Sunday, June 10, 2012

Comparing Oil and Pastel....My Thoughts after 2 months with Oils

'The Sweet Smell of Summer I'         6x8    oil on panel    ©Karen Margulis SOLD

'The Sweet Smell of Summer II'          6x8       pastel     Available HERE $125
It's been two months since I picked up a paint brush and tried my hand at oils. I've painted around 35 small oils which is pretty close to my goal of 5 paintings each week.  I haven't deserted my pastels. They are my old friends. I have been trying to balance doing the oils with keeping up with pastels. It has been 2 months full of learning new things and the excitement to get into the studio to paint has been wonderful!  I have been asked though if I prefer one medium over the other. I think after 2 months it is really to soon to judge but I would like to share my impressions so far.  I also want to encourage you to try a new medium. I admit, I was hesitant. I was comfortable with pastels. I knew how they worked. I didn't want another thing to learn. But that is exactly why I needed to try something new. I was TOO comfortable with my pastels. This new adventure is something I needed to shake things up a bit. Here are my observations so far:
  • It isn't as difficult as I thought it would be to mix colors. The limited palette I am using is helping to keep it manageable. I can do the same with pastels. I may not be able to mix all my colors but I don't need hundreds of pastels for a painting either.
  • It is easier to carry oil painting gear for a plein air excursion than my pastel set-up. It all fits great in a messenger bag. For pastels, I am encouraged to downsize to make plein air more manageable.
  • Oils are not as messy as pastels (at least for this messy painter!)  I am a funny pastel painter in that I don't like to wear gloves but I don't like dusty fingers either. I am constantly wiping my hands clean when I paint. I find I enjoy painting with a brush because it is neater. On the other hand I do like the intimacy of having the paint(pastels) right in my hands!
  • What I am enjoying most about the oils is the ability to get the texture I crave with pastels. I love seeing the brushstrokes and building up the paint with a palette knife. I love being able to have three dimensional flowers with paint. Even with the softest pastels it is hard to get a thick juicy stroke to match the impasto I can get with oil paint.
Today's paintings are an identical scene with the top one done in oil and the bottom in pastel. Both were approached in the exact same way. My technique for both is the same. I tones a white surface  orange/yellow. I blocked in the main shapes with a red-orange. I then blocked in the darks with a red-purple and the sand with golden yellow. I painted the sky then the water then I worked on the greens on the dunes. For the finishing touches I added some grasses and pink beach roses.

If you work in oils and pastels I'd love to hear what you like about each medium!  If you have been wanting to try another medium I heartily recommend it!

3 comments:

Lynn DeJong said...

Hey Karen - I just got back from a week away painting. I find that I have difficulty using a brush to paint in oils. I want to use the palette knife!! I use the brush for the initial block-in, but then the thickness of the paint calls to me to just go at it with the knife. I know I must get used to using spreading the paint with the brush, but I'm having so much fun with the knife :-) I use brushes for watercolor, so it isn't an afraid thing, I think it might be more of an impatience thing, that will probably get better with time and experience. Still love to get dusty though!

Lynn DeJong

Karen said...

Hi Lynn,
I am the same way about the palette knife! I love the texture and interesting blobs of paint I can get. I might try a pure knife painting to get it out of my system!

José said...

Hi Karen,

I like to work with several mediums, namely soft pastels, oils and watercolour.

The one thing that I immediately noticed was that working with more than one medium improves one's skills, showing that it's not about the medium but about the abbility to view and interpretate.

Take care,

José