Oil Pastel Experiment: Acrylic Underpainting Pros and Cons

"Oil Pastel Experiment: Underpainting Pros and Cons" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

Oil pastel is perfect for those who want something between drawing and painting — something with more of the control of drawing but some of the flexibility in blending available with painting.

Oil pastels on their own can be very striking — but underpainting can help fill in some of those little spots that show underneath. This is the first experiment with underpainting mediums for pastel and trying to find the right one.

Since canvas worked for some previous oil pastel pieces, canvas seemed to make the most sense when working with acrylic painting as the underpainting; a matte varnish was added over the acrylic to make it easier to blend the oil pastels. So that’s what was done here. An earlier “mini experiment” ended up having no varnish over acrylic underpainting, which ended up a bit rough for blending the oil pastels on top.

The subject was a collector Barbie doll from the 1990’s: Renoir Barbie. Dolls make a great subject because they have a face to work with but aren’t as difficult as real people at the same time. For a piece that’s basically just an experiment, that works perfectly. 🙂

Materials used:

  • Acrylic paint: Grumbacher Academy and Winsor & Newton Galeria
  • Liquitex Matte Varnish (over the acrylic underpainting)
  • Sennelier and Faber-Castell Oil Pastels
  • Conte Crayon (for fine details)
"Oil Pastel Experiment: Underpainting Pros and Cons" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
Underpainting in acrylic for 1990’s Renoir Barbie oil pastel. Sorry for the glare!

The underpainting for this piece was done in all gray tones, as the finished product was to be black and white.

Pros

The oil pastel blended very smoothly and easily with this method. Not only was it easy to work with, but it also made it easier to scrape off mistakes. Unwanted marks came off pretty well without much left behind.

Cons

It was difficult to build up white pastel very well with this method; the same went for any semi-transparent or lighter grays. Any sketch lines also showed easily underneath.

Also, conte crayon, which has worked well in the past for fine details on top of oil pastel (e.g., eyelashes) did not want to stick to the pastel when it was on top of the acrylic underpainting.

The finished piece turned out decently, though.

"Oil Pastel Experiment: Underpainting Pros and Cons" (blog post) | artisticallywriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

So overall, this method may work well if using very faint (or no) sketch lines drawn in beforehand. If bold colors only are used, then the transparency when blending wouldn’t be an issue — but clearly, there’s probably a better method out there.

Stay tuned for another experiment….

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