Oil Pastel Portrait Drawings

This video demonstrates step by step how to draw a portrait using oil pastel.

Various techniques are shown and 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.

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Video Walkthrough

  • Using black paper for color drawing media “fills in” the background, and you won’t have that white grain of the oil pastel you would get on white paper.
  • Starting with yellow ochre works well since it’s a neutral color, but isn’t too dark or light to be visible.
  • Smearing the oil pastel with fingers is a good way to get variation in your marks.
  • Blending oil pastels is easier on your fingers if you use baby oil.
  • Drawing directly with the oil pastels without smearing can give your drawing more tension and “bite.”
  • Squinting while drawing helps you see past details and tackle the big shapes first.
  • Drawing marks that are going in different directions gives more variety to your drawing.
  • Creating a painterly quality is well suited for oil pastels, many painters enjoy oil pastel as a supplement to their painting practice.
  • Types & quality of oil pastels vary tremendously, some practically feel like a different media!
  • People often draw the whites of the eyes (the sclera) as literal white, but they almost always have a shadow cast over them from the upper eye lid.
  • Building up layers of oil pastel is important to create depth and variation in your colors.
  • Varying density of oil pastels provides different amounts of opacity, so some areas feel heavy, others have a very light pass.
  • There is a natural texture of oil pastels, embrace it!
  • The background color is important in that it influences how the colors in the face come across.
  • The only true way to protect oil pastel drawings long term is to put them under glass, which often isn’t practical.
  • Steve McCurry’s photographs

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

My 14 year old told me today that the way she writes her essays is she writes the most super obvious, easy, dumbed down version of her essay topic, and then goes and and revises from there.

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Drawing a Portrait in Oil Pastel

I told her I do the exact same thing with writing. I just “barf” on the page and don’t worry about how it sounds. I think it’s the same with drawing, much easier to just throw crap onto the page and go from there.

If you start a drawing session try to make super polished, finished drawings, not only is is impossible, but there’s a performance mindset there that doesn’t help!

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