One of my most popular oil pastels pieces is “Little Hawk”. I took several pictures along the way, to demonstrate some of the techniques that I like to use when drawing with oil pastels.
In this demo, I go over seven steps to completion of the drawing.
As I usually do with oil pastels, I begin by making a sketch of my subject, then work from there. Normally I like to get a feel for the base colors in the piece, however for this one I was really focused on that beak and the eye and so I began getting detailed there first.
Usually I try to avoid getting too detailed too quickly, however this time around I decided to take a risk with that. Luckily it worked out in the end.
Next I fill in some base colors, particularly the background. I also continue the focus on the beak area and around the eye.
I found it was difficult here to get the finer lines with my oil pastels. I had to sharpen each pastel to a fine point for nearly every line here.
In this step I am still focused on the area from the eye to the beak, and I’m also adding more depth to the eye. I feel that I actually overdid it here – it got too dark in front of the eye, and as you’ll see in the next steps, I ended up lightening that area.
In this step I begin filling in colors for the rest of the head.
In my normal routine of working on an oil pastels piece, I would usually have done this in an earlier step. I usually like to establish some base colors throughout the piece first, but in this case I felt confident everything would come together in the end.
Next I work out more of the details in the feathers on the rest of the head. I also have not been satisfied with the depth of the brow over the eye and I continue to work on that.
In this step everything is finally falling into place. I have been focused on the feathering and the rest of the head here.
Initially I wanted to get more detailed, but eventually I felt that the piece was working fine without fine details in the feathering. Since there is more detail in the eye and beak area, this helps to keep a focus in the front of the face, where it probably should be.
In the final step, I have touched up everything all around. I have added more whisker detail under the mouth, added a little bit more detail in the eye, and I have made the feathering in the back of the head even darker in places. This is one of those pieces where it can be extremely tempting to endlessly continue on and on fixing details, and I had been doing that until I finally found a place I was comfortable with leaving it.
I feel I have completed a strong piece, although I was not very satisfied with the surface I used. It is a page out of a pad of Canson Mi-Tientes paper, which normally should be used for sketching and studies rather than a more serious piece or artwork.
I actually have a list of recommended paper for oil pastels. For a demonstration or sketch, Mi-Tientes is acceptable, but maybe a heavier weight paper or even Pastelbord would have worked better.
I hope you enjoyed this study in oil pastel techniques. Feel free to ask a question or leave comments in the form below!