Oil Pastels Boot Camp: A Missing Manual for Success | Jen Dixon | Skillshare

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Oil Pastels Boot Camp: A Missing Manual for Success

teacher avatar Jen Dixon, Abstract & figurative artist, educator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Oil Pastels Boot Camp: Introduction


    • 2.

      Materials Needed


    • 3.

      What are Oil Pastels?


    • 4.

      Some Brands & Buying Advice


    • 5.

      Blending 1: Tint, Tone, & Shade


    • 6.

      Blending 2: Warm & Cool Blends


    • 7.

      Blending 3: Blending Styles & Tools


    • 8.

      Blending 4: Optical Mixing & Making Black


    • 9.

      Unusual Techniques & Special Effects


    • 10.

      Surfaces and Working over Gesso


    • 11.

      Creating Paintings: Advice and Examples


    • 12.

      Preserving Your Oil Pastel Art


    • 13.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Hi, I’m Jen Dixon and welcome to Oil Pastels Boot Camp: A Missing Manual for Success.

Oil pastels. They’re not crayons, but you can colour with them. They’re not paints, but you can paint with them. They’re not quite like any other medium, and can be kinda tricky to work with… Wouldn’t it be great if they came with an instruction manual to help guide you?
That’s why I made this class.

Oil pastels are a relatively new invention dating back to the 1920s. There are many brands of them on the market, many considered poor in quality and frustrating to use. This is why many people give them up so quickly.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this class I’m going to give you the missing instruction manual to oil pastels. You’ll learn how to blend them, experiment with them, and of course - make art you love with them. You won’t believe how versatile these sticky little crayons can be. I use them often in my work, and will show you how to make your oil pastels a go-to medium for your own creations. Whether you work figuratively or in abstract, this class is full of techniques and exercises for you.

We’ll cover:
- What they are, and the differences in types of oil pastel and their similar cousins.
- What to use them on.
- How to get the most from marks, mixing and blending.
- Special techniques and effects (some of which you may not have ever seen before).
- Preserving your painting or drawing.

If oil pastels have ever frustrated you: this class is for you.
If you use oil pastels already but are up for some new techniques and helpful exercises: this class is for you.
If you’ve never tried them and have no idea where to start?
You guessed it: this class is also for you.

Let's get down to the fun of using oil pastels.

Sound good? Wonderful. See you in class!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jen Dixon

Abstract & figurative artist, educator

Top Teacher

Whether you want to learn new skills or brush up on rusty ones, I would love to help. I have been a selling artist for around 35 years. In my own practice I use pen & ink, pastels, oils, acrylics, and watercolours regularly. My work hangs in private collections around the world.
I love what I do, and I teach what I love. We can do good things together here, so let's get started...

About me:
I'm an Ameri-Brit (dual citizen), living on the North Cornwall coast of the UK. I've been here nearly two decades, but have lived in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Berkshire (UK). I am studying Spanish daily with an aim for becoming bilingual. Hola, artistas.

