Messing About with Oil Pastels
Oil pastels are a medium that I have dallied with before but never really found my way forward with them. One of the reasons has been a lack of seeing other artists using it, to see their methods and learn from. Also there seem to be very few intermediate-to-advanced books on the subject; apart from one by John Eliot and another by Kenneth Leslie; plus chapters in "The Pastel Book " by Bill Creevy. Youtube tutorials and images are good, but I personally prefer to see a book on the subject and get to grips with the written techniques, view a range of images and just "absorb" and process the info over a period of time. Watching videos is fine, but it's possible to spend all day just sitting down....and I never remember everything in a video, which then necessitates running it again. For me, it's easier to just pick up a book and turn to the sections I want.
One may imagine that oil pastels should look like oils when completed, and in the hands of skilled individuals they certainly have that kind of appearance.....although I don't think they quite get there. Oil pastels are often used with other media, being scribbled over the top of watercolour, or acrylic, for example; in fact they seem better suited to a mixed media approach.
Looking around in various galleries online, they don't seem to be widely employed as a stand-alone medium. There used to be an Oil Pastel Society in America.....that seems to have gone. However....in spite of all this, some artists have taken the medium on board and made it their own, with distinctive imagery and style.
A number of years ago I had a large batch of Sennelier oil-pastels and also Caran d'Ache Neopastels. I had intended to get down to some more serious exploration, but never did, and eventually sold them all on. Now I have a small set of Senneliers again and have started dabbling. The lemon below is on a 6x4-inch canvas-board. It was produced from the Sennelier Discovery set of six oil-pastels.
The half-lemon was simply perched on a table-mat with a mauve-green coloured piece of cloth behind it; nothing spectacular. I added the first outlines and markings, then did a little finger-blending. Over the top of this I added some Liquin impasto and left it to dry for 24 hours. The following day the surface was just about dry and I added more oil-pastel colours to build up the design. Then another light layer of Liquin. Finally, the few details were added with a brush, using oil-pastel scrubbed onto a scrap of paper and Liquin added to it, to create a "paint".
The addition of Liquin tended to dissolve the oil-pastel in some parts and create a rather interesting soft-focus effect. There was a limit to how much I could do with this picture, so it was left alone after day 3.
I did some more experimenting with a box of Pentel Artists oil-pastel (above)......and here I found some barriers. While it was possible to overlay the colours with Liquin, some of them dissolved to produce some mucky colours. Purples and violet were the worst, creating a somewhat unpleasant brown colour when combined with yellow. They are probably ok to use but I wouldn't include them in a more successful serious piece which might possibly sell later on. Whether the Pentels have pigment or dyes, I am not sure but suspect the latter. The simple answer is to use only high-quality oil-pastels, and there aren't that many brands around. Sennelier is the "original"; there's also Holbein (if you can get them) and recently I found out that Mungyo produce a Premium brand that is claimed to be artist-quality as well. You can find the latter on EbayUK, but beware of confusing them with the student-range.
Finally, a couple of experiments on gessoed MDF board:
Sky and Beach: 5 x 3 inches
Sunset: 4x3 inches
So, am I going to follow through with doing more oil-pastels? I don't know yet. I'm still playing with them; it's important to try and make sure they don't look like children's crayon drawings and that means paying more attention to techniques. I probably will add more oil-pastels to my collection, but slowly....my major focus will remain on soft-pastels. Speaking of which, these past few weeks have been spent looking at lemons....next post up, in a short while, a soft-pastel lemon.