This drawing in oil pastel is near completion. All the fishes still need a going over; some more than others (like the guy on the lower left who’s only blocked in). When I see it across the room I love the design and the overall affect of the colors. Partly for that reason I sometimes fail to notice how much is unfinished. My mind jumps to the things I like. Seeing the painting reduced in photography helps me sort out what needs attention.
It’s oil pastel (Caran D’Ache Neopastel) on violet Canson mi-teintes pastel paper. The darkish violet-purple is a wonderful tone to work on, making all the colors really strong, especially the lights.
This one’s going to the framer when it’s complete. Hopefully that will happen fairly soon.
If it looks familiar, that’s because I’ve also been working on this motif in a painting that’s still in the works too.
I like doing the same motif more than once. The differences interest me. I’m not sure why. They become variations on a theme as in music.
Certainly the white ground of the painting verses the violet tone of the paper makes them dramatically different in feeling and mood.
16 thoughts on “Another koi drawing”
You inspire me to try oil pastels….I have worked with them in the past just a little and I had presented it to my art instructor in college and he deemed it to be wonderful and symbolism. Ever since I connect my oil pastel with his having given me a glimpse into what I truly want to convey in my art….symbolism! I see what you mean the difference of the paper ground…..white vs. violet. I love your completed painting…..oh I want oil pastels! I have been thinking of switching my soft pastels out to oil pastels because the dry ones affect me in the art room. I have been a bit slow in this decision because from what I have seen (judgement coming) oil pastel doesn’t have the look or finesse that I like….sorry! until NOW! I am following someone who paints landscapes with oil pastel and I went WOW! look what you can do with them! anyhow…my thoughts are jumping out of the water here. Lovely paintings! I have been wanting to take a week or more and really study your blog. You are a treasure trove of creativity that I can’t wait to mine and learn from. 🙂
If you get oil pastels, I’d recommend Caran d’Ache Neopastel. There’s a 12 stick set that has a pretty good balance for an almost full color palette. So it’s a good set for trying them out. If you like them you can get a larger selection later.Some other brands, by contrast, have weak pigment loads and can be exceedingly frustrating to use. (Actually more like worthless, but I’m trying to be diplomatic.)
Sennelier makes what is probably the most famous oil pastel product, but it’s very expensive and it has an oil that bleeds into the paper and the bleed through poses a bit of a problem. Also it has a consistency like lipstick, which means different things — it can produce an interesting surface — and you can go through it rather easily making it a very, very expensive material to use.
I use the Neopastels almost exclusively, but I have some Senneliers too. The Van Gogh pastels and various other brands are much cheaper and yet not worth the money because they’re so inferior.
Caran d’Ache has a 48 stick set that provides really almost everything I need, but I also get the 96 stick sets because — just because. Sometimes I have to buy extra white sticks since white gets used up faster (just as with paint). I often buy open stock on the colors that I use most frequently.
Another caveat about oil pastel. Like dry pastel, the medium is well suited to “medium acuity” imagery (a term I just made up). What I mean is that if you take the stick and make an ordinary line with it, that line is your level of detail. Anything smaller and you’re fighting with the material to make a thinner line.
People who like very linear imagery are typically going to want something that makes finer lines, especially if they work on small scales. The koi picture is on a sheet that’s 19 x 26 inches. At another post I did some faces using oil pastel and those measure 9 x 12 (maybe a little smaller because I didn’t use the whole sheet out to the edges). Anyway, look for a single individual line in the drawing and that’s the level of detail.
I say this because pastel is one of those things where the appearance of the material is simply what it is. I like the marks to be visible. I’m not trying to avoid them. But people who want a smooth surface probably wouldn’t enjoy this medium. You can make it smoother by using smooth paper, of course. I use smooth watercolor paper sometimes and it’s a great surface because you can smear oil pastels as well as draw strokes with them and the smearing works well on a smooth surface and looks attractive. They can also be thinned using the same solvents that thin oil paint. Sometimes I thin them with Gamsol to produce a thin veil. But mostly I just smear them if I want that effect.
I wear exam gloves when I work (if saves my hands from lots of washing, reuseing the gloves until they wear out). And I’ve found that the plastic of the glove is really super for smearing the oil pastels.
I have wondered about the Sennelier ones because well they look so yummy. 🙂 but yes the price is a big issue and I have read that they are buttery but then I figured usually that means that they are used up fast. Okay, another day on another dime, not now. I will do that this summer. Oh, I have read somewhere that they need to be protected from heat. This has been a concern especially for plein air. I will be getting a small set now and maybe a larger set if I like them. Who knows I might find a use for Canson! I hate it with soft pastels because it doesn’t have the tooth I want but I would imagine with oil pastels, it would work great. Thank you for your feedback.
I find that oil pastels are easier to use in warm weather. The warmer temperature makes them apply in a smoother way to the page. In fact, to the extent that I do en plein air work (which is admittedly not often), I prefer oil pastels to everything else. They’re easy to carry, easy to use, and they produce results very similar to oil paint. When I do en plein air, it’s to produce studies to use in studio painting so this combination works really well for me. That said, a work made in oil pastel has a beauty of its own so used as an en plein air medium for its own sake is also a great option.
Whatever you heard about heat probably involved a caution about LOTS of heat. For instance, you wouldn’t want to leave them sitting in a hot car for a long time. They might just melt. That would be messy and expensive.
Senneliers are yummy. Such a beautiful product which is why I do use them sometimes. But I found that over-all the Caran d’Ache do everything I want with fewer issues and at a lower cost.
During the summer I paint before the heat comes in strong….so it will work. In that case when travelling in hot weather or whatnot while plein air painting, packing an ice-chest to keep them cool. 🙂 getting a game plan already! oh sorry….another question. What are your favorite supports for oil pastel besides Canson?
You don’t need an ice chest. Or, put it this way, if you’re comfortable, they’re comfortable. If it’s hot enough that you start to melt, they’ll melt too!
Other support I use a lot is Strathmore 400 series drawing paper. It’s a good sturdy paper. And sometimes I use smooth watercolor paper — a very heavy paper — if I’m planning to use solvents.
Otherwise the Strathmore for a white surface and Canson for a toned surface. Or, also, you can use the smooth watercolor paper to tone the paper yourself, then use oil pastel on top of the make-your-own toned ground.
ah….I meant that I would use a ice chest when it is super hot and I have to be out in the heat or leaving them in my truck. Oh this is going to be fun! 🙂 thank you! now to research more….in between all that I already do lol
Love your koi paintings. Beautiful colours – plus interesting thoughts on oil pastels, thanks
Beautiful. I like the energy and the direction of the lines going to a focal area lower left.
Since this morning I had occasion to talk to another artist who uses oil pastel about brands. She also recommends Holbein oil pastels — but only the square ones, which she said are really dense and rich in pigment. She cautioned me to avoid the round ones.
Oh I have heard of the Holbeins but why avoid the round ones? I like the idea of the square because of all those edges. Thank you for asking!
The round ones are more of a student grade. The square ones are the artists’ grade — i.e. denser pigment load.
I should add that “student grade” in oil pastel is especially significant. With paints, most of the time, student grade means inferior paint though often the paint will still function perfectly well for learning, etc. But with oil pastels the student grade brands have a lot of filler, and that filler can really interfere with your being able to use the product.
Sometimes it’s so bad that you literally cannot get the stick to produce the color that it appears to contain. It’ll look great on the stick. Then you apply it to paper and discover that it’s very weak, won’t mix, has no tinting power …
I have a gold fish / koi fetish and even briefly cared for three of these precious critters who I named Dash – who dashed around, Glitter who gleamed bright and gold, and Ripple who always asked for food. Watching them lazily glide through the pond water – not Dash who darted everywhere, shifted me into dreamtime. I know it’s too late now, but the first version of this admittedly lovely koi painting I feel is just perfect – very dreamy. Your beautiful work restores me soul. Thank you!
Diane, what kind words. Thank you so much. And thank you for sharing the story of your koi fishes too. They are beautiful animals, aren’t they?