My work covers everything from graffiti-influenced illustration & mixed media abstracts, to more traditional painti... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Oil Pastels Boot Camp: Introduction: Hi, I'm Jane Dixon, and welcome to oil pastels boot camp, a Missing Manual for success. Oil pastels. They're not crayons, but you can color with them. They're not paints, but you can paint with them. They're not quite like any other medium, and can be tricky to work with. Wouldn't it be great if they came with an instruction manual to guide you? That's exactly why I made this class. Oil pastels are a relatively new invention dating back to the 1920s. There are many brands of them on the market. Many are considered poor in quality and frustrating to use. This is why so many people give up so quickly, but it doesn't have to be that way. In this boot camp class, I'm going to give you the missing instruction manual to oil pastels. You'll learn how to blend them, how to experiment with them, and of course make art you love with them. You won't believe how versatile these sticky little crayons can be. I use them often in my work, and I will show you how to make your oil pastels a go-to medium for your own creations. Whether you work figuratively or an abstract, this classes is full of techniques and exercises for you. Here's what will cover. What they are and the differences in types of oil pastel and their similar cousins, what to use them on, how to get the most from marks mixing and blending, special techniques and effects, some of which you may have never seen before, and of course preserving your painting or drawing. If oil pastels have ever frustrated you, this class is for you. If you already use oil pastels but are up for some new techniques and helpful exercises, this class is for a year. If you've never tried them before and have no idea where to start, you guessed it, this class is also for you. So, join me for oil pastels boot camp, and let's tackle this under appreciated medium together. It's going to be fun. Sound good? Wonderful. I'll see you in class. 2. Materials Needed: In addition to whatever oil pastels you have, you'll also see some other things that I'm using, some Gesso primer and a wide brush to apply it with, permanent marker, palette knives, some old stored gift cards, that sort of thing, pencils, Zest-It, and low-odor solvent, cotton buds, and paper towels. Basically, you want a variety of things you probably already have in your toolkit. Just as a quick note, if you don't recognize Zest-It, because I've got it in this container, it's because I tend to order it in five liter bottles, but this is what the label looks like and the logo and it's a wonderful alternative to harmful chemicals. For surfaces, I suggest gathering a variety of papers and boards that you may have around. I can tell you what I use, but until you experiment for yourself, you won't get a real idea for what each feels like. Heavy paper like sketch cartridge, mix-media papers, even cardboard, or scrap mount or mat board, canvas paper that'll all be fine but as long as you have some sort of paper, even just a cheap sketchbook to get started, will be just fine. You'll find what works best for you as we go along. 3. What are Oil Pastels?: Knowing a little about the history of oil pastels is beneficial to understanding them as a medium, but I'll keep the history lesson brief. Oil Pastels were invented in Japan in 1925 by the Sakura company and then reinvented in 1949 by a collaboration of Picasso and Sennelier, the French art supply manufacturer. Formulas have changed over the years and there are various material compositions today. Some are meant to withstand hot environments without melting while others are meant to be easier to melt. Some are tacky to the touch, others more like a wax crayon. Each manufacturers oil pastel has a little different feel to it and often that has to do with the intended market or environment in which it will be used. Sakura created theirs for use by schoolchildren, whereas Picasso wanted something smooth using fine art quality pigments. This brings us to brand differences. Knowing that some oil pastels are meant for schoolchildren can help you make decisions when buying your next set. Ask yourself, am I buying parcels from a company known for its fine art supplies or stationery? Both have uses of course, but this is a good first question to weed out the brands you don't want. Also, does the fine arts company make a student grade as well as an artist or professional grade? If so, the student grade will likely be satisfactory to start with but you may want to buy a limited palette of professional grade pastels too. I always keep a little wish list for when various shops are having sales so I can add to my collection. I'll demonstrate the brands I have in the next chapter. Typically, the more expensive the oil pastel, the smoother and more opaque it will be. Cheaper oil pastels tend to be waxy and harder more like crayons and are more transparent due to the lack of fine quality pigments. Again, both have their uses and I use them both in my work. One big like huge thing to mention for all oil pastels, they do not dry out. Not as a stick or on your paper or canvas. We'll talk more about this later. 4. Some Brands & Buying Advice: There are a lot of brands of oil pastels available, but only a few are considered artist quality. As a general rule of them, if you buy them at an art supply shop you'll probably get a reasonable quality oil pastel. If you buy from a department store, office or school supply shop or a toy store, you're unlikely to get anything better than hobby level and possibly setting yourself up for an unpleasant introduction to the medium. Saying that, I have a variety of oil pastel brands and although I haven't tried every brand out there, I am going to tell you a little bit about the ones I have today. In no particular order, I have two varieties of Daler Rowney, simply and artists ranges, Pentel, Sennelier Derwent, Pebeo, NeoPastel by Caran D'Ache. Because they are near relatives to pure oil pastels, I also have neocolor one, oilbar from Winsor Newton and oil stick by Sennelier. Those last three will be discussed purely for comparison and introduction, but they are not the same as an oil pastel. So, we know what makes an oil pastel an oil pastel, but what makes a good one from a bad one? Well, that depends on your purpose. I use a variety of oil pastels in my work because each brand has a different personality and behavior that is pretty unique. In rough order, the cheapest I currently have although I have had school supply company ones for teaching children's art classes before, the cheapest are from Pentel. This doesn't mean that they are the poorest quality, but they are manufactured to a standard that makes them cheap and accessible. They are waxy and you'll find with cheaper pastels, it may leave wax flakes in your work. It's easy enough to pick that out with a palette knife, but it can get annoying if you're attempting heavy coverage. However, I do prefer their behavior to the next cheapest that I have which are simply oil pastels by Daler Rowney. Although the color range in simply is good, the experience using them is less pleasing than the Pentel range. They're not particularly opaque with coverage, and they're also quite waxy. If you're on a budget and you want to get started, I actually have a better suggestion than either of those. Pebeo is an interesting oil pastel, they are chunky, good colors and offer a much more opaque coverage than the first two I've mentioned. Pebeo tends to be thought of as more a craft or hobby supplies company, but their oil pastels are surprisingly good to work with. I like them because they have a creamier feel and are easy to use. If you want to buy a set of basic oil pastels on a budget, Pebeo is a great place to start. Derwent makes oil pastels and they are my oldest ones. I learned something interesting about them recently and that's that they went moldy inside their wrapping papers. After I discovered this, I cut the raps