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About Anima's Blog

My name is Anima and I'm an emerging artist living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My blog is on tips for artists, artist reviews and interviews, art business and marketing, art collecting, how to decorate with art, oil pastel painting tips, giclee print information, finding creativity and inspiration, my travels, works in progress, new paintings, personal revelations, and everything in between.

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Reader Question: Under-Drawing or Preliminary Sketching Mediums for Oil Pastel Paintings

Reader Question

A fellow artist and friend who's dipping her toe into the joyous world of oil pastels asked me:

With oil pastels, do you draw out everything in pencil first? I'm doing some practice runs but the pencil blends in a bit with the pastels... what do you do?

Quick Answer

I sketch with a neutral colored oil pastel stick or sometimes a soft grey colored pencil.

To Elaborate

In over ten years of using oil pastels, I've tried a lot of mediums for drawing out my composition. In this post I'll discuss using pencils, colored pencils, and oil pastels. There's pros and cons to each, but I definitely have my preferences.
For oil pastel paintings, I almost never under-draw the composition with graphite pencils.

Why I Almost Never Under-Sketch with Pencils

Graphite pencils are a natural first choice when it's time to draw your composition before painting. They're as comfortable as fleece pants on a cold northern Alberta day. After all, as artists, we've been drawing with them since grade school. When the general public thinks of the word 'draw', the word 'pencil' isn't far behind. So what's the problem, then?

On paper, pencil is an easy fit. But it's a different story on canvas which is my support of choice for major paintings. The natural roughness of the canvas' gessoed cotton or linen is a hassle as a surface for pencil. Pencil will skip over and skirt around the bumbs, making your lines look shaky and broken.

Ever made a mistake on your drawing? How about changed your mind about where to put your subject's hand? Pencil can be forgiving but not always. If your marks are too dark, they may not totally erase away, whether you're using canvas or paper. In fact, some papers can't bear up under vigorous erasing at all.

Plus even lightly drawn pencil marks show through under layers of light to medium values of oil pastel.

Ok, I'm done raining on pencils now. They're not all bad when it comes to under-drawing. Pencils are great for drawing fine details (eyes and ears), complex subjects, or structures that call for precision (architecture). So if you're the kind of artist that completes detailed under-drawings before the oil pastels go on, you may want to consider pencils anyways. Just remember to press lightly!
For oil pastel paintings, I'll sometimes sketch with colored pencils.

Why I Under-Draw with Colored Pencils Some of the Time

Colored pencils marry the precision of graphite pencils with a soft blendable mark. Of course, the softness and blendability (is that a word?) will vary depending on the brand of colored pencil. So choose the brand based on your preference: hardness for precision and softness for blending and forgiveness.

I strictly use gray colored pencils for my under-drawing. Gray is such a lovely neutral color. It blends well with oil pastel colors and leaves a light mark that's easy to cover up. I tend to cover up changes more so than erasing them, so they fit well with my painting process.

Why I Under-Sketch with Oil Pastels

Because I like forgiveness and I need a lot of it! Changing my mind about compositional details is something I like to have the option of doing. It's my peroggative, right? Sketching with oil pastels gives me that freedom more than colored pencils and definitely more than a graphite pencil. They'll either blend with your other layers of color easily or be covered over, depending on the techniques you use for applying the oil pastels.

Be careful when under-drawing with colors that are dark or contain yellow. Dark oil pastels will stain your support and then their goes the forgiveness you were hoping for. Also, yellowish oil pastels may add unwanted tints to the colors you lay over top.

I typically use a warm pale grey color. It's easy to see over the whiteness of the canvas but blends beautifully with all the other colours.

The only negative to under-drawing with oil pastels is the lack of precision. Try cutting the edge of a blunt stick of oil pastel with a razor to help you make more detailed marks. But even with this trick, you'll rarely achieve the accuracy of a pencil (graphite or colored). But if you're like me and save your details until you get further along your painting process, then oil pastels are definitely the way to go.

What about you? What medium do you use for under-drawing your oil pastel paintings?

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Posted by Anima on May 13, 2008   1 Comments Links to this post

You Got Oil Pastel Paint on Your Carpet! What Do You Do?

image by Makiyo

You may already have read about how, to my complete and utter dismay, oil pastel paint was tracked all over my cream colored carpets. Now, here’s what my husband and I did to get it out, along with a few lessons learned about what not to do next time.

