My pastel coloured adventure

I’ve always enjoyed drawing with charcoal and chalk, and appreciated the abstract nature that many of the created marks seemed to express. Compared to other similar types of projects, that I would complete with pencil or ink, charcoal offered an extra layer or unpredictability and some fantastic results would appear, completely unplanned on numerous occasions. The unavoidable negative impact from working with charcoal or chalk is that they can be very messy mediums, and not something highly advisable for my current work space. Nice carpet and many small and dusty particles aren’t really the best of friends!

So, I wanted something that would provide me with a similar feel of adventure, but not be as harmful to the indoors environment. I’d considered oil pastels many times before, but never actually purchased any to try for myself. Now was the time. I knew that I wanted to start with an impressionist, broken colour style (optical mixing) and see exactly how they worked, especially in comparison to the chalky variety, that offer enhanced mixing and shading capabilities. I had a few basic sketches and small ideas that were good to go for an introductory experiment, so chose this duck-like form to start things off:

I was immediately enjoying the softness and overall sensation of using the oil pastels with this particular technique of copious small strokes, and was keen to tackle something with a bit more complexity and requirement for increased precision. This is only an A5 piece and I was intrigued about how much detail was possible at a small scale with these pastels. Overlaying the colours would only yield certain results, so some planning was necessary and it seemed unlikely that true definition would be easily achievable.

As a keen motor racing fan, I turned to my bookshelf to locate an interesting subject. A classic shape with just enough small detail was what I was seeking and I didn’t hesitate to try the following angle of the classic 1972 Tyrrell-Ford with Jackie Stewart at the wheel.

This was a larger piece (although still smaller than A4) and was a much bigger challenge. As I’d expected the small details could only be suggested and if I was to produce any further illustrations requiring such precision, then I’d have to work at a much larger scale to balance the natural tendencies of the medium. I’m happy with the finished result and found it a small challenge to suggest detail and achieve colour depth and transition, whilst working within a limited available range.

I’d quickly learned some very valuable lessons and gained some solid knowledge about how to tackle illustrative ideas using the techniques I favoured. Time now to move on and produce a portrait for a project needing something with a bit of individuality and colourful life:

Say hello to Billie-Rose – the subject of a pop ballad in this the CD cover image. Capturing the accurate likeness of a real person isn’t always the easiest and with a fairly loose and free style the task becomes slightly more difficult. To bring forth the youthful energy and charm that Billie-Rose has I’ve used a wide range of colours across the face and mainly worked with very short strokes and marks to create the facial forms. This piece was actually a bit smaller than the Stewart Ford above, but the lack of required small detail meant that artwork scale wasn’t a major issue.

The oil pastels have such a wonderful texture that they really add great depth to an illustration and add something particularly ‘artistic’ without a serious amount of extra effort. There’s still plenty of further pastel types and techniques waiting for me and of course, I’ve already moved on to newer work at a larger scale – likely to be the subject of a new update here, sometime down the track.


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