from the mold, scraped off all the mold and they're fine now, but something about them seemed a little unstable. Beyond that, I also find them finish in coverage and a bit waxy, and difficult to make a smooth dark to light value transition. Daler Rowney, like many art supply companies makes different tiers of products to serve hobbyist, students, and professional artists. The daily Rowney simply line is very much a hobby level product, but they're artists oil pastels are more expensive and made of better quality materials. It actually takes a lot of effort to create solid coverage with the artist's oil pastels. I only have a handful of them for trying, and I probably won't buy them again. I've saved the most expensive oil pastels for last. First, let's talk Sennelier. We know Picasso used them, and that's a pretty good vouch for their quality and they do perform beautifully. The texture is like lipstick, but a little sticky which helps to build dense coverage. They're creamy and without a paper on them they nearly melt in your fingertips. They're easy to use with traditional oil paints in mixed media situations. I have a lot of these pastels and they are often what I reach for, however, I've recently tried NeoPastel by Caran D'Ache and I can honestly say I prefer them to Sennelier. The coverage is beautifully opaque with NeoPastel and the colors are rich and heavily pigmented. Neither are cheap. So, watch for sales and build a collection of these two brands over time. They are worth full price, of course, but I've built a good collection of materials this way over the years and also recommend buying individual pastels maybe six or so as a great way to try an expensive brand before committing to a pricey set. So, why have so many types? Why not just go for Sennelier or Neopastels? Sometimes in my work I like to scribble. I wan't waxy lines instead of creamy, I want cheap layers that I know I'm going to distress or destroy as a base layer for a piece. They all have a different field on paper, canvas, or board. The way to get to know these pastels is to experiment. Getting to know your oil pastels is no different to getting to know the spices in your kitchen. Each one has a specific purpose and getting to know how you want to use your oil pastels is all down to experimentation. So, get to know a variety and you'll learn what works best for you. So, what are my top three of the ones you see here? That's easy. Caran D'Ache, NeoPastel, then Sennelier, and then Pebeo. That's just all of what I've tried. What I noticed is when I did a little sample of each white on colored cardstock, look how opaque the Caran D'Aches verses Sennelier which is a little bit less opaque and then Pebeo, a little bit more transparent. I've got a little bit of transparency here that I did a test, I just put some marker down and then ran the oil pastels over top just to try them to see what the opacity is like, but NeoPastel, brilliant. My advice is to pick your pastels like you would pick a paint palette. Get your warm and cool primaries, black, grey, white and some secondary colors and a few wildcard colors simply because you love them or because they're difficult to mix from other hues. Then fill in the gaps over time as you encounter specific needs. What about Neocolor 1 by Caran D'Ache? It comes up in searches for oil pastels because they're branded as permanent wax oil pastels. Confusing isn't it? Their behavior is very much like a fancy crayoned, think like a posh crayola, and yet they blend with traditional oil pastels. They are a little limited in their compatibility, but can provide some excellent result as a blender. They are more fancy cousin to the crayon. They are not particularly opaque, hard in texture and a little brittle. They don't have the creamy thickness to be able to mark well over oil pastel, but oil pastel has no problem in marking over top of neocolor one. I look at them as a compatible partner to traditional oil pastels, but definitely not an oil pastel in themselves no matter what the label says. One major difference with the sticks and the bars versus oil pastels is that these will dry over time just like oil paint. They form a skin over the paint itself that you must peel in order to make a mark. They are not oil pastels at all, and I would avoid the temptation to use them together unless you're confident with how to create stable mixed media art. That in itself is a big enough topic for a future class. Here's a helpful hint, if you do use oilbars and you don't want them to skin right away, just pop them in a bag and zip it closed and they'll stay wet and not skin over quite so quickly. 5. Blending 1: Tint, Tone, & Shade: So for this exercise, I've chosen just a standard, very heavy cartridge paper, and we're going to do tint, tone, and shade. So, tint is the addition of white, tone is the addition of grey, and shade is the addition of black. I've chosen a color just to try with all three. It's one of the PBO branded oil pastels, and I've got two different brands of each of these pastels. The white, grey, and the black. Just because it actually doesn't matter what brand you use for any of this, it's important that you use brands that you're comfortable with, that you enjoy working with. So, we're just going to begin. So, in each one of these boxes, we'll just begin with some heavy pressure and lighten it right down, and we've only gone about two-thirds of the way. I'm going to repeat that in the middle box. So, I've got a box for my tint. Now, I'm creating a box for my tone, and one for shade. I've left a little extra space in each box in case I want to try it with the other brand of each of these. So, I'll just set that up on the side for a moment. Just happened to grab Sennelier. So now, I'll begin from the right hand side with heavy pressure. I'm beginning to lighten my pressure as I move into the middle, and let it fade out, and you can go back through and you can just manipulate it a little bit. Maybe I want to just draw it out tiny bit more. If I change direction slightly with my hand, and I cover a slightly different angle on the tooth of the paper. So, that tends to blend even more nicely. So, here we go. A really lovely blend using two completely different brands of oil pastel, and that is tint. Getting in the habit of cleaning the pastels in between. So now, we're going to try tone. I'm going to pick the cheapest of the ones I've got. That is Simply from Daler Rowney. So, really waxy and fairly transparent, but it should work just fine. The point of making a tone is typically to neutralize or to mute a rather bold color. So you can see, it's still managing to do that even if the result is still a little bit waxy. I'll go back through, a slightly different angle, just manipulate that a little bit. Lightening my pressure. Now, the Simply from Daler Rowney as well as a lot of these sort of school quality oil pastels, because they're a little bit waxy, they sometimes want to sort of pull up some of what you've got down in place. So, as soon as you start feeling the pastel grip, you'll feel it stick as if it's kind of a glue. Then, you probably want to leave that area alone. There we go. Has still a pretty good blend. Clean that off. Now, shade. So, let's see. We'll go PBO into PBO. Nice heavy pressure. I really do like the way these PBOs work. They just have a really nice smooth consistency, and just barely going into that now. This one's going to take a lot more manipulation because black is so heavy in oil pastels, and it can dominate so easily. But, there we go. When that happens, it's because your pastel is a little bit dirty. You can usually blend that right in. There we go. So, a single color, single hue. That's PBO, and we've done tint, tone, and shade. As long as we're at it, tint, tone, and shade isn't a skill just reserved for changing the qualities, the values of a bright color. I've just chosen a brown. This is a number 34 from Sennelier. We're just going to give that a go as well. So, you can see how being able to manipulate tint, tones, and shades no matter what hue you start