Brush and Pencil

I am regularly asked about applying oil pastels with a brush.  Here is what I do…

brushes and oil pastel in front of my current work-in-progress.

To apply oil pastel undercoat (as you see in this image) I use a size 1 bristle brush.  The brush on the left started off looking like the brush next to it.  Its bristles have been eroded by pushing oil pastel pigment onto the Arches Aquarelle paper.  However a worn-down brush works just fine for my purpose so I will keep using it until I decide to throw it away.  Bristle brushes are inexpensive and easily replaceable.  I go through a brush every two or three drawings.

If I only need a dab of colour I take it directly off the pastel with my brush.  I don’t even need to take the pastel out of its box to do this.

Taking the colour directly off the pastel while it stays in its box.

If I know I am going to need a lot of one colour or I want to mix colours, I slice bits of pastel off with a palette knife and mix the colours on a palette.  (Because the pigment is greasy/sticky pastel I find a ceramic surface makes the best palette ie. a small plate.)   Using mixed pastels on a palette is almost exactly like using oil paint.  Mixed oil pastel pigment on a palette doesn’t dry out so it can be used next day/next week…no problem.

Applying pastel to paper with a brush is a lot like painting with oils.  I plot the areas of colour onto the paper in a general way.  All the fine nuances of colour and detail will be put on with coloured pencils when the pastel undercoat is finished.

If I am making a major change of colour (ie. from purple to pale yellow) then I clean the brush thoroughly with solvent, though wiping the brush with tissue paper between colour changes is usually enough.  With most colour changes I tend to dry-wipe the brush.

If you look back at the top image you will see the very wide bristle brush.  I use this to sweep over pencil AND pastel to blend and soften.  A good example is the image below…

“Time and Space”

In the drawing “Time and Space” pencil has been worked into the pastel.  I have repeatedly brushed across the drawing with the large bristle brush pushing the pencils and pastels together – merging and softening.  Quite often after doing this I will apply more pencil and then repeat the brushing – until I have the effect I want.  WARNING:  If I brush over the top of the red rose with my wide brush I might get red pigment into the surrounds so I am careful not to do this.

In “Time and Space” I wanted a subtle look so I used Caran d’Ache Neopastels for the background undercoat.   They are drier and more gentle than Sennelier pastels.  Only for the bold red rose I used Sennelier.

“Day Trip to Giverny” – I also made the choice of using Neopastels for the entire background undercoat except for the foliage closest to the viewer which I undercoated with Sennelier.  NB:  I don’t slice off bits of Neopastel with a palette knife the way I do with Sennelier.  Neopastel, being harder and drier, doesn’t lend itself to being mixed on a palette the way the more buttery soft Sennelier does.

“Day Trip to Giverny”

I find using oil pastels with coloured pencils much more satisfying than using pencils by themselves.  I feel this combination is a bridge back towards painting – in fact I have given it the name “dry painting“.

I am often asked if I use fixatives or varnishes with this combination.  No, nothing.

“Enchanted April”
November 2017
Sennelier pastels and coloured pencils.

The marriage of oil pastels with coloured pencils gives a work substance and momentum.

The drawing I am working on currently.  (early 2018) This is how it looked last week.

You may see the finished drawing on the post Walking with Claude

PS:  Don’t worry about getting exact undercoat colours because the coloured pencils over the top will modify the colours to perfection.

A cautionary tale:  some artists who use coloured pencils like to brush off pencil dust with a big brush (rather like a brush-and-pan kind of brush).  Don’t indiscriminately do this when using oil pastels.  Oil pastels are oily and sticky.  A piece of pastel dust in the wrong area is likely to smear if you sweep it into your page – and it will not be removable.  Instead, blow it off your paper or if your breath isn’t strong enough, simply lift it off gently with the point of a brush, pencil or putty eraser.  Simple.

The drawing “A Room with a View” is an example of using only coloured pencils but still using a bristle brush to blend them.  No oil pastel is used in this drawing, and yet the result is still ‘painterly’ because of blending with a paint brush.

