tool such as a cocktail stick, or metal paper clip.
These are the colours I intend to use, you can use any similar
Creating a texture using the paper surface
A light texture can be created by gently shading the pastel onto the paper; this leaves small sections of paper untouched thus creating a natural texture. The rougher the paper used, the more gritty the texture will be. By pressing a little more firmly, a fuller richer texture is developed.
Using a Light Orange lightly shade a base colour. Notice how the direction in which you shade with the pastel will give you lines, so make sure you use the pastel in the direction in which you want those lines to go. For our poppy we want the shading lines to go towards the centre of the flower so avoid using the pastel from side to side, but instead move it in and out towards the middle of the flower.
Tip - Try not to outline all round the outside of a shape first, as this will leave you with a line you may not want later.
Press a little more firmly and all of the tiny sections of paper will disappear and a thick creamy section remains.
Add a darker colour to change the colour in some sections.
Letting one colour overlap the other and merging the colours together will result in the two colours blending. Varying the pressure will affect the way the pigments blend as well as using different colour combinations.
Insert Fig 3
Blend the Scarlet into the other colours by rubbing the pastel firmly into the one already on the paper.
Add Yellow into the centre of the flower.
Pastels with a soft consistency successfully sit on top of a base colour although slightly harder or perhaps lighter colours may result in less opacity, this means that the colour underneath can sometimes show through.
Tip - You may like to experiment with the colours in your box to find out which are the softest ones that will sit on top of the others, this is easy to do, you just colour in a small section and if the pastel feels creamy and almost sticky it is a soft one and if it feels firmer and harder it is a harder one.
Using the edge of a Green pastel, place lines on top of the Lemon Yellow centre, and then add Black on the lower, outer edge.
As long as you don’t blend these colours together, the lines you put on top of the Lemon Yellow will remain intact.
This is the technique of scratching out or removing a top layer of pastel to reveal the surface or previously laid colour underneath.
Using a tool such as an embossing tool cocktail stick, unfolded paper clip, blunt craft knife or plastic card to gently scrape off colour can enable us to add incredible details and textures to drawings. This is such an exciting way to use oil pastels which can totally transform a drawing.
Using an embossing or scraping tool. (I use an embosser) Scratch away the detail lines as shown. Begin in the centre of the flower then quickly flick the line towards the outer edge, this will give direction to your petals.
You may choose to make some smaller lines from the outer edge flicking in towards the centre.
Finally add small Black dots into the centre to finish the flower.
Creating details or marks can be achieved by using either an edge of the pastel or using the end of the pastel stick to create oblique marks.
Using a bright green, make some bold marks and squiggles onto the white background, then add dark green to create marks in between. Continuing to add marks, dots and squiggles and build up the background making it more interesting.
Of course you can mix and match these techniques, for example, you could change your mind about the green background and use Black (or another colour) to cover the entire green section then add details using the scraffitio technique again.
Once you have done this you may think it would be nice to add some background texture, we can do this by using the scraping tool to scratch more texture into the background again. The colour previously put onto the paper will show through, so you will end up with bright green squiggles and darker dark green squiggles.
You could use a larger scraping out tool to create bigger lines.
If you didn’t like it, you could always add more pastel on top of this, so you have nothing to loose.
One of the wonderful things about Oil Pastels is that they are so forgiving, you can alter things, move things and work on a drawing till you are happy with it.
Next week I'll show you the step by step stages to create the tea pot pictured above. Have a go at these techniques in the meantime.