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How to Draw a Landscape With Oil Pastels

By Edited May 9, 2016 2 3

There are numerous mediums out there to create an image with. I have used quite a few, but oil pastels is a slightly new concept to me. I will detail how I have learned to best apply and use my oil pastels for natural landscape drawings.

Things You Will Need

Kneaded Eraser, A variety of colored oil pastels, Drawing surface- I used illustration board, An image to re-create, pencil ,carbon copy paper (optional)

Step 1

First start by choosing an image suited to your comfort level and liking. If you are just a beginning artist, find an image with fewer colors, and simple subject matter. The more experienced you get, the more complex your drawings will be! After you have chosen an image, you must then determine what size of drawing surface you want to use. For my drawing, I used a 16 x 20in cold compress illustration board. This board is my preference because of it's smooth surface and it is more durable than paper.

Step 2

Now you can move on to choosing the oil pastels
colors that you will need for your drawing. I only keep the colors that I think I will use handy so that I don't get overwhelmed by my choices (colors excite me I guess!). I then take a scrap piece of paper and color a small spot with each pastel and lay the pastels in the order that I colored on the paper. Ths is a great reference point when you are looking for a specific shade- and all of the wrappers are similar or the oils don't look like the color that is on the paper. You also need to have your pencil and needed eraser ready. I chose a kneaded eraser because it pulls the color of of the paper and does not leave those little eraser balls.

Step 3

Beginning Stage

Now this step can be done many different ways, the hardest being a free trace. If you are just starting out, I suggest avoiding this approach unless you are super confident in your accurate perspective and proportion understanding.

I use a few different approaches depending on the type of work I am doing, and for this project I used tracing paper and carbon copy paper. The corresponding picture to this step shows the beginning stages of my drawing, on the right hand side you will notice faint red lines. I used red carbon copy paper to transfer my sketch after using tracing paper to gather an outline for my image. I use colored carbon copy paper because I can better match the hue of my artwork (in this case all warm and mostly brown shades) instead of having grey or black lines show through.

So start by tracing your image, or placing your image directly onto your drawing surface with carbon copy behind it. A cheaper alternative: scribble evenly with a pencil over the backside of your image, then turn it over and trace onto the drawing surface- the pencil is transferred to the board!

Another option: use a ruler to evenly grid your original image. Then count your horizontal squares- make the same amount of squares on your drawing board and make them proportionally larger to fit the larger drawing area. So for example, one sqaure inch on your original drawing would equal a 2 square inch space on your larger drawing if it was twice as large. Once your grid is in place, you will go box by box and free hand draw what is in each box. This helps you stay proportional while still free handing the outline.

Step 4

Once you have your lightly penciled sketch in place you are past the first hardest part!! The second hardest part is learning to layer your various shades to create the texture and light in your drawn image that looks realistic like your original image! I began my shading process by taking my darkest shade that appears in my original image and trace thin lines where the darkest parts are. You will build and darken these areas later. Next you need to take the medium shade that is most prominent in your image and lightly color in those areas; I leave open spaces where the lightest shades or pure white will need to be. You should now have a basic sketch with muted color to follow through the rest of this project.

Step 5

I start by taking my white or lightest shade that appears in the original image and filling in the areas that will be the lightest parts. These are usually the areas the the light source is reflecting off of so keep that in mind for the big picture. At this point it is okay to over color the space or make mistakes, you can cover the light colors easily with the darker shades.

Step 6

Now take your pastel that is a little bit lighter than your medium shade. Use this color to fill in the appropriate areas. You may have a light medium green shade and a light medium brown shade or any other color at this point. In this step you are filling in the subject matter more fully- but dont press the pastel too hard, creating a waxy patter that shows blotchy white spaces. Use a flat surface of your pastel and apply light-to-medium pressure to fill the area in. Then layer your color where there are shadows.

Step 7

You image subject matter should be easily recognizable at this point, if it is not, go back and shade a little more.

If you have filled in your lighter medium shades, you can now embark on the medium to darker shades- save your darkest shades or black for the next step. Take your shades from medium first to darker after, and start shading in the appropriate areas. Make sure to leave the lighter areas un-shaded to give the illusion of depth and tangibility. At this point your image should look pretty good and not quite life-like, but close!

Step 8

Your last step of color layering should be your darkest shade or black. In my image deep brown was my darkest shade as black would have changed the hue of my darker shades and would not blend well with the warm tone of the entire picture. A common misconseption when starting out as an artist is believing that black is the only way you can get deep dark shadows.

If you look at a red ball on a white table with a light shinning on it- you will not see solid black as a shadow on the ball, rather a dull deep red color. When you add black as a shadow, you have to successfully blend a color with black- which absorbs all colors! It doesn't usually work well!

But back to your drawing, carefully start adding small lines and details where there should be shadows. You can always add more color and space- but it is almost impossible to totally take away a dark color that is layered or thick. I used my darkest color and started in the corners and creavaces where I knew it was dark, like the corners or under something- and then I begain to work my way out from that central shadow little by little. If you use small circular scribbles, you can avoid what I call "coloring pattern" which is a tell-tale sign that you have either scribbled, or colored everything really straight and the surface has a hatching grain to it.

To finish off this project go back and layer in your medium and light shades to better blend your color. And this time, don't look at a specific section of the image. Look at the image as a whole and add details that stand out to you or details that aren't quite right can be fixed. To complete this drawing, I take my lightest shades and color over the lightest areas, as well as the shades between light and medium to brighten them. I then take my lighter-than-medium shade to go over the medium-to-darkest shades to blend them and give the shades more variation.

Once you are done you are able to leave the image as is, or take a little bit of water and a brush to your image to blend it into a water color-like project!

Tips & Warnings

Don't start out by pressing the pastel to the paper, get a darker shade by layering. You won't be able to erase dark lines as easily as light sketched lines when you make a mistake. The kneaded eraser will NOT pull up all of the color- so treat lightly when drawing your outlines!


Dec 22, 2010 2:22pm
nice one.............could serve as a manual;).....
Jan 8, 2011 11:58am
very thorough! I hope this gets a large number of reads, it's better than anything you'll find on eHow.
Jan 10, 2011 1:17am
very complete article you should soon become the person to see on this topic. I'd build a niche with many more articles like this all interlinking. Great job thumbs up all the way!!
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