“A Room with a View” the coloured pencil is blended with a brush.

See also ART MATERIALS page

Another relevant page is MIXED MEDIA IMPRESSIONISM

Night Moves shows another example of this technique, before and after coloured pencil was added to the oil pastels.

Perfect Partners: Luminance and Neocolor shares a slightly different method – without using a brush.

 

Perfect Partners: Neocolor and Luminance

Recently I have been sharing a method in Facebook coloured pencil groups which has piqued the interest of some of my peers; therefore, I have decided to write a post about it.

My method is to use Neocolor 2; a water soluble wax pastel by Caran d’Ache (I use it without water) as undercoat for coloured pencil drawings.

Putting Neocolor onto the paper before coloured pencils are applied speeds up the process of the drawing – which is especially good if I am working on a large picture.  (The drawing shown here is 33.5 x 48.5 cm.)  Anyone who uses coloured pencils alone to render big areas like sky or still water knows how tedious it is.  Neocolor makes the process faster and more pleasurable.

The texture of Neocolor 2 makes a welcoming cushion-like base for coloured pencil to relax into.  The pencil glides over Neocolor so much more readily than it glides over virgin paper.

I find that complicated areas (such as Venetian palace facades) cannot help but be simplified when the initial layer is put on with Neocolor.  You can’t be too fussy with this medium because it is never super-sharp.  (I use a knife to sharpen the pastel but even at its sharpest, it is kind of blunt.)  Therefore it attunes my brain to the main shapes as opposed to fiddly tiny details.

I use very light pressure when putting Neocolor on.  It is barely there – and yet it makes SUCH a difference to the surface texture.

Work in progress 1:  undercoat of Neocolor 2 before any coloured pencil is applied.

Because I don’t like holding a crayon-length instrument, I use a Fixpencil 0012 (also by Caran d’Ache) to hold it with.  I find this longer length much more comfortable for my hand and it gives me added control.

Applying Neocolor 2 (held inside a Fixpencil 0012).

If you’ve read other posts of mine, you’ll know that Luminance is my number one pencil.  However in the photo below you’ll see I’m blending using a Derwent Blender.  This blender is hard and dry.  There’s enough wax already in the Neocolor/Luminance mix.  It doesn’t need added wax in the form of a wax-based blender, so the raspy dry Derwent blender makes the perfect tool.  Once I’ve blended, that isn’t the end of it.  I can carry on adding more colour over the top; no problem.

Enter the Derwent Blender

The final image shows where I’m up to currently with the drawing.  In my opinion, the partnership of Neocolor with coloured pencil gives a soft painterly aesthetic which, to me, is delicious.

Work in Progress – as it was on 13th January 2020.

Work in progress – as it was on 18th January 2020

Postscript:  The drawing is finished on 24th January, 2020.  It is called “Most Serene”.

Most Serene January 2020

See also Art Materials page

See also Brush and Pencil post

 

 

Feedback, Questions and Comments

I love to talk about art. I am keen to discuss and share drawing experiences. If there is anything you would like to know or discuss, please get in touch.  Chances are other people will be wondering the same things that you are. Using dry media means mixing colours right on the paper, as opposed […]

Night Moves

“Night Moves”
oil pastels and coloured pencils. 240 x 350 mm.
April 2018

“We weren’t in love oh no far from it” (Bob Seger sings in “Night Moves“).   Nor am I in love with Moulin Rouge  but I certainly am captivated by her lit-up sails and their effect on Place Blanche.  “I used her, she used me but neither one cared/we were getting our share“.  She gives me art, I give her publicity (not that she needs any from me)!!

“Night Moves” is a partner to “Irresistible Blanche”.  They are the same size and will hang side by side when exhibited in September.

