I discovered oil pastels while studying art in college. I don’t know why I picked them up in the first place, and I remember being frustrated with in the beginning. One of my early attempts was a ballerina whose face looked like that of an ape, sending my professors into spasms of laughter. It’s a painful memory I’ve rarely shared publicly.
In spite of that failure, I kept at it, and I discovered if I used a textured board and kept my work large, striking portraits began to emerge from the background. The pastels were so intense I had to mix the colors on the surface of the painting. I found that not having the exact skin colors of pastels forced me to used a mixture of colors. Those mixtures became magic for me, and I developed my own style using oil pastels. I’ll share a few oil pastel techniques below:
- Use a medium to dark color of textured pastel paper or mat board. The bright colors of the pastels will glow against a dark background.
- Try crosshatching layers of colors, allowing the background color to show through in some areas.
- Build up thick, buttery layers of oil pastel color, adding unique textures to the artwork. It’s almost like you are painting with oil pastels. Better brands such as Van Gogh or Cray-Pas Specialist artist quality oil pastels work best for building layers of color. I have found these at Preston Arts Center.
- For more on using color, see my post on the color wheel.
That’s enough for now. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. Experiment and enjoy!