with is an important skill. Again, same boxes. Lightening the pressure as we get about two-thirds of the way across. Nice and even. We can always go back through and manipulate. So, start with the first. So, I'm taking two completely opposite ends of the spectrum quality wise, and forcing them to work together. So, this is Sennelier blending into Pentel. Pentel being quite waxy, Sennelier being quite buttery and lipstick-like. Even though they're not particularly meant to work together. Oops, a bit muddy on that end. There we go. If you give them a chance, they still blend. Just working it back and forth until I get the result I want. That looks pretty good. Now for tone, adding the gray. This is Neopastel going into Sennelier, so two very high quality pastels working together now. I do love the steely quality of this grey. Beautiful. Bring that gray right on over. Actually, finding these two pastels are a little bit more work to get a nice blend, and it's not because of the quality of them. I think the color combination is just a little bit weird. Not getting that. It's still successful. It's just not what I think is particularly attractive. There we go. So, that's tone. Finally, we'll go with shade. Trying to pick the opposite that I had chosen before for the pink color at the top. There we go. Really nice murky brown into black blend. That's quite satisfying. There we have it. Tint, tone, and shade. 6. Blending 2: Warm & Cool Blends: For the next exercise, we're going to do something similar, we're still going to do a blend one into another but we're going to change things up, we're going to practice with Hughes. So, we're going to go warm into a warm, a cool into a cool, and then a warm into a cool. So, we'll begin with a cheap and cherry orange and again lightening that pressure, cut like two thirds of the way over and we can begin the other side nicely. It's contaminated, got some green down there, this is why we clean these. So, ignore that little bit of green and we begin blending over. Warm into warm blend. Now we'll do cool into cool and finally warm into cool. As an aside, what do you do when you get a contaminated bit in your oil parcels that you're laying down? So, in this case, my yellow had a little bit of green on it, well the fix is usually fairly simple. You can use a palette knife or something else and you can lift out whatever you're able to. So, just scraping off anything on the surface and you're being careful not to really grind it in because if you push it in further, you run the risk of it actually staining the paper surface. So, now a cleaned pastel, I'll just go back over that. So, it's not a perfect fix but it's better looking than it was. So, that's the easiest way to just do a quick fix. 7. Blending 3: Blending Styles & Tools: Here, I'm going to demonstrate some basic blending techniques. I'm using just a general cartridge paper. This is the Fabriano Accademia. It's a 160 GSM. So, it's heavy but not too heavy. Like a basic sketchbook stock. So, we'll start with heavy pressure. Heavy pressure is exactly what you would imagine it to be. You were blending by really pressing hard, and really digging those colors into one another. Heavy pressure blending is really useful. You're forcing a blend by sheer pressure. What this does, however, is it does use up a lot of the texture of your paper. So, if you're looking to add lots and lots of layers, this may not be the first approach that you want to go with. Because you will fill all the tooth of the paper with the waxy oil. Then you'll find it difficult to add subsequent layers. There we are. Nice and satisfying. Gentle transitions in color, and sometimes because it's a heavy blend you get these little waxy bits. So, you can just pick those out with a palette knife if you decide to. Crumbs of wax. There we go. Heavy pressure blend. Next, we'll go into a light pressure blend. As you can imagine, you taking it a lot more gently on the surface. There some gentle yellow, you're allowing a lot more of the texture to show through. There we are, light pressure blend. Now, I want to talk to you just for a moment about scumbling. There is some not entirely correct information on the technique of scumbling out there on the Internet. You may have seen scumbling videos on YouTube and other places but, let me tell you what scumbling truly is. Scumbling is the rough application of a dry, light, opaque or semi-opaque color over another existing layer. I've seen videos where basically scumbling and stippling are practically one and the same. The only difference being somebody may make a slight twisting mark when they do scumbling. That's not true scumbling. Scumbling needs to have a layer down in its entirety first, and then you apply opaque or semi-opaque over top of that. Now, usually that's done as a scrubby or dabbed roughly layer on top of that, that base layer. So, you're trying to create a unified but irregular surface, by doing scumbling. So, you can use it in virtually all mediums, watercolor, oil, acrylic, soft pastels, just basically anything can be scumbled. However, it does have to have that base layer first. So, let me just show you a little bit about scumbling. So, If we take a pastel on its side first, and we lay down a unified area of color. So, I've just used the side of that pastel. What I might do next, is I might go in and scrubble a little bit. So, I'm beginning to already mix on top but I'm not covering every tiny millimeter of that base layer. It's important that it shows through. So, there is an optical blend happening. However, you had to have that first base layer. I'm going to take another one. Scumbling is really useful if you need to portray textures such as fur or leaves, maybe stormy seas. All things that have that rough texture. The way you use it, is up to you. So, you can see now that layering of three different colors. If I just want to add a pocket of maybe brown, I already am beginning to build up something that looks maybe like a mossy area. But the important thing is is that base layer gives that unification to everything that you layer on top. It's meant to be textural. So that is true scumbling. Optical or stippling is very much about creating a field of color that your eyes mush together in your brain and blends those colors through stippling basically. So, just by darting in those two colors, I've created optically the illusion of a third color. I'm going to try adding one more in just for fun. There we go. Now we've got a graduation of ton done with stippling. Now, we're going to try different ways of manipulating your blends a little bit further. So, softening them. So, I'm going to go ahead and color a few squares in, and then we'll go through dry finger, wet finger, towels, and cotton buds next. There we've got four examples that are not completely blended. So first, the finger seems like the easiest and most available thing to blend with. So what happens? You can see I'm smearing back and forth in almost an X motion. What that's doing is that's really just rubbing, it's using the heat from my finger, and it's rubbing the oil pastel into the paper. So, it's blending a bit. But it's also melting it a little bit, as it pushes it around. Again, different directions to help really blend and push it into the nooks and crannies of the paper surface. Now, a wet finger. So, the theory is, that if you get your finger wet with just a little bit of water, what happens is you cause a little bit less stickiness. So, it works a little bit, I don't think it's the most successful way to blend. But give it a try. What I think works even better as a wet finger, is just a tiny, tiny bit of linseed oil to wet your finger. So, two ways of doing that, linseed oil or just plain water. Now, a towel, big fan of paper towels. If you bend it around, you can create a little pad. Again, just sort of gently, I'm just sort of pushing in short strokes. All of this can be manipulated with further layers, of course. So, if I wanted to, I could go back in and say, maybe add more yellow to the center. Find a clean spot on my towel, and