Ryan DeMita – I’m glad to be of service. :-) Feel free to skip around – there’s little rhyme or reason to the order I’ve been writing these.
RobHughes – I hope you will share your results!
Pascallo – Thankee. :-) It’s okay to sprint through exercises, too, if you start feeling bogged down. Work at whatever speed keeps you going and learning.
Crisis – Woo! A picture! Hmm. . . judging by your neighbors, I’m not going to move to Sweden any time soon. ;-) That’s a good light study, particularly on the faces. I love how the fingertips of the left-hand creepy dude look pressed against the window. You really picked a challenging subject: the real portion is full of wide, flat surfaces, while the faces are small and intricately textured. It’s hard to get two so different subjects to play well together. Good job! One quick suggestion: try dabbing in some pure white in the center of those lamps. I bet they could be made to glow a bit more that way.
ArtEdGradStudent - Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww :-) You’ve made me blush. Hey, if you’re so inspired, I bet this forum would be a great place to test out class-plans or teaching strategies or anything else you might be inclined to share. I know I would be interested in a tutorial on oil-pastels, myself. . . hint hint. . . ;-)
Comin right up! Here's a study of a Renoir where I show how I use Van Gogh oil pastels. I know it's just a copy, but the main thing is the general order in which I used oil pastels. Man, I should do more of these for other techniques, I'm really best with water.
Before I get to stages here's the basic principles I use:
1. Since every color in nature is really some combination of brown, I try to put a bit of each primary color into everything. People generally warn against this, that it'll muddy your colors, but it works for me, with these pastels. I mostly try to put a touch of red in everything, no matter how blue, green, or yellow a thing looks. I think it helps connect all the parts together, and add vibrance/intensity to my colors - especially shadows.
2.Since you can go over and change just about anything with Van Gogh oil pastels, they're forgiving, so don't worry about messing up, just throw the pastels around and work them up in layers. You can fix just about anything. Craypas are harder to mix and change, and I usually don't use them.
3. The only exceptions to rule no. 2 are areas you want pure white or pure yellow. If that's the case, then carefully clean those colors and then lay them down first - the first color that touches the fiber of the paper stains it, and you'll never completely get rid of it. Another option is to leave the paper blank for white areas, as with watercolors. It can work, and I do it, although rarely.
So stage one is to first pick the dominant colors and lay them down on the paper. I'm trying to quickly lay out the image, and build all areas up together. I got more into working with layers of color after a course on multiplate color etching, although once in awhile I'll also "draw" with the pastels, putting in strong outlines, etc. Those work well for animals and people.
In this work the dominant colors (present throughout the entire image) were green, blue green, and lemon yellow. Sorry I don't know the exact names, but I usually tear off their paper and rub them sideways across the page. So these three images are all just from this first stage:
Remember, the initial colors could be anything. On gray days I might start with gray, sky blue (cerulean), and pink. On hazy, sunny days I might start with sky blue, pink, and a cream color (light orange). There was one master copy where I just started with cadmium red and dark, phalo blue, and then went in with warmer colors for highlights.
So, stage 2, I put reds in early, just to get them in the picture. If you put in a tad too much now (so it looks strange to you) this'll be good for adding in other colors later to shade it back a bit.
Now that I've gotten the basic proportions of the image, I can safely draw darker colors - I know they'll be in the right place. If I were wrong, I could fix it, but why waste pastels? So here's that dark pthalo blue
Now, because some areas are really thickly built up, and others seem whispy and unconnected, I start to look for lighter, atmospheric colors. These I can lay thickly around the dark areas, and layer over into them, to blend it all together. For atmospheric colors, I think of light blues, yellows, oranges, and pinks.
Note that I didn't use white yet. I like to try and find subsitutes for both white and black to get more vibrant colors, before resorting to them, although I do use them on occasion - white more often than black. So up to now, the work looks kinda good, and passing fair, but there's still no fine detail. So here in the final stage, I put in some white for highlights, I put in the details of eyes, clothes, etc. I also lightly brush a darker pastel (rubbing on it's side) over the water, so the paper fibers pick up some of it, and it looks like ripples. All the previous stages took about an hour all told, and this stage took me another hour. Note, this work is only about 9x12". A larger work takes much more time.
Hmm. . . this is good stuff, and it is going to get overlooked in here. You should copy all of that into a fresh thread. Then you can link to it in your sig, and point people at it whenever the topic of oil pastels comes up, and perhaps encourage others to try it out. :-)
I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.
Meh, lately I don't feel good enough to start really bragging about any of my work. My latest drawings are, I guess what I'd call intermediate level. They'll look good in a portfolio for any non-artist interviewer, but a real atelier master would see I'm still just a student of anatomy. Then again, this is the first time I've got serious about learning it, so it'll take time... I'll post em later, when I can empty my digicam memory card.
HI guys! I haven’t forgotten about this thread. In fact, I have a bunch more stuff to add to it; I just haven’t had the time to get it all written down. In particular I have some color assignments to add. . .
ArtEdGradStudent – You don’t have to be the World’s Best Rubberband-Ball maker to write a good tutorial on making rubberband balls. :-) There are lots of folks here who don’t know the first thing about how to use oil pastels, and what you have put together is a great tutorial! There’s no need to be shy about sharing it.
