top of page

A Deep Dive into Oil Pastel Painting


Art has a unique ability to evoke emotions, and one medium that stands out for its vividness and versatility is oil pastel painting. In this blog post, we'll embark on a journey through the colorful world of oil pastels, exploring their history, techniques, and the boundless possibilities they offer to artists.

Shop Oil Pastels here.







History of Oil Pastels



Originating in the early 20th century, oil pastels emerged as a transformative medium in the realm of visual arts. Created by the Japanese artist Sakura, these vibrant sticks gained prominence in the 1920s. Comprising a blend of non-drying oil and pigment, they offered a unique alternative to traditional crayons and oil paints. Notably, Pablo Picasso embraced oil pastels in the 1940s, propelling them into the global art scene. The medium's versatility and vivid color range have since captivated artists worldwide, evolving into a staple for expressive and experimental work. The history of oil pastels reflects a dynamic fusion of innovation and artistic exploration.



Characteristics of Oil Pastels



One of the distinguishing features of oil pastels is their creamy texture, allowing artists to apply them smoothly on various surfaces. Unlike traditional pastels, oil pastels don't shed dust, making them a cleaner option for those who prefer a mess-free workspace. They also stand out for their ability to blend seamlessly, providing artists with a wide range of expressive possibilities.



Choosing the Right Surface



Oil pastels can be applied to a variety of surfaces, but choosing the right one is crucial for achieving the desired effects. While paper is a common choice, experimenting with textured surfaces like canvas or even wood can add depth and dimension to your artwork. Understanding the characteristics of different surfaces will empower you to make informed decisions based on your creative vision.



Techniques for Oil Pastel Mastery



1. Blending and Layering:


  - Mastering the art of blending is key to creating smooth transitions and gradients in your oil pastel paintings.


  - Layering different colors can enhance depth and intensity, providing a dynamic visual experience.



2. Sgraffito Technique:


  - Sgraffito involves scratching or scraping the surface of the pastel to reveal the layers beneath. This technique can add texture and detail to your artwork.



3. Impasto Effect:


  - Embrace the thickness of oil pastels by applying them in a way that creates a textured, almost three-dimensional surface.



4. Watercolor Resist:


Experiment with a watercolor resist technique by applying watercolor over dried oil pastels. It is a captivating fusion of media, where the waxy nature of oil pastels repels the aqueous embrace of watercolors. As oil pastels lay down their vivid strokes on paper, they create a hydrophobic barrier resisting the absorption of subsequent watercolor layers. This duality results in a mesmerizing interplay, where the pastels shine through untouched, while the watercolor cascades dynamically around them. The resilient resistance of the pastels against the fluidity of watercolors births a visual symphony, each medium retaining its essence yet contributing harmoniously to an artwork that celebrates the marriage of contrasting textures and hues.




Exploring Color Theory with Oil Pastels


Understanding color theory is essential for any artist, and oil pastels offer a vibrant playground for exploration.These waxy, non-drying mediums allow for precise color manipulation through overlaying and blending. Artists can experiment with optical mixing, creating secondary hues by strategically layering primary colors. The opacity of oil pastels enables them to cover underlying layers or reveal them selectively, adding depth and dimension. Texture plays a crucial role, as the pressure and stroke direction influence color saturation. Mastery of color temperature and value becomes tactile, offering a technical mastery that unveils the intricate science behind the visual poetry of color theory with oil pastels.


Inspiration from Notable Artists


Explore the works of renowned artists who have embraced oil pastels as a medium of choice. From the expressive strokes of Jane Taylor to the vibrant landscapes of John Elliot, each artist brings a unique perspective to the possibilities of oil pastel painting. Gain insights from their techniques and let their creations inspire your own artistic journey.



Overcoming Challenges in Oil Pastel Art



While oil pastels offer a world of creative possibilities, like any medium, they come with their own set of challenges. Learn how to navigate issues such as smudging, color muddiness, and preserving the integrity of your artwork over time. Overcoming these challenges will enhance your confidence and skill as an oil pastel artist.


One common obstacle is achieving smooth blending due to the inherent waxiness of the medium. Overcoming this involves experimenting with layering, adjusting pressure, and using blending tools like tissue or specialized stumps.


Color mixing poses another challenge, as oil pastels do not blend like traditional paints. Artists tackle this by layering complementary colors strategically or employing a colorless blender to achieve desired shades.


Texture manipulation demands precision, and overcoming it requires adapting stroke techniques and exploring various surfaces like sanded paper or textured boards.


Maintaining control over the pastels can be tricky, especially when detailing intricate areas. This challenge is surmounted through meticulous planning, using fine-tipped tools, and incorporating light, controlled strokes.


Additionally, fixing layers without smudging is a concern. Artists address this by applying fixatives sparingly between layers or exploring fixative sprays designed for oil pastels.


Finally, understanding the limitations of the medium is crucial; artists learn to embrace imperfections, turning them into unique elements of their artwork. The journey involves continuous experimentation, resilience, and a willingness to navigate challenges as opportunities for artistic growth..




Oil pastel painting is more than a medium; it's a vibrant realm of self-expression waiting to be explored. From the rich history of its creation to the diverse techniques and endless color possibilities, oil pastels offer artists a captivating journey of discovery. Embrace the creamy texture, experiment with techniques, and let your creativity flow as you embark on your own colorful odyssey with oil pastels.



We invite you to shop OIL PASTELS with us online or contact us in store for assistance +264812656566


As always,

Dedicated 2 ART.



Cathy Ray

bottom of page