Project 1 – Exercise 3: Painting with pastels

For this exercise I will work with dry pastels (Sennelier soft) and oil pastels (Boehner studio brand and Caran d’Ache Neopastel artist quality). I do feel more comfortable to work in dry pastels from previous Drawing 1 unit. With oil pastels I had so far my troubles, too sticky, too bright, just didn’t got results I would be happy with. But I am open to learn perhaps a different approach to oil pastels in this unit, as to my understanding till now painting is more about color than markings. But perhaps I am wrong at all.

Experiment with dry pastels / water soluble

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3 - experiment with dry pastels

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3 – experiment with dry pastels

Experiment with oil pastels / turp. soluble

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3 - Experiment with oil pastels

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3 – Experiment with oil pastels



  • Dry pastels behave quite differently compared with oil pastels. But considering right quality the results are similar.
  • On a wet surface dry pastels have a more intense color.
  • To use turp on oil pastels for blending turned out to be a critical measure for quality. The cheaper studio quality pastels do not have at all a good color intensity when washed down. Only with good artist quality pastels the color stays intense.
  • Using my fingers with dry pastels feels quite intimate and like modelling with clay, quite sculptural. Good control on tone.
  • Using a brush with turp. and oil pastels is a bit more tricky. Perhaps finger would give better control as well. With stippling with the brush I have more control.
  • I can use oil pastels in wax resist technique for markings. Although it is better to be done with watercolour than ink.
  • In combination with acrylic paint (underlayer) I feel that dry pastels do work better.


My paintings in pastels:

A) Dry pastels: working from photograph of a bronze statue in a local park (on dark grey pastelcard 30 x 40 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3 - Dry pastels

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3 – Dry pastels

=> I used a comb like tool for the markings in the hair. I applied first a thin layer of water with my fingers so that the markings stay denser. Incidentally some water rinsed down. Reminded me than of teardrops (although it is a statue). For the background I applied bolder abstract markings in green, blue and black. Overall I felt more at home with this piece. Wondering whether it would count rather as a drawing (because of the mark makings) or as painting (because of the color mixing on the body). I leave this question open. I think it is a quite successful piece.

B) Oil pastels: Working from photograph of a outdoor scene at local river (fall time) – on white A2 sized paper

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3 - Oil pastels

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3 – Oil pastels

=> I applied oil pastel marks and blended partly with turp. Perhaps a bit too illustrative. I left in the foreground more dry markings, washed down more the greenish color of the river. I feel the blue color of the sky is too intense, too opaque, contradicts the atmospheric depth perception. I feel that I am still a bit blocked by my previous experiences with oil pastels. I will see what else I could do with them. Important for me at this stage is that good quality pastels matter.
I consider this picture still rather as a technical study to learn more about how to use oil pastels and how to blend them.


Overall learnings:

  • I enjoyed working on the two pastel pieces. The dry pastel one more successful. I felt more in my comfort zone there.
  • Using my fingers was a good way to have control on blending colors. I am wondering how this could be pushed further.
  • I like contrasting elements as:
    – blending (statue, skin)
    – mark making (hair)
    – expressive simple strokes (background)
  • I  was surprised how close painting with pastels and painting with paint are to each other. The main difference I believe is the proximity to the surface. At times it is better to stand back and see the overall picture for make discerning decisions.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: