Archive for January, 2008

A Passion For Periwinkle

Making Waves - Tiger in water - click to see larger imageI was recently reading one of my favorite blogs. Maggie Stiefvater has both wonderful artwork, as well as a great writing style. One of her recent posts was about complementary colors. This got me to thinking of what complementary colors I use in my work.

Periwinkle is my all time favorite color for painting. (It doesn’t really appear anywhere else in my life.) Nearly every painting I do has periwinkle in it. I almost always couple it with ginger. The two complementary colors just pop when placed together. I actually purchase more periwinkle and ginger pastels, than I do blacks or whites.

The three paintings I have shown here are all recent examples of paintings where I utilize these complements in greater and lesser degrees. On the oil pastel tiger painting called Making Waves, the gingers are obvious, but the periwinkle is subtle. The black stripes are mostly a deep purple with periwinkle hightlights.

Days End - Belgian Draft Horses - click to see larger image On this oil pastel painting of the Belgian draft horse team called Days End, much of the shadow area is done in a wine color mixed with purple. Nearly all the highlights on the flynet and tack are periwinkle.

Devotion - Mare and Foal - click to see larger image And with the mare and foal oil pastel painting called Devotion, yet again periwinkle colors are used instead of all grays for the nose and eye areas. The lavendar color adds a softness which lessens the harshness of the grays.

I am not sure how I got to the point of loving this color combination. It just sort of happened. My techniques develop almost organically, without a lot of directed thought. I think that is why I am a self-taught artist. It is all about the exploration and discovery.

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Snow Pony

Snow poney Todays weather forecast: Blowing Snow

Actually these photos were taken 2 days back. I didn’t have my camera this morning but he was completely covered in snow. The only dark spots on him were his eyes and nostrils.
No he is not an appaloosa
For the past two days it has been in the low 40’s temperature wise. Sunny and glorious. (Brings to mind, planting the garden and enjoying the great outdoors.) Today, I woke and was greeted with blizzard conditions. I could barely see to the barn. Whoh! As I staggered inside the barn I was greeted with my usual good morning nicker from my snow encrusted horse. I am always a little surprised to see him coated in snow. He can come in out of the wind whenever he wants to. But apparently he doesn’t mind the wind and snow. Rain however, now thats different. As soon as he feels the first little sprinkle on his backside he is inside the barn, peeking out the door.

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Oil Pastel Tips

  • Have a plan. As I have mentioned before, I draw everything out in advance. The pastels stain my substrate and so it is problematic to scrape off a color that is wrong and replace it with another color of similar values or lighter. Another way to deal with this is to use lighter colors first. When you apply darker colors over light, you can scrape away all of the pastel and have minimal staining.
  • For smoother blending, it is best to work consistently. If you leave the painting alone for as little as 15 minutes the pastel “sets up” and makes a rough edge. rubbing your finger lightly over the painting or warming the pastel a bit in your hand will help when going back in to work an older area.
  • Letting the pastel “set up” can be an advantage when you want to put a strong color or highlight over the already existing painting. Often I will let a painting set over night before I put my whitest whites in, over the top of another color.
  • Be aware of your lighting situation. Oil pastels will glow under the desk lamps. I think this is because the underlying board is reflecting light through the pastels. However when you put the painting under normal room lighting it may well look dark. I have had this happen several times. Under the table lights it is luminous (insert angelic chorus here.) Then when I hang it on the wall, it is flat and lifeless. So disappointing. How I handle this is by working with my table lamps off. I try to work under the normal lighting conditions that it will be viewed in. This also means I don’t paint much at night anymore, either.
  • Clean up. As mentioned before, oil pastels are messy. They develop little booger like tags which roll all over and smear. The floor under my drafting table is all speckled and nasty. About every 2 months (it really should be done much more often) I take some dish soap and scrub like the dickens. Goo Gone also works well. Or, if I were a wiser person I would lay down some paper which could be picked up and tossed.

Tools For Working With Oil Pastels

  • Gloves. Disposable gloves are a blessing. Oil pastels are quite messy and greasy. If you don’t want to be constantly washing your hands, I highly recommend getting gloves. I change my gloves regularly as well to avoid tracking on my painting. I go through 10-20 in an afternoon.
  • Turpenoids. I personally don’t use them other than for cleaning up. However they are great if you want to use a paint brush with your pastels. Also you can smudge and soften using a rag and a little turpenoid.
  • Paper Towels. I use paper towels to wipe the tips of my pastels. This helps to prevent cross contamination of colors.
  • Tools I use with oil pastel

  • Ceramic Tools. These are great for scraping out a large area or removing just tiny little bits. They have a pointed blade on one side and a curved almost spoon like hook on the other.
  • Detail of color shaping tools I use for oil pastel

  • Color Shapers. I have color shapers that come in various sizes, shapes, points and firmness’. You an get them at most of the same places as oil pastels. They are good for smoothing rough edges, minor blending and cleaning up the little tags of oil pastel that are on the surface of the painting.

These of course aren’t all of the possible tools you could use. These are just the one I use regularly and consistently. Go experiment and have fun.

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Speaking of Pony Kisses…

Carol and her horse Catch I received this photo from Carol Eilers, the editor of Apples N’ Oats magazine, and just had to post it. Catch is a 27 year old morgan and he loves to give kisses. And not always when you expect it.

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Reasonably Proud of Myself

So I have to pat myself on the back. I completed my column for Apples N’ Oats magazine a full 10 days ahead of the deadline. This is my second year writing about painting horses for A&O and I have never completed an article (and got it emailed off) sooner than 48 hours before it was due. Most often, I am squeaking it in, in the last 24. You know, much like painting, there is always more tweaking that could to be done. (Just a little more, no wait…just a little more.) So kudos to me! WhooHoo!

Apples N’ Oats, by the way is a great magazine, if you have horses or just love them, you need to check it out. It has great articles on just about everything equine related. Also Carol Eilers, the editor is excellent at what she does and she is just a sweetheart to boot. (And I’m not just saying that because I write for her.) You can check out the current or past issues at the Apples N’ Oats website.

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Pony Kisses

We’ve had blowing snow for a couple of days now. And while I could have gone out and taken some photos of snow laden pine trees, frost covered grasses or our lovely drifty creek. I chose to illustrate our winter weather with these photos.

Gimme a little smooch

Hey, nothing says winter weather more than a frosty butt

Chicory's icy tail

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So What Are Oil Pastels Anyway?

A Brief History
Oil pastels are a relatively new medium. They were originally developed in 1921 and later improved in 1927 at the Sakura Crayon Company. The original product was to be a combination of the crayon and the pastel. Thus the name Cray-Pas was born. Cray-Pas are considered a children’s medium as they are made with dyed fillers and have no archival qualities.

In 1949 Henri Sennelier, in collaboration with Pablo Picasso and Henri Goetz, created a new professional grade oil pastel. Picasso is said to have asked for a medium that could work on any surface, such as wood, canvas and metal. Oil pastel offered him the most direct way to work. No brush or instrument interfered between the artist’s gestures and the work.

What Are Oil Pastels?
Oil pastels are small crayon like sticks. They measure about 3″ long and 1/4″ thick They can be square or round, and may or may not come wrapped in paper.

There are three grades of oil pastels.

  • Children’s Grade (Cray-Pas)
  • Student Grade (Van Gogh)
  • Professional Grade (Holbein, Sennelier)

Professional grade oil pastels consist of a pigment mixed with a non-drying inert oil and wax binder. They are non-yellowing and acid free. Oil pastels can be applied to any surface as they have excellent adhesion. They will never harden, so they will never crack and they maintain archival stability.

Protecting the Artwork
Because they never really dry, they must be handled carefully as they can be damaged. Most artists use 1 of 3 methods to protect their completed works.

  • Cover with a wax paper.
  • Frame under glass. (My personal way of going.)You must be sure to provide an air space between the glass and the painting with the use of matting or spacers.
  • Apply a fixative or varnish. This is somewhat controversial. Sennelier makes an oil pastel fixative spray. But I would recommend only using it with Sennelier oil pastels. Personally, I don’t use fixative because Holbein, my main brand, says not too.

Sample sticks of oil pastel

The Brands I Use
Most oil pastels vary in coverage and texture. Some are very firm while others are buttery soft. Experiment with a few different types when trying to determine whether oil pastels are a medium for you. All the brands I use are professional grade.

Holbein – my favorite. They are firm have great coverage and color and are wonderful for mark making. They also have an extensive color range.

Caran d’ Ache – This was the first brand I tried and I enjoyed them so much I never looked back. The are slightly softer than the Holbeins with a more limited color range.

Sennelier – Excellent quality oil pastel. They are buttery soft. Because of this I am not a huge fan. However their colors are sumptuous. I do use Senneliers but tend to mix them with the afore mentioned other two.

Note: I recently tried Sakura Specialist They were recently created by Cray-Pas. They are seriously hard and their coverage is a little weak. When I first tried them I was disappointed but I have played with them some since. And have learned to use them in combination with the others effectively. Not my favorite, but that is more about how I prefer to work than a reflection of the pastels.

Where I Get My Oil Pastels.
I usually get whatever open stock (individual pastels) I can at whatever local art supply stores we run across when we are out at an event. Usually Dick Blick. Living in the boonies as we do, this means I can usually only replace the most common brands.

Where To Find Open Stock
www.dickblick.com In most DickBlick stores.
www.dakotapastels.com These guys are great. They carry all the brands in open stock. The only place that I have found so far, that does so.

Where To Find Complete Sets

History Reference: http://www.oilpastelsociety.com

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