Pick and Cut it Out

The strategy of picking and cutting the oil pastel out of the carpet may seem barbaric and ill advised on first glance. However, I’ve implement it successfully on a few different occasions.

Start by using tweezers to pick as much of the oil pastel off of the carpet as possible. This works because oil pastels are a solid combination of pigment, oil and wax. Then carefully separate out the stained fibres from the clean fibres and cut the oil pastel out.

I like this technique because it’s effective, fast and doesn’t cause a lot of wear and tear on the carpet. But if the stain is large, do not attempt or you’ll end up with a patch in your carpet and a migraine in your head.

Dawn Dishwashing Soap

The next strategy was to pour undiluted Dawn dishwashing soap on the stains and dab at them. The idea came from a Google search on cleaning oil pastel stains from carpet. Eventually, the stains are gone, but with circles of blue liquid soap in their place. Obviously, though, a blue polka dotted carpet is not the objective here.

I have to say, I wasn’t too happy with this technique. The lather from the soap took forever to come out, and I’d really like to emphasize forever. Only after using both a rug doctor and a wet vacuum were the blue dots and the lather finally indiscernible. And I’m still worried there’s some left in the carpet.

What To do Next Time

I’d like to think we’ll never get oil pastel paint on the carpet again, but who am I kidding? So when this happens again, I’m going to do the following:

  1. Use tweezers to pick the excess oil pastel out of the affected carpet fibres.

  2. Put odourless solvent on two cotton swabs and gently press each affected fibre between the swabs.

  3. Repeat step 2 using Mona Lisa pink brush cleaner instead of the odourless solvent.

  4. Add a tiny bit of water for rinsing and dab the spot until dry.

Hopefully, neither you nor I will have to test out this method any time soon, but if and when I do, I’ll let you know how it went. Hopefully it’s in the far far distant future. In the meantime, here are some more ideas for getting out your oil pastel stains and remember to share your experience in the comment box below:


Posted by Anima on April 7, 2008   3 Comments Links to this post

The Night Oil Pastel Paint Stained Your Carpet

It’s Friday at 5:55 pm. You’re bustling around the kitchen cooking supper when you see your husband pointing to a dark burgundy streak on the cream colored ceramic tile. And your heart sinks. Then he points to another one and another one and burgundy spots all over your pale cream living room carpet. And you just cannot believe this is happening!

This is what happened to me a few weeks ago. Apparently a tiny piece of oil pastel got stuck on the bottom of my husband’s foot. And, since he is almost constantly in motion, he tracked it all over the place.

Maybe you’ve experienced a similar sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach? If so read on. If not, read on – your day will come.

Getting the oil pastel paint off the ceramic tile only required soap, water, and a little scrubbing. Getting the oil pastel paint out of the carpet, though, was something else altogether. So how can you get it out? Read the post You Got Oil Pastel Paint on Your Carpet! What Do You Do? to find out.


Posted by Anima on   0 Comments Links to this post

Oil Pastels: Drawing Vs. Painting

You may have noticed that I always refer to my original artworks as oil pastel paintings. Frankly, I never gave this a second thought until recently. My husband was talking to his hairdresser about my paintings and she asked him what medium I used. When he told her oil pastels, she said I was really drawing and not painting.

When my husband told me the story, I decided to explore the subject: When I'm creating art with oil pastels am I drawing or painting? Painting usually refers to producing a picture using a liquid medium. Drawing implies a dry medium. So since oil pastels are a dry medium, I must be drawing, right? Well not necessarily.

Drawings are often considered to be pictures produced in lines. But a completed work with oil pastels has a decidedly painterly appearance.

Even Pablo Picasso talks about painting with oil pastels. When he and Henri Goetz approached Henri Sennelier to design a fine art version of the children's crayon, Picasso told Henri the following: "I want a colored pastel that I can paint on anything, wood, paper, canvas, metal, etc. without having to prepare or prime the canvas."

After all of this research, what have I decided? I'm going to keep right on calling my creations with oil pastels, paintings. But if someone else wants to call them drawings - then by all means! Who am I to contradict them?


Posted by Anima on October 18, 2006   0 Comments Links to this post

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