How to Use Oil Pastels for a Background

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The background of a drawing or painting can be filled in using oil pastels, and the colors can be blended easily into shadow areas. Make an oil pastel background look like a painting with creative tips from an art instructor in this free video on using oil pastels.

Part of the Video Series: Oil Pastel Techniques
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Video Transcript

I'd like to show you a little about using pastels in your background. I've already begun the first step, here I have a composition of a pear and an apple. And I've basically scribbled in some background color and it looks as you'll see a lot like crayon coloring. But we want to develop it so it looks more like painting. So I've taken the basic brown and just lightly and you'll notice I hold from the back end of the pastel because I'm trying to cover a large area nice and loose, just to fill in the basic color. But since I want this to be a table coming towards you, I'd like to add a little to the back to darken the tone. And I've chosen some blue, indigo blue or a lighter form of that, a Prussian blue to make the tone a little deeper in the background. And also to use some of the color that I've already used in the apple and the pear. So I want to use those colors around in my painting, I'll even use them in the background here. Because here I can almost see my pear fading into the background, so I want to darken the background tones just a little bit with a nice lose stroke being careful not to run over anything. And just add it a little to the background, very simple, very lose. And then as I work, build it up with some white. It doesn't have to be a lot of detail, it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, I may choose to leave my background a little bit textured. And have the table be a little bit smoother because it's more of a hard surface. I'm trying to follow the shape of the fruit to emphasize the energy of the form and on the table, I may use more finger blending, back and forth to show the texture of the surface of the table. I've got dark in the background but to have the table pop forward, I want to add a little lighter tone of the brown. And since I've noticed it's not blending very well, I'll build up my paint a little bit. So I'm just pushing a little harder where I need to and pushing a little lighter to use the pastel as a blending stick. Layering it in tones of light and dark until I have something that I'm satisfied with. I can use that blue to develop a little shadow underneath the apple, underneath the pear and a shadow in between, and work it into my painting. And as I blend, you'll notice I'm blending side to side because the table lies flat and I want to emphasize that. Then you can decide if you see some golden tones in the apple, maybe you want to try using some of them in the foreground of the table to add a little rich warm tone to it. Now if you don't want to have just a simple background, you can use the pastels in a more colorful abstracted way. Here's an example of just splitting up the space geometrically and repeating some warm tones or using vibrant colors to emphasize the vibrant colors of your subject.

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