push that in. I use this technique a lot. Now, there's cotton buds also known as q-tips. I find using the cotton buds in sort of a circular motion pretty successful. Just gentle pressure. Find a clean spot for my color change, just burnishing it into the surface. Now, once again, put some basic unblended swatches of color down, and we'll go through blending stumps, Zest-It, solvent, and colorless blenders. First the blending stump. They're made of tightly rolled paper and can be use with oil pastels, or soft pastels, graphite, most drawing materials. So, I'm just going to take one here. It works very much like the towel does, only gives you a little bit more focused pressure and more control. Obviously, since this is a paper product, the stump, you're going to contaminate it with a color. You can rub some of it off, but it's good to be in the habit of keeping a handful of them available for different colors. Like, you wouldn't use the same one for yellow that you would for black. But I really like the effect of the blending stumps. I have a whole drawer of these in my little tools area, just labeled smudgers. That's what I tend to call them. There we go. So, Zest-It I mentioned in the materials list is a nontoxic alternative to solvents when you're using oils or oil pastels. So, I have a little bit of Zest-It already squirted out into a small bowl. You can use Zest-It with brushes, you can use it with the cotton buds. I'm just going to use a cotton bud, and you can see how brilliantly it changes the way that oil pastels behave. I love using Zest-It with oils and oil pastels, and depending on how much you dilute, you can get almost a water colory effect with it. It's brilliant. If you see that it leaves sort of an oily residue, don't worry, that will, for the most part, evaporate right out of your paper, leaving just the beautiful blend behind. A note about using Zest-It, it will typically behave very differently on primed paper, or oil pastel paper, or oil painting paper compared to unprimed paper, and that's because the Zest-It will absorb into the surface of the paper. I'll show you a demonstration of the differences of that a little bit later. So, different to the harmlessness of Zest-It, there's also a lot of brands of low odor solvents, or you can use White Spirit. I prefer not to use any of those. I am fully in favor of using the least harmful chemical you can get away with, so I'm just going to dip that in there, set that aside, and show you what it does. Very similar to what you get with Zest-It, but it's not a good idea to get it on your skin, and it's not a good idea to breathe it. So, I don't like using solvents. However, if that's what you have, give it a try. Finally, the colorless blender. So Sennelier makes a transparent blender and basically what this is, it's unpigmented oil pastel. It's meant, because it is the binder, it's meant to just get that little extra help between colors, and smooths out the surface. 8. Blending 4: Optical Mixing & Making Black: Black oil pastel is really strong and harsh and can easily overwhelm any delicate intentions in your oil pastel painting. Instead of black, it is often a good idea to use blues, purples, and browns, to indicate shadow areas. However, if you want something deeper without going pure black, you can try optical blending and mixing. Optical mixing happens when two hues are placed side-by-side or on top of each other, then your vision produces the illusion of a third color. Think about the painting style of the point lists, it can also be used to detect color perception using Ishihara plates with randomized dots sizes and carefully chosen hues. Optical black is made by blending colors until you achieve something that is perceived in context as black. Optical mixing is a fascinating way to paint with your oil pastels and can be used with a base layer of water colored wash or colored paper to help achieve a uniform look. When you use dots of analogous colors, hues that are next to each other on the color wheel, new hues emerge that almost vibrate with luminosity. When dots of complementary colors are used, you can create non-muddy gray mixtures. In this exercise we will practice an analogous mix, a complimentary mix, and finally two styles of mixing optical black, one more blended than the other. For the first in the analogous column, I chose a pale green, a dark green, and a blue. I laid the colors down one at a time and repeated until I achieved the optical color I was looking for. Next, for the complimentary column, I choose a light orange, a blue, and a slightly darker orange. To achieve a better result, my oranges could have been a bit darker. For a first optical black, I started with a mid to dark blue. My instinct was to mute that blue with its complimentary color, so I used an orange. Not quite enough because at this point, it's pretty much the same result as the column before it. So, a quick way to deepen the effect was to add a dark brown. That fast tracked my optical black, but I wanted a little bit more depth so I added some purple. The orange and the brown created a warm sort of neutral value, and the blue and purple cooled it. Overall, a fairly satisfying optical black was achieved with the first experiment. Back to the analogous column, I started with a bold yellow. Because we're creating a new warm hue with the colors next to each other on the color wheel, I then switched to an orange. The two I chose weren't that different from one another, so when I added red it seemed out of place. An additional layer of orange was enough to blend everything and make a more pleasing optical hue. Keeping it simple for the next complimentary mix with just purple and yellow to create an optical gray. The purple and yellow effectively neutralize each other. Time for another black mix using mid green, a deep rust, and a muted dark blue. I really like the effect that the purple had in the example above, so I decided to add it too. The rusty color gave this black mix a richer look, while I think the combination above looks a bit flatter in tone. While on a roll with the blacks, I decided to jump ahead with the third example and this time I used a blending stump between a couple of the layers. This allows a thick total coverage, but I was careful not to completely destroy the texture of the different colors. Notice, it's the same four colors as the first black example, but the effect with blending creates a completely different look. In the end, I created two more examples: one analogous, and one complementary. I look forward to seeing the combinations you've use to achieve your optical blends and blacks. 9. Unusual Techniques & Special Effects: Now, we're going to take our oil pastels a little bit further with some experimental techniques and special effects. Here's one that I want to start with that you may have never seen before. So, I'm taking a normal chunk of wax. This is broken off from the candle. This is just normal construction paper type of stuff. All right. I draw on using the wax. I'm going to do a few a little pattern of any things. Right. You're not going to be able to see what I've done on there necessarily because it's essentially clear. However, you can see a little bit of the wax below appearing. So let's go with something a bit darker. The texture of the thing underneath is beginning to show. I'm just using a light pressure, alternating my directions for each pass. So, I save old gift cards, fake credit cards and that sort of thing. Here's why, they make great scrapers. So first, I'm going to take it across the surface. You can see underneath, where my wax has been, the original paper color emerges. This is a highly experimental technique, but it could be useful in areas you want to retain white but have broad coverage. So, maybe skies, maybe water. Then, what happens if you continue to color over the top? Then we'll give it another pass with a scraper. I can see my pattern all the more and that's because I'm slowly but surely filling and burnishing the area around where that original wax was. Let's do some more on this