Drawing Using Oil Pastel

Drawing Using Oil Pastel - Finished drawing

For this exercise I used approximately 13 different colours of oil pastel and a white textured sheet of A3 watercolour paper and I’m kicking myself now reading the brief where it says use coloured paper. However further down the page it does say leave gaps to let the white break through so it’s easy to see how I got confused.

I set up a colourful group of fruit which included a quarter of watermelon, a red apple and two ramhutan or ‘gno’ as they are known in Thai, concentrating on creating a group of contrasting colour and texture I set them on a stainless steel reflective plate which I bought with the intention to use in the earlier exercise ‘Shadows and Reflected Light and Shade‘, and placed the composition on a piece of folded cloth used to make Thai monks robes.

Drawing Using Oil Pastel - Chosen Composition
Drawing Using Oil Pastel – Chosen Composition

First of all I lightly sketched in the main shapes of the group doing my best to fill the paper including the main shapes of the cast shadows on the cloth underneath, I think this was my best attempt at filling the paper so far.

I then started to block in the darkest areas using a sketchy hatching technique, I’m trying to be more fluid in this part of the course and I think I’m doing well so far. From there I went on to sketch the light areas in a different colour, on the watermelon and apple at least.

Once the initial layers of colour were blocked in I worked back over them to strengthen the tone using related colours on each object to strengthen the tone.

Drawing Using Oil Pastel - Finished drawing
Drawing Using Oil Pastel – Finished drawing

Approximate breakdown of colours used on objects


On the flesh of the watermelon I used pink, red, a very dark red and a dark blue to create shadow as well as black and white for the seeds. For the skin I used a dark green a light yellow and a grey-blue colour.

Red Apple:

For the red apple I used ultramarine, red, orange and pink for the skin and green, yellow and orange for the core, these colours worked really well together.


On the rambutan I worked from light to dark then back again and they were probably the hardest thing I’ve drawn so far. For these two objects I used all of the above colours but it took me a very long time to build up the layers and to get them looking anywhere near they did in real life. Although they are not perfect I really love the effect I have created while working on them. They are a very irregular shape and yet I have still managed to make them look round and spiky.

The Plate:

Same again on the plate, because it was so reflective I used a lot of the colours utilized for the fruit plus a light blue, grey and white.

This is the first time I have worked with oil pastels other than experimenting and I found that you have to know when enough is enough for danger of messing up your drawing.

I’m very impressed with the finished picture, but what is worrying me now is how I am going to preserve it, I have sprayed it a few times with an expensive fixative already but I used cheap pastels by Pentel and it doesn’t look like the fixative is not going to do any good…

Observing Negative Space and Perspective

This exercise of observing negative space and perspective involved following the silhouette of a group of objects that shared similar elements with a soft drawing tool such as soft pencil without taking it off the paper.

I drew in from the left using the furthest edge of the table as a starting point and followed the upper silhouette of the objects carefully assessing the silhouette and proportions of each object and changing the direction of the line as the silhouette of one object impacted off another.

Then I went back to my original starting point and followed the line until it reached the first object again then followed the bottom silhouette of the objects following the same steps as the top half. When the bottom half of the silhouette was complete I went back and drew in the details of the objects themselves.

Observing Negative Space and Perspective 1
Observing Negative Space and Perspective 1st Attempt

I used a 6B pencil for this exercise as I am still waiting for Derwent to send me replacements for my 7, 8 and 9B. I found the exercise quite difficult and frankly one that I should keep having ago at from time to time.

Observing Negative Space and Perspective 2
Observing Negative Space and Perspective 2nd Attempt

I made a few attempts without taking my pencil off the paper and I was actually very surprised when I drew the bottom silhouette and the objects looked something similar to what they did in my composition. There were a few errors in each of my attempts, vase to wide (starting to draw it too early and the bowl to narrow and the jar on the right hand side was quite wonky in each of my attempts, but the negative space between each object was the correct shape just not always the right size.

observing-negative-space 3
Observing Negative Space and Perspective Attempt 3 and 4

Like I said earlier it is an exercise that I think I will gain a lot from and should practice from time to time, I also like the way that I arranged the objects and would like to do a similar still life using a similar composition, this exercise maybe a great starting point for that still life.

