Experiment, Pine Needles and Pine Cones – oil pastel


If I don’t try new techniques I’ll never know how far I can push oil pastels.  So yesterday and today I’ve been playing with a complex scene (pine needles, pine cones and snow) to see the effects I can get with scraping through an acrylic underpainting (that was dry).  Scraping through oil pastels is a great technique, but I thought I would play a bit to see what happens when it’s done through acrylic.   Okay it wasn’t successful, but a few lessons were learned . . .

My thought was I could scrape through paint to create illusion of pine needles – here is the process I used:

  • Used a 7×5 watercolor paper (no gesso used).
  • Painted underpainting - a combination of:  gray background upper-right, sap green on the rest of the surface (where I planned for pine needles), and finally white acrylic paint over the entire surface covering the green (except for the gray – upper right area).
  • After underpainting dried I attempted to scrape out pine needles through the white acrylic paint.  Didn’t work as acrylic dries rock-solid hard and to scrape out (had to use a razor blade) tore right into the paper and I immediately abandoned the planned strategy.  Bad idea – good thing this wasn’t a serious attempt.
  • Laid down oil pastels painting the snowy scene.
  • I made new pine needle marks (laying down a bit of oil pastels then using a clay shaper I spread the OPs out to create thin pine needles – worked beautifully).

What would I do differently?

  • Use at least 10×8 surface – watercolor or pastel paper (7×5 was much too small for developing snow with pine needles and pine cones - snow alone would be fine at 7×5 size).
  • Develop acrylic underpainting as normally done.
  • Paint the scene with oil pastels.
  • Scrape through oil pastel (it never dries) to create thin pine needles peeking through the snow.

In a future post I’ll do an 8×10 of the same scene and scrape through the oil pastel to show how easy it is to create this effect.  For now here is Pine Needles and Pine Cones,

Pine Needles and Cones

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Oil Pastelist
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32 Responses to Experiment, Pine Needles and Pine Cones – oil pastel

  1. Francesca says:

    Great experiment, Mary! The pine cones against the snow are so beautiful!

  2. dorannrule says:

    You have the mark of a true artist – willingness to experiment toward perfection. I think you are coming close with this technique because the results are beautiful.

    • Mary says:

      Oh Dorann you know how to make my day. Thank you for your kind comments, I have a long ways to go to bring my vision to canvas but I’m happy to have the opportunity to be able to work at it. The best part is being able to discover and create – that’s very rewarding to me. Thanks again ~

  3. poppytump says:

    Lovely *experiment that HAS worked Mary !
    As well as the paint effect I really like the icy blue tones which have crept in to the scene.
    I too think this would make a lovely card.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Poppy, so nice of you – love reading your comments. Me too, the icy blue worked it’s magic in the background and a few strokes here and there. Honest, I wasn’t even going to post this painting – yours and everyone elses comments have overwhelmed me. Thank you and looking forward to your photographs ~

  4. Maria says:

    This one is wonderful! I can’t wait to see the next one using all changed you mentioned!

  5. exiledprospero says:

    Experimentation is the key to success. I like the idea of scraping, somehow. Maybe I’m thinking of scraping the strings inside a grand piano with a fingernail to get an ethereal sound. Luckily, piano strings never dry rock solid–no razor blade necessary.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Ariel’s Prospero, well said. Experimentation is key and sometimes I have to give myself permission to use materials that probably won’t end up being something to keep – when I do, I feel free to just go at it. That is how I discovered using pieces of pipe insulation to spread initial layers of oil pastel so that I’m not ripping the skin off my fingers. Seriously – soft pastelists use this material a lot, but I never heard about oil pastelists using it. Well thank goodness I tried it, because it’s was an incredible experiment of discovery that gave me a mainstay tool. Enjoy your weekend!

  6. Healthy A-Z says:

    I have been missing on WordPress lately, so I just took the opportunity to scroll through all that I have missed (since sometime shortly after your Thursday drawing of Gentle Compassion was complete). There was so much variety AND they were so wonderful! I wonder if you realize how exquisite your work really is. Scrolling through made my day! Sending a thank you (for being YOU!) hug…

    • Mary says:

      Hi Cyndi, it’s so good to hear from you – I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up too. This is a great surprise for me and really love your generously beautiful comments – wow, how do I think you for your continued support since my first day blogging. I need to thank you for taking the time to check out what’s new, and different in some cases, that means a lot! Huge hug from TX, take care and only the very best of wishes that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving – I’m thankful for your friendship.

  7. I think it is wonderful to try something new and I certainly love the wintery scene :) Annie

  8. Love the tones & texture! As always…great work :)

  9. Lovely oil pastel, Mary, I wouldn’t call it an experiment though! :-)

  10. doronart says:

    Mary that is very interesting experience. I can see the issue with making thin fine lines unless you have several layers that you can scretch into. The results are very good and thanks for sharing this complicated process, I am sure there are many new artists that use Oil Pastels and now they will be able to have a better go at it thanks to your post here. Is that the normal process you will need to do each time when you use the Oil pastels to get thin and fine lines like in pine needles?

    • Mary says:

      Hi Doron, thanks for your comment. You can get thin lines with oil pastels a couple of ways: using a color or clay shaper – they pull the oil pastel cleanly; scraping through the oil pastel and get a color underneath to show through; use a pastel pencil; or use just a tiny bit of turpentine on the tip of a brush – touch the oil pastel stick to get a some of the OPs on it and then thinly brush on a line. Today I thought I would experiment, but it didn’t bet me too far.

      • doronart says:

        That is interesting I am sure one day I’ll experiment with it. Meantime I’ll let you write your book to make it much easier for me. What I like about it is simple it does not how good you are and you know how often I say to you wow this is a great painting… we always still learning! Ok I have no excuse with my memory everything always looks as if it was the first time… must take my tablets..

        • Mary says:

          Thank you Doron – my goal is to always challenge myself and will continue to do so with oil pastels until I feel I exhausted their possibilities. I eventually want to try painting with a knife and will probably use oil and/or acrylic – that will be exciting, until then . . .

  11. Mary, I love the idea of scraping through to the underpainting. Maybe a scratchboard tool with help with your next effort. I think you’re onto something!

    • Mary says:

      That could be Elena, great idea. I was wanting a real clean scrape without picking up oil pastels in the process and still allowing snow – with oil pastels never drying it can quickly smear onto areas you want staying clean. Perhaps with a larger surface I’d have more room. Off to do my Thursday drawing, out for an hour and then hopefully I can start another interesting piece.

  12. Sharon K. says:

    Just lovely, Mary. It would make a great Christmas card! :-)

    • Mary says:

      Oh my Sharon what a compliment. I just can’t imagine this one though I see too many areas that make me want to go back in and play around some more. Thank you for your generous comment!

  13. Cat Forsley says:

    WHAT and interesting technique :) xxx Makes me want to get some pastels :)
    beautiful art :) :)

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