one. It's a great technique for experimental mixed media. Look how clear that area is. I'm using a normal chunk of candle wax and then layers of oil pastel. So of course, you can do this as much as you want, go for as much coverage as you like, but it's definitely something to play with. While we're at it, and we've had a scraping tool already employed, I want to just show you a few more things you can do with it. So, I've taken some scissors and just trimmed any regular pattern on one edge of this, and that's really good for digging in and getting strange randomized marks. So, if you need a little extra texture. What you are technically doing by digging through, and raking through, and scraping, is a technique called, Scraffito. You can do some really remarkable things with this, especially if you get down to the layer underneath which is a little bit stained by the pigment already. So, you're getting down to a lighter layer. Now of course, you don't have to use a card to do your Scraffito, you can use a multitude of tools that allow you to scrape. Of course, that can also be pallet knives, which are great for helping you lift out mistakes, but also burnishing, and providing a blend that you can't get any other way because you're not actually using any fabric to lift it up, you're really just grinding that pigment in and the wax into the paper. Of course that means it's going to be a heck of a lot more difficult to pull any of it up because you're also squishing down the tooth of the paper. But it's a good way to really get it pressed into place if that's what you're looking for. Now, what if you want to make a sharp line in oil pastel. Oil pastels tend to be a fairly blunt instrument and they're very crown like and they don't really sharpen. So, how do you get a sharp line? Well, you can take something like your card, and off the edge of it, make sure you clean it in between, just run it off the edge. Let's see. I like this. Now I've got a nice clean sharp edge this way and a clean sharp edge this way, you can do shapes, and cubes, and all sorts of things using this technique. I'm going to clean in between she says. There we go. Let's try another color. Here we go. That's a beautiful blend. You can do this with paper as well, it doesn't have to be a card. In fact, if you use paper, let's get a scrap paper, you can of course get some beautiful shapes and a much more organic line, or if you need to mask areas as you create, you can cut shapes to do that. There you have it. A no hassle way to make edges. Now, of course you can also create a sharper edge, purely by using a tool like one of your blending stumps, and just burnish the edge. What you're doing is you're just filling in the tooth of the paper in between the peaks, so getting that color into the valleys as well. But, that will also provide a much more heavy coverage edge. So, depending on what you're looking for, you might be looking for something softer like the torn paper, or harder like the credit card edge, which you can go back through and finesse a little bit. What if I wanted to add an opposing color on that side. Easy enough. So I'm putting it back just slightly from the true edge, because there's a lip. But, now I've got two colors meeting exactly next to one another for a nice clean edge. And here's what it's like to use a colorless blender, just refine that a little bit. For this next technique, we're actually going to make oil paint out of your pastels. So, what I've done here, I've just taken a knife, and shaved flakes into a dish. This happens to be one of my water color tinting dishes, and I add a little bit of zest it. It melts it right down. Now, I've got a kind of oil paint, which could be really handy for having broad coverage rapidly and evenly. Some zest-it in a dish to clean, there we go, just a couple of drops. Look how easy it is to create. I think those colors are beautiful together too. One of the nice things about zest it, is you can filter it. So, as gravity takes hold and the oil paint particles sink to the bottom, if you port carefully through a paper coffee filter, you can retain still fairly clean zest it to use again and again. This is graphite. It's just a to be, it's a lyra stick, and just going to color some on there a little bit. Graphite works well with the oil pastels and the zest-it, and I use this combination a lot in my mixed media work. It's a good way to add a smoky black without overwhelming whatever you're working on. If you don't scrub too hard, you can retain the lines, but still melt them into the work a little bit. In this last square I'm going to show you a few things. We'll start with a little bit of the paint that we made up, draw it out a little bit, so that it's almost watercolorey. I mean you can of course let that dry and do your scrambling technique over top. These are color shapers. Now, they do come in different brand names, but basically they're silicon tipped brushes. Just going to add a little bit of zest it to the end of this, and scrub. You can use color shapers with just about anything, oils, acrylics, soft pastels, graphite, you name it. Get some interesting marks with it, that you would never be able to achieve with an oil pastel naturally, because there are other blunt tools. Here we also have China markers. China markers are meant for industrial purposes, but they work really well with mixed media, and they tend to write as they're supposed to on just about anything. I usually have them in black, and white, and red. So, you can get some lovely black detail on your oil pastel drawings using China markers. China markers they will blend a little bit, but they don't budge a lot. You could really grind into them, but experiment, see what you can do. What's nice about this technique, is you can quickly build up a basic sketch underneath, for underneath rather, what you're going to use both pastels with. You can just see that watercolor layer peeping through. Just adding that little bit of depth and continuity underneath the layers of oil pastel. Mind you, I'm not specifically drawing a tree here, but I just wanted to show you how you can get a nice full leafy effect. I think you can already see how that's building, and how I'm creating a light source, and then I'm building some depth underneath. Blue always looks good mixed into trees and shadowy, but not as harsh as black. There we go. So, that's a quick and easy way to begin creating leafy foliage using a watercolor base, and scrambling over the top. Here we go. So, we'd love to see your experiments using oil pastel over water color. 10. Surfaces and Working over Gesso: I use paper a lot in my art. It's economical, easy to store, and comes in all sorts of styles weights and colors. Oil pastels can be used without issue on paper, but try to use a fairly heavy stock. Oil pastels are also great to use on colored paper, as it's typically an opaque medium. Acid free paper board is a fine surface for oil pastel. I use mount board frequently primed with Gesso or not. Bristol board is a sturdy card like stock and can also give interesting results due to its super smooth surface, and typically very bright white color. Canvas pads or paper pads especially created to take heavier paint. The sheets often resemble canvas texture and can be used for oil or acrylic paints. Oil pastles behave well on the surface and you'll get a much more textured result than if applied to paper or board. A simple way to create a useful painting surface is the first prime with Gesso. This works great on heavier papers and boards, so Gesso is definitely not just for traditional canvas. I saved the middle's, so I cut out of mount board and prime them with Gesso. Both sides sometimes to prevent warping and it makes a brilliant economical surface for either practice or final art. Mixed media paper can come in super smooth like this from Claire Fontaine or in rough almost canvas or watercolor paper texture like this from Kenson either is just fine for your oil pastels. Oil pastels can be used on a wide variety of surfaces including various papers, and