Still Life – Check and Log

exercise 2 still life of made objects

Do you think it is easier to suggest three dimensions on man-made or natural objects?

This project has taught me that it is easier to suggest three dimensions on man-made objects rather than natural objects. Man-made objects are usually made up of geometrical shapes such as cylinders, cones or cubes and so the lines of man-made objects are easier to draw and suggest their 3D form using most mediums. The irregular shapes of natural objects means that their three dimensional features are much more subtle with lines that are more difficult to depict and draw.

How did you create a sense of solidity in your composition?

In the exercise ‘Still Life Sketches of Made Objects’ I created a sense of solidity by using various hatching techniques and swapping between pencils of different hardness mainly B, HB and 2B, shadows and tone also played a big part in making the objects look solid.

exercise still life of made objects
Image 1: Exercise – Still Life of Made Objects

In the exercise ‘Composition of Natural Objects‘ working with watercolor pencil I used hatching and layers of darker colour to show solidity.

Composition of Natural Objects
Image 2: Exercise – Composition of Natural Objects

Do you think changing the arrangement of your composition makes a difference to the way you create a sense of form?

Changing the arrangement of the objects changed the way each objects interacted with each other, shadows and light reflected off one object to another and other objects in the composition (such as the plate in image 2) can play a major role in creating a sense of form.

How did you decide how to position yourself in relation to the objects?

For the second exercise I decided to position myself slightly above looking down at the objects so I could see the full form of the the objects and shadows interacting with each other in the middle of the composition, I thought this would help me to create a sense of form in my drawing. A bruised rib from a an accident the day before helped me to reinforce this decision.

Still Life – Composition of Natural Objects

Composition of Natural Objects

The brief for this exercise was to ‘Make a selection of natural objects for my composition, such as fruit or vegetables on a plate, and explore the different viewpoints by moving all the objects around in different arrangements and assessing which set up I like best. In my sketchbook, make quick sketches of each different set-up before moving the objects about again.’

I found making quick sketches of the natural objects a lot easier than making thumbnail sketches of ‘made objects‘ in the previous exercise and started out with a good feeling that the exercise would go well. I chose vegetables for my composition which were a red yellow and green capsicum, a tomato and a carrot.

Still Life Composition of Natural Forms
Thumbnail Sketches of Compositions of Natural Forms

I thought about the best place to position myself in relation to the objects and positioned myself slightly above. This was also more comfortable as I had bruised a rib after a fall during the Thai new year festivities (Songkran) a couple of days before, so I propped myself up with a couple of pillows, I couldn’t complain though as it did give me a good view of all the vegetables.

The brief for the second part of the exercise was to ‘Use the information collated in my sketchbook along with written notes from previous exercises to make an informed decision about the organisation of my still life drawing. This would help me to clear my mind and give a sense of order to my work.’

As always due to doing most of my work over different times of day and especially in the evening I worked with a bendy light as a light source, making sure it cast adequate light and shade onto the still life.

still life natural forms 2

  • Mediums used – Watercolor pencil, 2B, 4B, 8B, EE graphite pencil, charcoal, Conté pencil
  • Paper – A3 Canson Watercolor pencil 190 gsm
  • Time taken – 10+ hours

I wanted to get more practice with watercolor pencils and so I initially chose to do this exercise completely in watercolor pencil and so the only size sheets I had were A3 which I bought for the ‘Supermarket Shop’ exercise. However the problem was the composition I chose meant that I had to use the paper length ways but I wanted to get the whole of the plate into the finished drawing with the shadow that it cast and so I knew in advance it would leave a lot of negative space on the paper. Placing another folded sheet of paper under the composition helped me fill up the negative space and I decided that I would also use the TV unit in the background as the background.

