The Benefits of Oil Pastels: A “Happy Medium”

"Benefits of Oil Pastels: A 'Happy Medium'" (blog post) | |

Oil pastels don’t seem to be used nearly as much as other art mediums—they’re not even used as much as chalk/soft pastels. Yet they can deliver amazing results.

Even on the Internet, if you’re looking for information on oil pastels, there’s little about them. Surely, everyone needs to find his or her “happy medium.” For this particular drawing/painting of a carousel horse, based on an original photo, oil pastel was perfect.

"The Benefits of Oil Pastels: A 'Happy Medium'" (blog post) | |
Underpainting done in Faber-Castell Gelatos for Carousel Horse Oil Pastel

First, the underpainting was done with Faber-Castell Gelatos. It probably would have been best to skip the background underpainting so that the softness of the oil pastels would simply create a more blurred look when blended. Still, the whole underpainting worked.

Drawing (or Painting) the Carousel Horse

Depending on what you prefer, oil pastels are either considered drawing or painting. We’ll just use both interchangeably here.

All of the oil pastel portions (almost the entire painting) were blended, either with a blending stump for smaller areas or a make-up wedge for larger areas (as a sidenote, try to use make-up wedges where the holes of the sponge are not as obvious, as these will last longer and are less likely to disintegrate as you go).

The decorations on the saddle, the “bar” areas of the saddle and a few other areas needing more precision were done with conté crayon, and for really small areas, a wax-based colored pencil.

One Major Con of Oil Pastels

The one major disadvantage of oil pastel is that it’s difficult to deal with mistakes. It seems that you either have to somehow work the mistake into the piece (e.g., creating a shadow) or hope that you can blend it out (doesn’t always work). You cannot paint over it; you cannot erase it.

"Benefits of Oil Pastels: A 'Happy Medium'" (blog post) | |
“Carousel Horse.” Oil pastel on mixed-media paper.

Oil Pastels: A Beautiful Art Form

If you’re open, oil pastels are a lovely medium to try. Don’t let the fact that they’re not as commonly used thwart your efforts: They’re totally worth it!


Materials used:

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Why Not Try Faber-Castell Gelatos for Big Art Pieces? (Experiment)

"Working with Art Gelatos for Larger Art Pieces" (blog post) | |

Faber-Castell Gelatos are a medium that are often used for art journaling, card-making and other paper crafts. They actually work well as an underpainting layer for oil pastels on mixed-media paper, too.

But what about using them as the main medium for a larger project? That seemed like at least a fun idea to test. And while doing a full-on scene could work, it seemed best—and quickest in terms of this experiment—to do fairly simple images.

But first, what are Faber-Castell Gelatos?

Gelatos are a pigment often compared to lipstick, at least in texture. They are very creamy but are different from oil pastels in that they are softer. As mentioned, they’re often used in paper-crafting.

To test how they would come across in a larger art piece, we decided to do an 80’s tribute and tried two different images of vintage My Little Ponies.

Drawing with, and Blending, the Gelatos

Gelatos are especially fun to work with because they’re so soft. They go on easily and blend with very little effort (if you choose to blend them). The drawing of Bowtie (below) shows best how the medium blends, as the blue on the body was blended (or rather, smashed into the paper). Blending Gelatos is often done with a baby wipe.

"Working with Art Gelatos for Larger Art Pieces" (blog post) | |

The areas with the mane/hair were blended underneath, then a layer of the strands was stroked on above. Those areas were not blended and can be seen best on the drawing of the sea pony, Wavedancer.

"Working with Art Gelatos for Larger Art Pieces" (blog post) | | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.comIt may actually be more effective, if doing a really large or complex piece, to do the Gelatos for larger areas and the detailed parts with something like chalk, soft pastel or conte crayon.

For more on art Gelatos, also check out “Oil Pastel Experiment: Trying Gelatos for Underpainting.

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Conte Crayon and a DIY Spray Varnish Fixative Experiment

"Conte Crayon and a DIY Spray Varnish Fixative Experiment" (blog post) | |

Obviously, painting varnish on a conte crayon piece, with its dusty chalkiness, would only result in smudging the image. But is there a way to use varnish without smudging the conte crayon drawing?

It seemed worth a try because using fixatives with conte crayon has its disadvantages — mainly, the smell. If you live in an apartment or anywhere simply not having an open-air space for good ventilation, the fumes can be too much. Using a regular acrylic varnish gets rid of the problem of the fumes.

Adult coloring books are great for experimenting — especially when they’re licensed under Creative Commons. Conte crayon seemed to go well with an Egyptian papyrus concept, and a couple of images from were perfect for this experiment (see image credits below).

The paper used is extremely important, as we’ll get to later. The images were done on beige Strathmore textured paper (though now, the label is gone). Shown are the conte crayon drawings before they were spray varnished.

"Conte Crayon and a DIY Spray Varnish Fixative Experiment" (blog post) | |

"Conte Crayon and a DIY Spray Varnish Fixative Experiment" (blog post) | | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.comThe DIY Varnish/Fixative Experiment

Once the images were finished, a small spray bottle was filled with matte varnish: nothing special, just regular Liquitex matte varnish. I’ve used it many times for varnishing acrylic paint, and it works great.

The image was sprayed with the varnish, and the first thing that most people worry about with varnishing non-paint mediums is the pigment getting darker. The image did get slightly darker — but if you’re prepared for this, it may not be a huge deal, depending on the final result you’re looking for.

The Result: It All Depends on the Paper

The problem was obvious once the spray settled a bit, though: It made the pigments bleed. What were previously nice edges turned into blobs of color seeping outside where they were supposed to be. Clearly, the image was ruined. The paper pilled, also.

But what about mixed media paper? Would that fare any better?

It seemed it did, though that part of the experiment was quick and not as thorough. Basically, if conte crayon was drawn onto some mixed media paper and sprayed with the same varnish, everything seemed to hold up. However, the paper was pretty heavy at 140 lb. (sold in single sheets at Hobby Lobby). This quick tryout may work in the future and will maybe become a future experiment; for now, if trying it out, use with caution!

For now, it’s safe to say that DIY spray fixative is a possibility — but the paper will make all the difference.

Coloring Pages Used:
Anubis as a black-coated jackal by Jeff Dahl (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license)
Souls of Pe and Nekhen by Jeff Dahl (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license)

Materials Used:
Conte Crayon Matchbox
Conte Crayon Boxed Set


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