Pegahoul – thanks! I look forward to seeing your work. :-)
spazazo – Woot! And thanks, that’s very nice of you. Happy drawing! :-)
Wow! Spazazo, that was superfast! And what a fun drawing! :-)
You could do a really quick shade-job just to see what happens. Don’t labor over it – just knock in some values and see what happens. And don’t be afraid to ruin it. You have to ruin a lot of art to learn the ropes.
Have you got a way to scale that down? Your image is a lot larger than it needs to be.
If you don’t have PhotoShop, there are a variety of physical color mediums that you can use in your sketchbook.
Colored Pencil This medium is dry and tidy, which is ideal for sketchbooks, but has the unfortunate problem of being a tiny, tiny drawing point.
Caran d’Ache This is a fancy name for crayon. It’s pigment held together with wax, that comes in the form of a stick. It’s not great for details and it works best on a paper that is mid-toned – such as postal paper.
Oil pastel These are sticks of pigments held together with oil. They are vibrant, but have the annoying property of being permanently smeary unless sprayed with a fixative. (See ArtEdGradStudent’s awesome tutorial on the previous page for more info.)
Marker Markers can be good for quickly throwing some color into a sketch; the down side is that you have to own a giant set of them to have a good range of colors to choose from. These aren’t likely to wrinkle your paper. Be sure to work in a ventilated area.
Watercolor When used in a sketchbook, expect your page to get wrinkly. Watercolor is a difficult medium to use, because once you put a color down, there is usually no way to cover it up or erase it. However, it makes a good sketch medium because it forces you to put down your brush and move on!
Gouache This is opaque watercolor.
Inks These behave similarly to watercolors.
Acrylic paint This is pigment held together with acrylic. It can make a decent sketch medium, but like watercolor, it will wrinkle your sketchbook page. It is easier to use than watercolor, because once a color has dried, you can paint freely on top of it. You also have the option of working either opaquely or transparently. Acrylic paint can be thinned with either water or acrylic medium.
Oil paint Don’t use oil paints in your physical sketchbook, unless you want to set the book aside for a few weeks to dry! Oil paints can make a good sketching material, but you’ll have to work on individual surfaces, such as loose gessoed paper. If you are using oils for the first time, read up on them first.
Combinations If you have multiple mediums on hand, don’t hesitate to mix and match! Sketchbooks are an ideal place to experiment. You may find that one medium is awful on its own, but wonderful in combination with something else.
PhotoShop If you haven’t figured it out already, PhotoShop and programs like it are amazingly versatile color sketch mediums. Such programs allow you to fill up a lot of space with color very quickly. You can work transparently or opaquely. You can change the color of a layer that isn’t on the top, you can make multiple versions of one image, etc. Get in the habit of using layers. Get out of the habit of drawing on a white background. Get a tablet. Get used to drawing with the biggest brush possible. And GO! :-)
To learn to draw a thing, the best way to go about it is to draw it from direct observation. But there’s no good way to paint a moonlit landscape from observation, because it’s too dark to see what you are drawing. Let’s say you want to paint a scene with a ninja on a rooftop at night. . .
******** Assignment #12: Night and Day from Observation*********
Set up a still-life lit by a strong direct light-source. Sunlight is preferable, but a lamp will do in a pinch. Paint it or draw it in color, doing your best to capture the colors accurately. Remember, this is a sketch, so don’t spend more than about an hour on it.
Once that is done, start a new image. Paint your still-life a second time. This time, don’t use “accurate” colors. Use the same value information in your image, but substitute blues and greens for the original colors. Turn that sunlight into moonlight.
If you are using PhotoShop, you can do this quickly by fiddling with the colors of the original painting; but for a better understanding of the colors I recommend starting from scratch.
This can be repeated with any subject from observation.
******** Assignment #13: Night and Day from Imagination*********
Repeat assignment 12, but instead of working from a still-life, draw something from imagination – such as a ninja on a rooftop. Paint the subject first lit with sunlight, and then lit with moonlight. Use what you learned about colors from assignment 12.
The big secret to painting skin is that there is no single “skin tone”. Skin is made up of different colors depending on the setting. Whether skin looks correct has more to do with the values then with the hues.
********Assignment #14: Self Portrait in Arbitrary Colors********
Set up a mirror and a light-source so that you have a view of yourself with one part of your face lit, and one part in shadow. Then, pick two colors, one warm, and one cool. One of those colors is going to be your shadow color, and the other will be your brightly-lit color. Adjust the values accordingly – lighten the “brightly-lit” color and darken the “shadow” color. Add a little of another color to one or both of those, if necessary – I find I almost always need to add a bit of yellow. Then, use the two resulting colors to start painting a two-color sketch of yourself.
Once you have what is essentially a full monochromatic sketch, then you can try adding in little bits of other colors, such as red for the lips and ears. But don’t forget: this is just a sketch. Don’t get caught up in painting details. The goal is to get the colors to work as skin tones.
As you work, think up different possible scenarios in which such a color scheme might be useful. Red shadow and blue highlights? That’s a figure standing on the rim of a smoldering pit of lava at night, lit by the sharp glow of a crystal ball. Green shadow, red highlights? He’s in a jungle, lit by the setting sun. And so forth.
This assignment is best if repeated three or four times with different sets of colors. It is also a wonderful opportunity to practice sketching crazy expressions.