We love oil pastels for lots of reasons - their versatility, user-friendliness, they play really well with other art forms - just to name a few. We love oil pastels so much that we included them in two different kits! But what exactly IS an oil pastel and what are some ways that you can use them? Allow us to enlighten you...
What are oil pastels?
Oil pastels are made from a pigment that is bound together using wax and a type of drying oil such as linseed oil. Because of this heavy oil consistency, oil pastels create a more painterly look than that of a “soft” pastel.
The best comparison for an oil pastel is to a wax crayon. But unlike crayons - you are not limited to that crayon-like texture. As oil pastels are layered on top of one another, they become buttery and paint-like.
PRO TIP: Oil pastels can be quite messy to work with. So be sure to wear an outfit you like to get messy in or roll up those sleeves and keep some paper towels close by.
Although we do not believe in one “right” way to use any art material, these are some helpful techniques to encourage exploration and maybe even improve your skill!
Oil Pastel and Oil Pastel - oil pastels can be layered on top of each other and rubbed together to create beautiful gradients and blends - but be sure to layer slowly as you will find the surface your are layering onto will get to a point where it cannot take anymore colors and the blends will become muddy.
The best way to get the hang of oil pastels is to do small, quick studies that help you experiment with different kinds of mark making and different techniques of layering colors.
But here are some tips to keep in mind and help you get started!
Create an Underpainting: An underpainting is a loose drawing using usually a singular oil pastel. It is a rough drawing of the [subject/object] and not meant to be detailed. To encourage “loose” drawing, hold your oil pastel with a loose grip and lay down vague shapes.
Layer colors from light to dark: Darker oil pastels can always be layered onto lighter ones but not vice versa. It is always good to practice noticing the light areas and the mid-tones on your subject before moving onto the darkest shades. (This is of course referring to drawing from life, you can also create your own source of light within your drawing or maybe have no light source at all! Keep in mind having both light and dark shades in your drawing will create more depth).
Oil pastel and fingers - You can use the natural oils from your fingers to rub and blend oil pastels together. This can get messy very quickly! Another option is to purchase a blending stump* or if you don’t have access to that- wrap your fingers in a paper towel.