For those of you interested in my technique using oil pastels as undercoat to coloured pencils, below is the drawing when the oil pastel/undercoat stage was completed.  At this point I was ready to begin layering coloured pencils on top.  You can read about this technique in my post Brush and Pencil or in the April 2018 issue of Ann Kullberg’s Color –  https://annkullberg.com/collections/color-magazine-all-issues

You could say the cake was the oil pastel and the icing the coloured pencils.  Cake + icing = delicious!

 

 

Still Life

“Still Life”
A drawing in oil pastels and coloured pencils.
360 x 385 mm. February 2018.

“Still Life” is an arrangement of shapes, colours and textures observed while eating breakfast on Wednesday 19 October 2016 at a Beaubourg café.  I look up from my chocolat chaud and there it is…an abstract collage of ordinary life…patiently awaiting my attention.

In this urban scene on the intersection of rue Quincampoix and rue Aubry le Boucher banality and elegance dance a stationary duet.   My imagination is captured, causing the art area of my brain to flash with excitement.  We have contact!

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Technical note 1:  “Still Life” is drawn with an undercoat of oil pastels and a top coat of coloured pencils.  Caran d’Ache Neopastels are used for undercoat on the left part of the drawing which is depicting distance (the buildings).  For the in-your-face wall on the right and ‘sens interdit‘ (no entry) sign I have utilized the bold Sennelier oil pastel.  The different qualities of these two pastel brands work together to help create both subtle distance and strong close up texture.

Technical note 2:  On complementary colours:  How did I get the reds in the drawing to stand out?  By surrounding them with green.  While you don’t look at the drawing and say to yourself, “There is obviously green around those reds”, yet it is present; plenty of it, worked subtly into the chromatic colours.

To see the original post on working with oil pastels in combination with coloured pencils, see Brush and Pencil

source photo for “Still Life”

 

 

Day Trip to Giverny

“Day Trip to Giverny”
mixed media drawing 325 x 415 mm. January 2018

“Day Trip to Giverny” is a drawing of a scene I photographed in Monet’s garden .  I have often looked at the 2012 source photo but it looked a bit daunting to draw.  However in January 2018 I decided to try.

At first I stared at my page thinking, “I have no idea how to begin”.   I started at the back and over time gradually moved forward.  The drawing process with brush and pencil was an enjoyable and stimulating adventure.  (I use a bristle brush to transfer the pigment from oil pastel to paper.  Then I work the pencils over/into the pastels.   I call this method ‘dry painting’.)

Working on the drawing brought back the feeling of quiet ecstasy I experienced while taking in the sights, sounds and perfumes which Monet’s garden offered me.  As I had visited the garden in late October, there were only one or two days of viewing left before the garden was closed for its winter rest.  It wasn’t a riot of extravagant colour as it is in high summer – consequently there were just a few visitors besides me.  Rather, it was a subtle wilderness beneath a gentle grey sky.  It was – heaven.

The drawing as a work-in-progress with my photo on the left.

 

Contents of Posts Index

Here is a list of posts in descending order from the earliest to the most recent.  Click on any title to go straight to the post of your choice.    [Note: Pages, as opposed to posts, are the titles you see on the black background at the top of your screen.] Welcome  a brief introduction and hello Quiet a drawing about a […]

Subject 3: Mixed Media Impressionism

Coloured pencils and oil pastels lend themselves to out-of-focus subject matter.   Together you can use them for bold or very subtle mark-making.  Indeed, you can make entirely blurry (or soft focus) drawings. A soft-focus drawing becomes an abstract composition.  One can concentrate on composition; balance, colours and shapes without being bogged down by detail.  There […]

Art Materials

Choosing art materials is as personal as choosing friends.  What works for me may also work for you.  Here is a page showing you the art materials I use for my drawings.   Some of my drawings are 100% coloured pencils while others use wax/oil crayons combined with coloured pencils. My favourite paper is Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed […]

About Julie Podstolski

Welcome to my blog!  Here is a short introduction to my art career.  Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, I studied art at University of Canterbury in Christchurch,  gaining a Diploma of Fine Arts (3 year course) with a major in painting.  I graduated in 1980. I moved to Australia with my husband in 1982.  We thought […]