A photo of a sheet of pink paper with oil pastel scribbles and the worlds mark making part 15 oil pastels. A few oil pastel sticks are in a group on top of the left side of the paper.
Drawing,  Traditional Painting

Mark Making Part 15: Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are the medium I have the least experience with and also the least amount of supplies*. I often feel more of an affinity to painting that drawing, though, and oil pastels ride a line between the two in an interesting, if messy way.

The supplies I had to work with were, ah, shall we say neglected in my collection of mediums. They consisted of:

  • An old “Gallery” 12 pack, from probably 2005 or 2006.
  • Some “Portfolio” brand oil pastels, by Crayola, from honestly high school? 2001? 2002? I’m not sure where I even bought these, maybe at Staples or something?

The water soluble ones were a fight to use -they didn’t blend well and the pigment was off. I will give Crayola the benefit of the doubt and say that these probably don’t age well after 15 or more years, as evidenced by the weird way the paper casings felt oily and just off. They might need to be binned. But hey, I tried:

A drawing landscape drawing. In the forground is a meadow, in the middleground a tree and stone wall surrounding the three. In the background a lake and hills. A path leads from the bottom of the drawing to the tree.

For once, I actually *gasp* drew thumbnails and color swatches. The thumbnails were super quick: deciding placement of the tree and scale, on a scratch piece of paper in ballpoint pen. The I swatched out the water soluble “Porfolio” pastels. I ended up later using the same swatch paper as a makeshift palette, as you can rub the pastel on a separate surface, then dip a wet brush into it, to load the brush with color. I used the effect mainly to lay down the lightest part of the path as a base shade.

Layering the colors was a challenge, as I was fighting the pigment to blend – even after water was added, the pastel didn’t want to bleed out like a watercolor pencil. I ended up layering over extra dark pigment, then scratching into the grass areas with a toothpick.

I’m surprised and happy with how it turned out. I feel like I constantly say I’m surprised at how things turn out with my art, ha. Even with some extra planning, too!

A ruled notebook page, with ball point pen sketches planning the tree drawing composition
A photo of two sheets of watercolor paper with thumbnail planning sketches on one and color swatches on the other. There are oil pastel boxes above and below the papers.

The piece below was done with the Gallery 12 set. Much creamier and blendable. Not water soluble, though I believe odorless mineral spirits can be used on oil pastels? I don’t actually own mineral spirits or other paint thinner, so it wasn’t a technique I explored. Instead, I blended with cotton swabs/Q-Tips, and tissue paper. And elbow grease, lol. I also used a toothpick to scratch into the pastel, called sgraffito technique.

This drawing had no planning ahead of time and felt very much like a collage process – putting shapes together in an almost flat sense, with an emphasis more on decoration and pattern than any realism. Also fun and surprising! 😀

Oil pastel drawing of flowers in a meadow, with simplified shadpes and a collaged, flattened appearance

The next medium coming up is fountain pens – so tonight I need to…ahem…clean my clogged fountain pens out! Last time I used my Lamy pen was October 2019 on a camping trip. They are fun to take as a portable medium, but with staying at home so much this past year, I haven’t had the need for a travel sketch kit as much.

And I’m still working on my digital painting of my backyard shed, which is so close to being done. Going to put on some YouTube and finish it up tonight! 💪

*Of the mediums I’ve identified for my Mark Making project. So, not comprehensive of all mediums of all time. Notably my project list excludes that one medium held aloft as the pinnacle of mediums: oil paint. I don’t own any oil paints and haven’t had any since high school, 17+ years ago. Not for lack of wanting to practice – at first it was budget constraints and then it was living in apartments where the ventilation was not ideal. I’m excited to get set up this summer with oil painting. *fingers crossed*

Listening to: Mystery, Gary Stadler and Stephannie
Current mood: productive

I'm an illustrator and web developer honing my skills and learning all I can about drawing, painting, and storytelling through visual art.