An entomological first foray into oil pastels

You may have noticed from my last Tony post that I am somewhat of an artist. I am not good or prolific enough to make a living at it however, and nowadays only draw as gifts for other people. Strangely I work best this way, I have found that art under duress lacks something of a soul, at least for me. Anyway, I had occasion to express gratitude to an entomological friend, and what better way to do so than through the medium of beetles?

This was the perfect chance to try out my new oil pastels. I picked them up in a charity shop by chance, thinking they were normal pastels. I find pastels a tremendously quick and easy medium, however they would not be suited to express a shiny carapace. Usually I would turn to my art pencils, these will deliver a deep, precise shiny result; but only with a lot of layering. Oils or acrylics of course would be ideal, but mine are in Derbyshire, and neither is a quick medium.

Knowing the crayon shape, I set up a black starting shape to ensure detail clarity. Like pastels, fine lines are out. I used a fine pen, this also showed through nicely to give the impression of the texture and shine of the carapace.
Oil pastels feel really strange after normal pastels, they behave similarly and differently. You can layer and blend a bit, but with care: too heavy and it clumps. Luckily unlike pastels you can actually scrape off the colour with a sharp tool and re-blend. They also erase with a rubber nicely. This means you can get some great crisp lines to edge, but sadly not in isolation.

The colour intensity means forward planning is crucial. The black and white interplay was difficult, smudging each together takes practise to get right. I had to scrape and go over a few times. But the sheer deepness of that black really impressed me. However, I am not entirely happy with the whiteness of the shine I achieved on the elytra, I couldn’t scrape back to the background entirely on the tan colour. So something to remember for next time.

Overall I am delighted with the result, I think it really suits the subject, and will definitely use oil pastels for entomological art again!


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