board, canvas. Also, if you want to prime a board or paper with Gesso, it makes a great surface. So, just to show you. I've done a few pieces with just a light coat of Gesso. This one, you're not going to be able to really see because it's white on white. But, this one is on a natural paper. So, what this does, is it gives the same texture, the same acrylic layer to the paper surface that you get on a canvas. So, therefore, you're going to get less of the oil and any medium to use less of that soaking into the paper than if you didn't have Gesso involved. So, just quickly, we're going to do a bit of Gesso on a piece of mount board. Now, I mount all of my own artwork and so I've got middle's which have come out of this was for an A4 size, but you can see, it's got the bevel on it because that's what I've cut out to mount my artwork. But I save all of these pieces, so I've got little bits in all different colors and all different sizes and these are so good to than do further artwork on. I'm just going to take some Gesso and it really doesn't matter what brand you pick up. This is PBR but I also use Daler-Rowney. But just get a little bit on your brush to begin with. Right. You put that there. Actually, I pop it over here so you can see. Nice even coat with an acrylic paint brush. I got a glob in there so I'm just take that off. Smooth that out, and I'm going to let that dry. Now, that's one coat in one direction. Now, what I'll do is I'll let that dry and then I'll go through and I'll do a second coat in a second direction. I'm going to do a demonstration showing you the difference between Gesso paper and non-Gesso paper. But here's a little bit of mount board that's been Gessoed, and here's a little bit that hasn't been. Actually, going to swap sides. So, this is the Gessoed side, this is not the Gessoed side. I just want to show you quickly what happens. So, I'm going to take just any old pastel, just a chunk of this is a red neo-pastel and I'll do the same on the other side. So, so far, so good. They look pretty similar in the results. Right. Here's where things get different. So, I've got a little bit of Zest-it which is my thinning medium, which is non-toxic. It smells like oranges, smells lovely. It's so harmless. You could actually drink it, though I wouldn't recommend it. But here is on the Gessoed board. You see, just thinning that and I can get almost a water color like consistency on the Gessoed board. Same thing, gets in Zest-it on my brush. Now, I'm on the raw board, the Non-Gessoed board. It still travels quite away, it's a little more dense. But what happens is instead of sitting on top of an acrylic surface where you can still push things around rather easily, it starts to soak in and now you can begin to see the difference. That's because the board that hasn't been primed to Gesso is a lot more absorbent. So, manipulating that oil pastel is not as easy to do. Whereas on this side, it's still quite happily sitting on top of the Gesso. I could even go back in and continue to make marks, adding more and more on top. On this side, I could make marks but you can see it behaves completely differently. So, I take off the excess. Brush, dip back in Zest-it. Clean a little and you can see where some of it has soaked into the paper and I can't move it around anymore. So that's the difference between Gessoed paper and not Gessoed paper. So it's an absorbency thing. So, you've got a lot more workability if you add that acrylic layer on top. So what about blending once you're at this stage? Well, let's take just any old random oil pastel. This time, it's Sennelier. I'm just coloring into the Gessoed board and do the same on this side. You can see because so much of it has soaked into the board itself. But when I color with the yellow on this side, it's actually layering and pen-soaking in to the surface. On this side, because it's sitting on an acrylic layer, it's pushing that red out of the way. So, blending can be a little bit tricky but you can still do it, you just have to understand how it behaves. Because it's letting some of the white Gesso through, I've still got this real luminance to that yellow. I didn't dip back into my Zest-it to do any blending, it's because there's still quite a bit on the surface. On this side, it's just whatever's left in my brush and on the paper surface we're really sort of grinding that in. Getting a blend but it's a very different type of blend, a different style, a different look. It's not quite as luminous. So, depending on the effect you're looking for, you might be disappointed if you don't Gesso first or conversely, that may be exactly the softness you're looking for. So, here's a wildly different color on the non-gessoed board. Now, on the Gessoed board, and you can see, it's just pushing that diluted oil pastel on the surface. Get in the habit of cleaning your oil pastels when you use them. Right. Again, no additional Zest-it on my brush. Giving it a smoosh around. It's not really blending much. It happens if I used my finger and use that to burnish a little. Not a little bit smoother but still not quite blending with the colors around it. Now, on this side, you can tell it's still quite wet. This very different color, this sort of green gray. Because of what's leftover in the Zest-it in the solvent, I am still able to create a blend. Now, Zest-it. What happens when it's soaked into the paper? Well, depending on the thickness of the paper, you may if you flip the paper over, see an oil mark where the Zest-it has soaked through the paper. The good thing about Zest-it though is it does evaporate and it will disappear out of the paper surface. So, don't panic if you just see lots of weird pooling on the surface where it looks like it's stained the paper. Zest-it will dry and evaporate out. On the Gessoed paper, it will of course dry on the surface, so you will get completely dry sort of effect with it. Now, oil pastel itself, never dries. But the Zest-it will dry out of it, so you won't have this sort of easy to push around sort of paint. My Gesso has dried in the one direction. So, I'm just going in the opposite direction to add another coat. Now, depending on the thickness of what you're putting Gesso on, you can see, it's beginning to bow the surface of the board. Typically, if I'm doing it on Mount board, it will sort of lie flat again without any problem. However, if you're doing it on something thinner, you may find that the paper curls up like these. It's a little bit curly. Now, if that doesn't bother you, great. If it does bother you, you may consider also gessoing the backside because that will help to make it the surface tension the same between the front and the back. Now, sometimes I do that on my boards. If I do a really heavy and maybe three or four coats of Gesso just to add texture and whatnot, in that case, I'll do both sides at the same time and then I'll dry them so that they're standing upright somewhere, so that the airflow gets to all the sides of it. The other thing that you can do is you can put them onto a baking rack or something like that, so it still gets the airflow underneath. But basically, if I'm just working a couple of light coats, I'm not going to worry about doing the back side on that. On my paper, chances are I'm going to be framing this with a mount anyway, and no one's going to notice that there's a slight buckle to the edge of it. Not something I'm really worried about. 