I made a very poor first attempt at the still life completely in watercolor pencil, it set me back a good few hours and did not put me in the best of moods but did teach me some valuable lessons.

  1. I did not have enough practice with this medium to get it perfect.
  2. Blending colours with this medium was more difficult than I thought.
  3. You can’t erase watercolor pencil once it’s in paint form and if you try there’s a risk of ripping the paper!

I decided that my next attempt at this exercise would be a great chance to produce my first mix medium drawing and if I couldn’t perfect the colour, shadow and light of the vegetables I would do my best  and then really make the composition stand out by the drawing everything else in graphite pencil.

On my first attempt at this exercise I started out sketching the dark parts of the vegetables in watercolor pencil first but on the second attempt I started with the lighter colours, although the second attempt was easier and looked better I have yet to perfect my technique.

When it to the lighter shadows in the drawing I took it very slow, using the pencil very lightly and holding it at the end and letting it almost dangle, only occasionally did I have to resort to blending with my finger. For the darker shadows on the plate I used 4B and 8B pencil.

All was going well until it came to the  background objects, my 7B, 8B and 9B pencil kept snapping so after an email to Derwent to complain about the quality of pencils in their 24 graphite pack I continued with an EE pencil. I found the EE pencil no replacement for the 9B pencil and was hard to produce different tones so I finished the background off in Conté pencil and charcoal.

Still Life Composition of Natural Objects
Still Life Composition of Natural Objects

I was a bit disheartened at times after starting off so well, especially having discovered that I drew the composition in my second try on the the wrong side of the paper thinking they were the same. Luckily enough it turned out to my advantage as it was easier to draw in graphite and the paper did not warp as much when wet plus the colours seemed to be a lot brighter when they bled.

I was also a bit upset that I had to use more than two mediums in this drawing and found it frustrating when things kept breaking. The end result of the watercolor pencils is not what I had in mind but I thought the contrast between the colour and the graphite pencil was excellent.

Composition of Natural Forms - close up
Composition of Natural Forms – close up

The good news is Derwent did get back to me and admitted there was a problem with the old batch of graphic pencils and are sending me replacement 7B, 8B and 9B pencils.

Still Life Sketches of Made Objects

exercise: still life of man made objects

The aim of this exercise was to create a small still life composition from a small themed selection of made objects, of which I chose personal hygiene as my theme and the objects that I chose were, a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a Bic Razor and a bottle of mouthwash.

Then with a pen, pencil, or ballpoint use a technique such as hatching. I used a 3H and a HB pencil (to show the darker shadows).

Then I had to draw two or three thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook of different arrangements from different view points, using my light source to help create strong lights and dark shadows on the surfaces of the objects. I had to include tonal values to indicate form in my sketches as well as shadows seeing as they can also play an important part of a still life composition.

Then I was to make notes on or around my sketches about the technique I used and why I had used it. And make notes on anything else I felt was important.

I did two initial drawings that I have to admit were not exactly thumbnail size, I think this was down to miscalculating proportions of the first objects I started on in each composition and then having to keep up proportions,

exercise: still life of man made objects
First attempt at this exercise

In the first drawing I started on the toothpaste tube as I always end up working clockwise, I think this is force of habit. However, because of this I misjudged how much paper I would need for the mouthwash so squashed the lid to fit the rest in; so when I came to the second drawing I worked from  the mouthwash down.

On the first attempt I forgot what I was instructed to do in the exercise. Instead of writing down about the techniques I used I totally ripped the sketches apart fault by fault, only actually remembering what I was supposed to do after I took the photo to upload to my working log. I decided to do the exercise again and this time do it right.

In my second attempt I scaled the drawings down and was less worried about every detail. My hatching technique also seemed to improve a lot in my second attempt, using a variation of cross, vertical and horizontal hatching as well as swooping lines to follow the contours of certain objects.

exercise 2 still life of made objects
Second Attempt at this exercise was much better

This exercise was probably the first time that I made no attempt of smudging in the pencil lines instead I practiced the pencil holding techniques I used earlier in this course, from the tip, from the end etc…

The hardest thing to draw in the composition were the toothbrush and razor and I felt like abandoning the objects and using something easier to draw but stuck at it and did a reasonably good attempt at getting proportions and details right all 4 times.

