Oil Pastels for Beginners

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Originally developed in Japan in 1921 for children, oil pastels (wax oil crayons) are popular all over the world for all ages.
Originally developed in Japan in 1921 for children, oil pastels (wax oil crayons) are popular all over the world for all ages.

Because oil pastels (wax oil crayons) are relatively inexpensive, they are perfect for adding to sketches and drawings. Once applied, the color can be manipulated with other tools and solvents to achieve some stunning effects. Oil pastels are sold in craft stores in sets of up to 60 (and sometimes more) colors, so they are the ideal medium for you to begin exploring your artistic side with very little investment---just the pastels and some heavy art paper.

Getting Started

Because oil pastels are so portable, you can easily take them outside for inspiration and creation. Exercise caution in hot weather, because they will melt. In warmer climates, choose a shady location and allow two to four hours to produce your first picture. You can begin with trees and flowers. As you gain experience, plan to produce entire landscapes. Celebrate the seasons and, before you know it, you will have created a series worthy of the masters.

Begin with a pencil sketch or perhaps a tracing of a simple object like an apple. Then, add color with loose strokes, starting with the darkest colors. Apply color heavily for the strongest effective. Apply lightly if you want to blend one color with another to achieve a softer look. Experiment with applying the colors in different layers and of varying thicknesses to see how it appears. As the artist, it is up to you to decide what expression to use.

Finishing Up

Oil pastel creations do need to be protected for long-term preservation and viewing. To protect your art, you can frame it (be sure to leave a little space between the glass and your art work), brush on some acrylic gel or apply a spray fixative. Experiment with each different method, depending on your budget, to see which results suit your style and subjects.

Showcasing Your Work

Because the colors tend to be dramatic, pictures created with oil pastels photograph well, so you can upload your digital photos to share your work (possibly even for critique and advice) using social networking websites. You may learn new things, make new friends and possibly even find a buyer for your creations.

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