Home > Painting, Uncategorized > Basic Information: From Coloring Book to Painting, Part 1

Basic Information: From Coloring Book to Painting, Part 1

December 19, 2011

Oil stick on gelatin sized paper, a rapid study I made for an abstract painting.

If you have memories about the joys of coloring with crayons as a child, but feel thwarted by painting as an adult, there is a way back to the happy days of coloring.  I loved coloring and can honestly say that I never gave it up.  (It really helps insomnia.) Crayola crayons were without parallel to my childhood, pure joy.  The best thing about having had this childhood experience is that it can be used to make an oil painting.

You can use oil sticks, also called oil pastels or cray pas, to color with and create an oil painting.  They are thicker sticks of the same materials paint is made of: colored pigments and an oil-based binder.  For the first step, start by coloring with the sticks on primed canvas or a heavy weight paper, like gelatin sized paper or watercolour paper.  I like to blend colors together when coloring with the oil sticks in their dry state. For the second step, in order to turn what you colored into a painting, dip a paint brush into a solvent and lightly brush the solvent over the oil stick marks you made.  The oil stick turns liquid and can be pushed around to a remarkable degree.  I make sure to wipe and clean my brush a lot during this stage to keep the colors clean, especially when working different colored areas, but you can muddy the colors up if you like.

You don’t have to get the work perfect on the first attempt.  When you are finished, you can let the work dry and go back to it, coloring over the existing work with new layers or retouching the painting in the areas you want to re-work.   Do a Google image search for “oil stick paintings”.  You will see a wide range of abstract, expressive or naturalistic / realistic styles of oil stick paintings.

Oil stick study I made of a Tiffany Favrile vase on canvas paper.

Best of all, an oil stick set is a low cost introduction to basic painting concepts.  Sets can be purchased for as low as $5.00 USD and are very economical.  More expensive sets, by brand name makers or ones that come containing a wide range of colors, will be much higher in price.  Also, it is hard to find metallic, neon or pearlized oil paints, but it is very easy to find these specialty hues in stick form.  I have reached for oil sticks to get neon green or silver worked into an oil painting.  You can also buy clear, translucent “blending” oil sticks to blend colors together, as an alternative to or in addition to using a solvent.

Oil sticks have a wonderful history.  Pablo Picasso was complaining to Parisian art supply maker and paint manufacturing business owner Henri Sennelier that the world lacked a medium that could be used to work on paper, wood, metal and a variety or other surfaces.  Picasso wanted something fast and more flexible, something that he could grab and work with. Henri Sennelier responded to this request and the first oil sticks came into production in 1949.

Pencil and oil stick sketch on watercolour paper of my pet Betta fish.  It’s not that great, pretty cartoonish; my right index finger was crushed and in a cast at the time.

Categories: Painting, Uncategorized
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