Tone and Form – Check and Log

How difficult was it to distinguish light from the primary light source and secondary reflected light?

I was very aware of where the light was coming from on the first two drawings of the Johnsons baby Powder Bottle and Mug in the first exercise, and even clearer while working on the second sketch. There were other light sources in the room as I worked on them in the evening but still it was quite easy to tell, I think using the ceramic mug helped.

In the second exercise it was not so easy to tell but I did know what to look for so it helped; the easiest reflections to make out was the light reflecting from the ping  pong  ball on to the apple. But even though I knew  which light came from the primary source I wasn’t quite sure where certain reflections of light on the mug were coming from. I could only guess.

How as awareness of light and shade affected your depiction of tone and form?

I could have gone my whole life missing certain reflections and shadows out, saying to myself ‘Yeah, that’ll do’, trying to copy as precisely as possible, thinking that’s enough. However, these two exercises have made me more aware of reflected light and I’m starting to piece together where the light in certain places is coming from, this has helped to make these drawings more realistic than anything I’ve done before so it’s something I will continue to observe.

Basic Shapes and Fundamental Forms 3 – Supermarket Shop

I originally wanted to do this exercise as quickly and as simply as possible, but then turned into something that I needed, a practise for using different medium.


I did a practise drawing in charcoal pencil rather than graphite, I probably should have sketched it out in pencil first to see if it fit on the paper as I lost the top of the box of baby food but it felt good to do something completely in charcoal.

1st rawing with charcoal and Pencil
1st rawing with charcoal and Pencil

I wanted to produce the finish drawing in watercolour pencil, but I needed to get work up some confidence as I had never used watercolour pencils before so did an initial drawing in ordinary colour pencils, and I’m glad I did as it taught me a few crucial lessons.

1. I would never buy any drawing tools made in Thailand again, the leads kept breaking.

2. Next time I produce a colour pencil drawing to use paper with less tooth, rough paper is hard for blending.

3. Place objects at the best angles so I don’t have to spend hours producing every bit of detail.

4. Read the exercises in the course materials properly. Most of these objects were cylinders with only 1 box and no packets.

2nd Drawing Colour Pencil
2nd Drawing Colour Pencil

After completing the colour pencil drawing which wasn’t great as I left a lot of text out off the objects plus the tin in the the middle was too light (the rough paper making it hard to blend) I went to do a bit of shopping. This time I purchased Faber Castell watercolour pencils not trusting the Masterart ones I had in the drawer and some A3 watercolour paper.


I changed a few objects, I had to use the gravy for Sunday dinner so swapped that for parsley sauce, swapped the tin for a big bag of Nesvita cereal drinks, took the plastic lid off the Rosa tin and swapped the baked beans for a bag of Tipco something or other that the school director gave me for Christmas.

3rd drawing watercolour pencil on watercolour paper
3rd drawing watercolour pencil on watercolour paper

I’ve never used watercolour pencils or watercolour paper before so instead of spending hours trying to learn how to use them through trial and error I jumped onto YouTube to have a look at a couple of videos.

However once I started the exercise I learnt some more valuable lessons:

1. This probably want the best medium for this exercise with all the writing on the boxes.

2. I probably should have used a heavier paper, the 190 I was using begun to warp like mad.

3. The video was not enough I should have practised before doing this exercise.

Even though I did not rush through this exercise (it took a good few hours split up over a couple of days) the final drawing in my eyes looks a complete mess due to the very reflective purple box in the middle that made me lose my rag. However I am happy that I allowed myself the chance to start using watercolour pencils and to be honest for the first drawing ever with this medium, I don’t think I did too bad even though it does looks better without my glasses and my eyes squinted.

Overall the shapes were fine, the shapes between the objects were pretty much perfect and there is depth there so in that respect I was successful.