Pastelling like paint

I recently told you guys that I have started a new oil pastel project geared around the season-inspired flora and fauna paintings that I’ve been working on the past couple of months. A few of these oil pastel wildlife studies are now listed in my Etsy shop, and a new one will be added today (spoiler alert: it’s the drawing pictured below!).

With this in mind, I wanted to share some insights into my process when I’m creating these drawings. Of course, there is no single or correct way to work with oil pastels, so my basic advice is first of all to **experiment!** (You should imagine I’m doing jazz hands when you read that).

Yes, the best way to develop your technique is first and foremost to play around and **experiment!** Just let your intuition guide you and, if you feel that you’ve made a mistake or that something didn’t work well, just make a mental (or literal) note of it so that you can build on this new knowledge next time. Similarly, you might find that something accidentally turned out really well! Just reflect on what happened – were you observing the colours differently? is the light better now? did you change the direction of your lines, or change the pressure you applied? Keep a record of these pieces of work so they can continue to inspire you. As you create more, you’ll be delighted to see how your skill has developed as a result of your **experiments!**

For me, some of my favourite techniques involve layering and blending the pastel (just like I do with paint) to create subtle variations in colour. This is also a great way to make your set palette do more for you. Just remember to keep a tissue handy to wipe off any extra colour that gets picked up onto the pastel that you’re blending with.

Another fun technique is to apply the pastel in short, sharp strokes and layer these up with different colour tones to create a sense of depth. This is also known as stippling, and is fantastic for drawing wildlife (think of how fur and feathers are individual fibres all layered up to become soft and wonderful!).

Finally, the last technique that I want to introduce is known as sgraffito (yes, I did spell that correctly – it’s a fun word!). This involves scratching lines into the upper layer of pastel, using for example a pencil or a toothpick, to reveal the colours underneath. Again, this technique is also used in painting (and in 3D artforms like pottery and sculpture). It’s great for adding fine details, highlights, and interesting lines. I often use it to add veins to leaves and flowers, or creases in skin – such as in the bird’s foot below.

finished oil pastel drawing

Of course, these are just a few examples of some wonderful techniques that you might choose to **experiment!** with. I use these techniques in my drawings because I enjoy how they easily translate from paint to pastel, and vice versa. Although oil paint is still my main medium, I always have fun playing with pastel, and saying “sgraffito” while I scribble!


Let me know your favourite oil pastel techniques in the comments section! If you use any of the techniques I have described, post a link to examples of your work so other artists can appreciate and share your experience!

That’s all for now, guys. Stay awesome and keep making art!

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