Looking to create your own oil pastels landscape? Look no further! This is it. Follow along while I paint this sparkling stream in Northern Idaho in a 7 x 7 inch size with easy steps and ProTips:
Oil Pastels are easy and fun to create artwork with, but they are unique and have their own specialties in techniques! If you are new to the medium, please read our comprehensive article about them here. For this demonstration, I’ll be working with oil pastel using supplies from my stash of NeoPastels, Cray-Pas Expressionist, Mungyo and a few sticks of Sennelier. If you are interested in learning about the best oil pastels (and the worst) brands, check out our review and tests of the 15 best oil pastels article here.
The techniques that I will use are:
- Color mixing on a palette with a palette knife
- Dry brush
- Blending with a stump
- Blending with OMS
Follow along steps for your oil pastels landscape artwork
Because I knew I wanted to use a granulated paper for the purpose of mottled color, I used Arches Oil Paper, which has a texture similar to cold-press watercolor paper.
Lightly sketch in the rudimentary outlines of the landscape with a pencil.
Using a dry-brush technique, create the water with a light olive, a medium-light grey and a medium grey olive, leaving many sparkles of light. I’m going to use a watercolor technique of leaving the white of the paper for the whites of the water.
Apply the sky with a pale blue and blend it out with a few swipes of white oil pastel. Blend with a stump until no particles of the white paper shows through.
Using your pale lavender and pale grey-blue, lay the colors next to each other and on top of each other in random order. Make sure to leave the area where the evergreen trees on the left will eventually be located. Blend with a stump until no white particles of the paper show through, using verticle strokes to imitate distant trees.
Using the tip of a pointed palette knife or a dull blade, scratch small vertical lines into the area to suggest a few tree trunks.
Do not overblend! The mottled colors will give the illusion of far distance trees.
Begin adding colors for the back hill using medium violet, periwinkle, medium grey, palest flesh and a bit of medium grey.
Using a little bit of OMS on a bristle brush, blot it nearly dry on a paper towel and stroke-blend the colors so that no white of the paper shows through. Do not over blend though, the idea is to maintain distinct color units of the rock formation.
Wait until close to the end to do finals adjustments on this rocky escarpment. As colors play off of each other, what initially looks correct will need to be adjusted. For now, I know the value is correct, but the chroma (the vividness of the colors) is TOO high. I’ll be able to evaluate this much, much better as the painting evolves elsewhere.
Using only medium greens and grey-green hues, paint in the trees on the far shore: paler and grayer green in the back and darker greens in the front. Also using a deep orange-brown, lay in two areas for sgraffito technque.
Preplan where you are going to scratch-through to lower layers and get that under color down FIRST. You can always layer darker color on top later if you decide to not scrape down to that layer later.
Composition is key here: think groups of trees as family members in a group photo – some will stand in front and some will stand in back, but they will overlap into each other’s ‘space’ and create overlapping forms.
Scratch a few dead tree trunks into the paint in the areas where you did the orange-brown under layer.
Give a rough shape to the solitary trees on the left and the one wolf on the near shoreline.
Add a few dots of yellow ochre where the sunlight is reaching a few trees in the background.
For the foreground, use darker hues and brighter chroma pastels, as this area is closest to the viewer. I chose to lay-in the brightest, lightest yellows and greens first using stipple – pointillism strokes. This will keep the lighter colors pristine and remind me not to blend into those areas. I create color groups of foliage and compose as I go so that the viewer’s eyes will be guided in a visual pathway around the painting and not get hung up on a strong focal point.
Next I add dark green and darker orange-browns to the shrub areas and began laying the darkest shadow area in the lower right with dark purple, dark warm brown and dark blue.
Add a hint of dark trunks to the solitary trees on the left.
Using Sennelier light grey, dry-brush over the far back hills to reduce the high chroma of the purple and blue.
Now I need to decide where I want to reduce the sparkle of the white of the paper showing through. I’ll start with the darkest shadowed area in the lower right. Using a blending stump, I blend out all the pastel in this area while still trying to preserve distinct color changes between hues.
Be judicious about where you use complete blending. The sparkles of the paper are really delightful and need to be preserved where they will serve the painting the best.
Finger blend the pathway colors into a mottled blend, until nearly all the white paper is covered with paint.
With a grey Faber-Castell oil polychromo pencil, draw in thin lines for the ripples in the stream in a few areas. I made sure to leave the bulk of the sunlight stream white.
Using a dark green pencil, add a few tiny strokes on the closest evergreen tree and shrubs to indicate twigs and branch tips.
I wish I had sharpened my pencil before I tried this step! If I was going for very fine lines, I would not have been able to do it with a dull pencil tip.
I wasn’t finding the colors for the footpath that I wanted in my supply of oil pastels sticks, so I used my basic set of Sennelier Oil Pastels and using a small palette knife, I took a small sample from a dark brown, a light flesh, a yellow ochre and a white and blended three different shade of warm sand color on my palette. Here’s a short video showing how I trowel it on, scratch blend it in and remove a bit as I adjust all around the pathway:
This is where the rougher texture of the paper is really helpful!
Now is the time to step back and look at the composition from a few feet away and see where adjustments need to be made.
I wanted the eye to travel up the footpath into the center area more firmly, so I added darker browns to the path on the edges and created more shrubbery overlap on to the path so that it had a more stepped-into edge instead of a diagonal line.
I also added a few darkest darks to the right shadowed shrubbery to create an entrance into the painting, like a doorway.
A well designed composition is crucial to the success of a painting, especially in landscapes. The idea is to guide the viewer’s eye in a controlled path around the painting. The main objective is to keep the viewer engaged and not accidentally let their eyes wander off the sides of the edges of the painting and away onto other things. All the diagonal lines in the hill, the tree lines, the pathway, shrubs and stream are all carefully controlled to keep a continuous visual loop going.
7.5 inches x 7.75 inches
If you are viewing this on your desktop, this is going to look absurdly huge and blown up. It’s like looking at a face so close up that all the pores of the skin show up! If you are viewing on a tablet or phone, it should look more like it appears in person. In real life, this painting would be framed and viewed from about 24 inches distance or more, which would reduce the size it appears dramatically and all the tiny details blur out into masses and blends of hues. (Which is the point of pointillism, after all).
We hope you give this landscape a try with your oil pastels! If you enjoyed this demonstration, check out our flower tutorial here.