Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oil Pastel Demo

I got in a couple of new drawing pads and wanted to try one of them out, so I decided to go ahead and do it last night. Here's a drawing I cranked out - I did this loose and modern-style partly because it's quicker but also I like working like this sometimes:

his one and the 2 at the end were done on the scanner, the rest I just shot on a digital camera, that's why the quality of them is pretty poor. But it's good enough to demonstrate the steps.

Here I've sealed the pencil drawing with 3 good heavy coats of Krylon Matte Finish spray. It also helps to use a fairly hard pencil - otherwise the next step can really smear up the graphite and make a big mess of it.

I picked 2 oil pastels, both pretty unsaturated earth tones - one a light brown and the other a darkish yellow - this creates the overall tone for the drawing. This technique is actually very similar to techniques used by artists from at least the Renaissance if not earlier - though usually they'd do the initial drawing on paper that was already toned in a light flesh color or some light neutral color like grey or green. Not having any such toned paper I decided to tone it myself.

It's been a long time since I did this, and I had forgotten you really need to keep your scribbly lines pretty close together to avoid what you can see below - the lines didn't completely 'melt' and you can still see some of them in places.

All I did here was to fold over a paper towel 3 or 4 times, hold it tightly over the opening of my turpenoid can, and tip it. Then I took the moistened paper towel and scrubbed rather vigorously all over, going against the grain of the lines and trying to make them disappear. Turpenoid is an oil painting medium and bush cleaner - it's essentially a far less toxic version of turpentine with almost no odor.

Here I picked a darker brown and laid in the hair color. This one was burnt umber, a classic earth tone, and it melts into the turpenoid a lot easier than the other colors I've used so far.

When you scrub it down it creates a really soft beautiful effect. Wish all the colors would do that!

Used some more burnt umber to scrub shading into the background in places and also certain parts of the face/hand. It gives it all a nice look and starts to create some shading. I also decided to lighten up the hair a bit and let more of the paper's texture show through.

Now it's almost finished. Did some more shading on the skin with a sort of orange color, then some highlights with white and a few little touches of color here and there. It's a slight variation on the three-tone drawing system used by the old masters, only I deviated from the strict three color rule and used a little more color. But I did most of the work only with a dark and a white on the toned ground, which is a great way to learn abut the basics of painting or realistic fully-shaded drawing technique. In case your wondering, at this point I didn't like the pale pencil lines so I took a softer pencil (a 2B) and drew right over them. Once you've got some wax on the surface of the drawing (oil pastels are in a wax base - they're really just like extra-soft crayons) the pencil really glides smoothy and makes very dark marks very easily. I couldn't believe I was able to go over all the lines with almost no screw-ups! Got lucky on that one. Oh, and for this kind of line quality you have to hold the pencil 'underhand' - not the way you would when writing, and use big arcing motions of the entire arm to draw.

Finished up with some pale green. The window behind her is a classic example of overpainting - where you have the drawing on a toned ground and then come in at the end with a new color representing bright glaring light and paint opaquely right over the darker colors. It would look a lot better if the drawing was overall darker and if the green was brighter.

It was hard to learn to stop 'coloring inside the lines' - it actually looks a lot better if you leave gaps to show the underlying colors so people can see the technique and the simplicity of it. Some people may prefer the step before the last one - when it still looked pretty realistic. The green in the shadows gives it a much more modern look.

The original looks much better than the reproduction does - a transparent art medium (like an oil pastel wash) has a nice glow to it and the colors blend beautifully in a way that can't be captured by a photograph or scanner. In the reproductions colors look harsh and dark and gritty - whites and other colors seem to have hard outlines around them. None of this is there when you look at the original. It makes it frustrating - I can't really show what my work looks like online or in any way unless people want to come over and see the originals..

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