Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Oil pastel is best medium for budding artists.

            Dr  Abe V Rotor
Still Life in pastel by Anna Cristina Rotor-Sta Maria
Chalk is made of limestone or gypsum and compressed into powdered sticks. Soft pastels are made from pure mineral pigments. The same pigments are used in oil paint, acrylics, and water color. ... The pigment, is in effect, crystals been spread across the paper. Oil pastel (also called wax oil crayon) is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. Unlike "soft" or "Japanese" pastelsticks, which are made with a gum or methyl cellulose binder, oil pastels consist of pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. Wikipedia


I watched my daughter Anna draw with oil pastel.  She seemed to be playing with colors leisurely, while I, using oil or acrylic on canvas, would labor at my medium for hours. She did this drawing (above) in three or so sittings.  In between she had time to practice her piano lessons, play games, and attend to her pet rabbit. 

What really make things easy for one and difficult for another, even on the same subject?  In this particular case, the art of drawing and painting, an expression of creativity?

Art to the young is pure and simple, to us grownups, it is complex, and oftentimes we have to knock down a wall before we could create our own world. Anna as a budding artist, and I her tutor, found ourselves at a crossroad, before us is an endless horizon where one could find full expression of creativity.

I was more interested in the process she used oil pastels. It is in the combination of colors, not only by choice but blending. She took freedom to experiment with the medium. Here are some techniques she used. 
  • Pre-blending on palette by cutting or scraping pieces of oil pastel she wished to blend. With palette knife and fingers the mixture was mixed and applied on the drawing board or canvas. Bright colors are preserved and enhanced this way, such as the oranges in this specimen work.   
  • She would directly apply the color of her choice on the board and apply a second color of oil pastel adjacent  the first color, and rub the adjoining edges until the two edges appear smooth. This forms a gradient of colors desired.  This is effective in drawing folds of curtain and cloth, and in drawing a bunch of fruits like bananas as shown in the drawing. 
  • She would mix or overlay the color pastels directly on the board, first by generously making a layer  followed by a second layer of a different color. There are instances she would make additional layers to achieve the desired hue, as in the apples and grapes.
  • Scrumbling is a method to develop texture and value, done by selecting two or more colors, with one color first applied by scribbling across the board, followed by the other colors in random and overlapping strokes.  This technique was applied on the papaya and curtain.  Modification by cross-hatch to enhance light and shadow can be appreciated in the pineapple and floral drawings. 
  • Blending with fingers is often used with oil pastel but extreme care is necessary to prevent smudging.  Fingers must be kept clean before moving to the next part of the drawing.  Avoid finger clots which may have made the watermelon to appear over ripe.   
  • One tool Anna used is a pastel shaper, the palette knife being the most popular. I used boy scout knife for ease and emphasis of light and shadow. Observe caution so as not to leave cuts and over-scraped parts. Scrapers include paint brushes, wood, Q-tips, and even sandpaper. Stumps (tightly wound rolls of paper shaped like pencil) are effective in creating fine details and sharp edges.  On the other hand stumps are used in creating smudged effects. 
Experimenting with pastel is joy and challenge; it leads to discovery of techniques in developing one's style, and in coping up with today's various art movements. 

Whenever I conduct drawing and painting workshops for kids I use Anna's Still Life as model. And if she is free, I would invite her to personally explain her techniques to children, who some years ago, were like her - ardent and eager to become artists. ~   

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