Drawing a Portrait in Oil Pastel

See a demo of oil pastel techniques that will show how to create a compelling portrait.

Various techniques are explained, that can be used to build up vibrant colors and three dimensional volume with oil pastels including layering, blending, creating a diverse range of textures and marks, and more. Demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Video Walkthrough

  • Yellow ochre is a good color to sketch out the basics of the drawing
  • Beginning the portrait with a nose because it’s in the center.
  • Emphasizing the cheek bones to show the structure of the skull.
  • Be willing to make changes in your drawing.
  • A kneaded eraser can be used to tone down a light sketch of oil pastel.
  • Start drawing the eyes with the upper lid, and build the pupils in.
  • Peel the oil pastel and draw with the side to block in large color areas.
  • Notice the lighting situation.
  • Experiment with using colors that are “too bright,” then pull back.
  • Use a broad range of physical pressure, vary the density.
  • Baby oil can be used to smudge the oil pastel without hurting your fingers.
  • Use sculpture tools and palette knives to scrape and smear.
  • Dark purple is a good alternative to black since it’s still fairly dark.
  • When introducing a new color, make sure to distribute it evenly throughout the drawing.
  • Squint when you observe the reference photo.
  • Don’t just draw the pupil of the eye, observe the forms around it.
  • Layer the oil pastel to adjust the color mixtures and get texture.
Oil Pastel Portrait Drawing, banner

Crissie’s Tips

Crissie PNG Discord

With faces, I find it helps to look for shapes of light and shadow rather than ‘features’.

Landscapes & Backgrounds Track
Crissie Brown

I don’t try to draw ‘eyes’ or ‘lips’ or a ‘nose’. Those words cue visual symbols. If we try to draw an ‘eye’, we tend to draw a symbol of an eye .. rather than what we see.

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