This week, I show you how to use oil pastels with other art supplies. I also talk about spicing up your art, especially by choosing subjects that are so personal that they make you tremble a bit!
Early Memories of Oil Pastels
Making art can be compared to cooking. Sometimes the food tastes good because the ingredients and the way are processed go well together. That was how my mother cooked. Her food was delicious because it was fresh and made with care. Even if our family wasn’t wealthy, the time that she put on cooking, made the meals worth remembering. I still don’t know how she was able to include the thick layer of blueberries into her pie. When there was a local art competition for children with the theme “home,” it’s no wonder that this is what I drew.
I remember struggling with the oil pastels, definitely not artist’s quality, but the drawing won the first prize. It was a little unpleasant that the organizer has written the prize in the drawing, but now it just adds a nostalgic flair to it.
My mother wanted her children to step away from cooking and caring for the home. She wanted me to get a good education and declined to teach me how to cook. I grew to question what women and men are supposed to do and felt rebellious in that respect. As a result, I went to study engineering and worked in a field that had mostly men.
QUESTION: What memories do oil pastels or other early art supplies bring to your mind?
Sennelier Oil Pastels – First Experiment
I bought a small set of Sennelier oil pastels for mixed media art. I didn’t want to spend money on a bigger set until seeing if I like them or not. My first experiment was to draw a portrait on a small sketchbook.
My mother used two spices mostly: salt and pepper. When creating art, salt and pepper are the lightness and the darkness of colors. You need both, but not too much. As beginners, we often think that we don’t need any salt and pepper. That the fresh ingredients – bright colors – will do the trick. But you need some paler and darker colors, not too much, but enough to harmonize a busy painting.
For the first experiment, I thought that making a basic portrait with salt and pepper would be enough. But creating just a pretty face often lacks expression, so I added a hand because oil pastels and fingers go together. No matter how hard I tried to use a palette knife for blending, I ended up enjoying the waxy feel of oil pastels on the fingertips.
The first experiment made me remember why I had tossed away my old oil pastel set over 10 years ago. Oil pastels are messy! Later in the evening, I made a big mistake of not wiping the table carefully and then placing my cross-stitch projects on the very same tabletop. I had to wash oil pastel marks from the fabrics, and that was very upsetting!
Woman’s World – Oil Pastels with Graphite Pencils
I wasn’t ready to give up oil pastels but headed for the new experiment the next day. This time my idea was to use a sponge for blending and combine oil pastels with graphite pencils. They have called me more and more these days. Maybe it’s because my friend Eeva Nikunen uses graphite a lot and I have one of her drawings on the wall. I am not so much into using graphite alone, but I love using it with watercolors, so why not try it with oil pastels as well!
Making of this sketchbook page both excited and scared me. It went deeper than the first page and expressed thoughts that I don’t usually reveal to the public. I support women becoming equal with men, and often think even more strongly: it’s now the time of the history when we women can take power. I believe that it will liberate men too. Many young women say that they are equal already, but my experiences haven’t been quite like that. And when thinking back to the past, even when narrowing the focus only to the field of art, women have been neglected for centuries. So it can be woman’s world now if you ask me.
When creating this piece, I realized how much I had been used salt and pepper only: making images that are aesthetically pleasing, but that could be spiced up with the message.
QUESTION: What thoughts do you have that you haven’t expressed in your art?
When you think about “what to put in the background” next time, maybe perfect the face a little less and spend more time with a message no matter “what others think.”
Girl Power – Oil Pastels with Acrylic Paints
When I processed the theme – the power of women – further, I wanted to send encouragement to today’s young girls. Most girls that I have met are very smart but also polite and gentle. I wanted to express my appreciation for them.
This time, I wanted to try acrylic paints with oil pastels, and I also had a perfect reference image in mind. It was a miniature portrait of Europa Anguissola painted by her sister Lucia Anguissola. There were six sisters who all became painters in the Renessaince age, but only one of them, Sofonisba, continued her career. I saw the portrait of Europa a couple of years ago, and it’s sweet and amazingly detailed for a small painting.
This project was created in my Dylusions Creative Journal. Acrylics were my choice for the face, and I started very traditionally, making an underpainting with umber and white.
Again, I didn’t want this piece to be just about the face, so I added a hand too. Here you can see how far I worked with acrylic paint only.
Now to the oil pastels. After experimenting blending with a palette knife and a sponge, I gave up and used my fingers only. But I had a new weapon: baby wipes! They are very handy for removing paint both from the fingers and from the table top. After getting used to having a baby wipe in hand, the messiness of the media doesn’t bother anymore!
I love blending out the color when working with oil pastels. It feels enjoyable and natural. I am excited to try these techniques with oil paints as well.
Here’s one technique that I discovered: First, lay several colors carelessly on paper. It’s like throwing the ingredients into the pot!
Second, mix the colors with a finger – beautiful – not the finger but the art!
I also wanted to add some pencil strokes too. Loud and bold oil pastels look very appealing when they meet the quiet power of graphite drawing.
So this one is for young girls: “I wish you all the luck and all the power. Europa Anguissola abandoned painting when she got married, but you don’t have to. You can be anything, and we support you!”
Who do you want to send greetings through your art?
Free Like a Bird – Oil Pastels with Turpentine
The true test for the oil pastels: how do they work with abstract art and intuitive process. This time I used colored pencils and graphite as well.
In the middle of making this abstract piece, a new problem came up. I wanted to spread a thin layer of paint, and tone down some areas. I got the idea of thinning the pastel with the medium that I use for oil painting. The painting liquid has poppy oil, Dammar varnish, and turpentine. After googling, it seemed that turpentine could thin oil pastels. So I rubbed some color on a palette, added few drops of the painting liquid and started painting.
The liquid worked very well. Of course, the odor of turpentine can be unbearable for many. Working in small amounts, and keeping the lid closed reduces it a bit, though.
Here’s my finished piece: “Free Like a Bird.” It’s what I hope for everyone, regardless of the gender.
If you compare the images of this blog post, the abstract piece leaves more room for interpretations. Recently, I have felt more and more drawn into creating abstracts, and letting go of delivering a pre-chewed message. Cooking without a recipe can be much harder than you would first think. Making a vast selection of foods, learning to use pepper and salt, helps. But first and foremost, art is not just a matter of learning how to cook a meal. It’s also the matter of choosing what you want to serve to the world. And no matter how clumsy the execution, the subject can be the most significant spice.
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The Exploring Artist is a 12-week group coaching program for artists, between Sept 10 – Nov 30, 2018. This coaching is for you who wants to get clear about your artistic passion and become more open about your art, for example, share your art in social media, blog about art, sell your originals and prints, teach classes, etc.
In The Exploring Artist, you will get coaching as a part of a small and tight-knit group. I will personally help you to put your passion into words and visual insights. We will work together to discover what you want to change in your art, where you want to move forward and how to do it. >> Sign up now!