11. Creating Paintings: Advice and Examples: For this section I'm going to talk to you about process. You'll see me building up different paintings, edited for speed because they took quite a while to create. But I'll talk over with general advice and specific advice on creating a painting with oil pastels. The first example is a classic Apple subject. The photo is in the downloads. It is painted on heavy paper without Jasso primer. The example intentionally unfinished took half an hour to paint in real time. Painting with oil pastels is not difficult if you consider a few things first. Choose a surface that you are comfortable working on that has a texture that will benefit your techniques. If you need to build in layers consider a paper or canvas paper with enough texture or tooth to make that process simple. What type of final look are you going for? Will you need to use zested or solvent to blend? If so, consider using a gessoed surface. Make studies. We all want to be able to create the picture we have in our heads or from reference, the first time around but this is typically unrealistic. Look at your reference, study it. What areas look tricky? What colors will you need to mix? Are there shapes that are awkward to draw? Practice these things first on sketch paper to get a feel for these potential hangups. Every artist need a little discipline and patience from time to time. At this point with the apple, i'm creating the shadow using several colors to create a mixed optical black. The only place I use true black in this is to delicately define two small sections of sharp focus edges. Notice how often I use a paper towel to rest my hand upon as I paint. This will help minimize the amount of unintentional smears and smudges on the rest of the paper. And now back to general advice, get your materials ready in advance. Prepare your workspace. Do you have paper towels, pencils, blending tools, a cup of coffee, music, whatever your ideal studio setup is make it happen, take a deep breath, then get to work. Having all your tools in order first, makes a difference in your experience and saves frustration. Build your painting and oil pastels gradually. It isn't a race, and if you rush to produce an effect you will likely be disappointed. Use light pressure blends where you can to begin mapping out colors, lines and values just as I did with the apple. Where are your light, medium and dark areas? Oil pastels require patience and if you're used to watercolors being a very immediate and rapid way of painting, you're going to need to get used to the slow road with oil pastels. The second apple was started but abandoned as I only really needed to show an example of how I build the painting and how to create the mixed black in the deep shadow area between the two apples. I'm sure you now have a much better idea of the process. In this next example, i'll quickly demonstrate how I create an abstract oil pastel painting. In real time the painting took about 10 minutes from start to finish. I don't usually start with a sketch, but rather I prefer to let my abstract ideas develop as I go. Here you see I'm using a color shaper silicon tool and then zest it on a hog hairbrush. The surface I'm using is a piece of unprimed mount board. I spend time with a limited palette of mostly blue green and red, but take the time to create transitions in each of those hues. This adds perceived depth and visual interest. And in some places the application of the pastel is thick and creamy to contrast with the thinned zested watercolor like coverage. Scraggly graphite pencil marks add further visual contrast over the soft green and blue beneath. This is something I do a lot in my abstract work. I'm also using compositional formula to help make my decisions. I have three round shapes, triangular and placement taking up no more than a third of the overall occupied composition. If composition interests you, I have a great class on that topic to help. I added red ring shapes for even more interest and little bits of additional oil pastel as final refinements. A bit of delicate palette knife manipulation helped me to define some of the edges. The texture of this work is really pleasing up close and really shows off the characteristics of oil pastel. For the final painting demonstration I photographed my salt shaker to paint not once but twice side by side. To show the differences in working on the same paper, but the one on the left has a coat of gesso on it while the one on the right is plain uncoated paper. This is a great way to help determine what type of surface you prefer or is best for the work you're trying to create. For the apple and the salt shakers, I printed out the photographs then used a light table to trace the shapes off that way I could save time on the drawing. We're not really here to do the drawing part, we're here to learn how to apply oil pastels. So don't feel like it's cheating. If you don't have a light table you can hold your print out and the paper over top of it on just one of your normal household windows that usually gets enough light through to see what you're doing. This painting study in real time took an hour to complete, though I could have spent a lot more time on the background and shadows. The point for me however was to create the salt shakers. So I admit I really rushed the surrounding bits. Oil pastels are not a tool for small fine detail but that doesn't mean you can't create a satisfying semi detailed object. Things to keep in mind. Work a little larger than life and omit details in favor of creating impressions instead. Look at the polished stainless steel on the salt shakers. They're not hugely detailed but you get the idea of different surfaces where light and shadow fall on it. Oil pastels are a blunt sticky tool. So don't allow yourself to become frustrated when they don't behave like a drawing instrument. If you've ever used watercolors you know that you have to get used to them having a mind of their own and going where they want. Oil pastels are the opposite. They're stubborn and they need a good shove to put them where you want. Each art material has a different personality. Notice how I start with light pressure blends and then experimented with using zested to further blend and wash. The zested sits on the surface of the gesso paper on the left but soaks into the uncoated paper immediately on the right. Using zested or solvent on uncoated paper can make it difficult to see where you're applying pastel tint or simply just soaking up the chemical. There are things I liked about painting this subject on both surfaces, but for me I ended up preferring the finished work on gesso paper more. Both papers presented unique problems and at times having the zested still very wet was a blessing and a curse. My favorite surface to use with oil pastels is mount board which I use both with gesso and without and can be purchased in the framing department of your local art supplies shop. It's typically available in a wide variety of colors, so you can experiment with having a colored surface for your oil pastels. Gesso is available in transparent as well as a wide variety of colors, so you don't just have to stick with white. You'll definitely want to experiment with a variety of surfaces to find out what you like best. 12. Preserving Your Oil Pastel Art: Even if you aren't interested in exhibiting your art, knowing how to preserve it is useful. After letting your work dry for several weeks, you're ready to spray fix the oil pastels. I'll be using this fixative from Sennelier and it's specifically meant for oil pastels. Don't forget that if you are doing any spraying at all, make sure you do it in a well-ventilated area. You protect all the surfaces and you protect your lungs as well. Before you spray, give your artwork a last look over for any hair or dust, or anything that might have settled onto the surface. If you're happy with what it looks like, and I think I am in this case, then you're ready to spray. If you do have any particles or anything that you want to get off of the surface before you spray, just use a palette knife or tweezers, or even a gentle brush to pull off any bits and pieces. It's always of course most economical to spray more than one piece at the same time. Be sure to thoroughly shake any fixative or spray that you use, and as a precaution, test your spray first. Seems to work just fine. The best way to apply any protective spray is in light layers with some time in between. So, we're just going to do a really light spray over both of these pieces, from at least about 12 inches to 30 centimeters up. Now, you noticed I did an S shape as I went. I prefer to do in that fashion because I know that I'm getting some good coverage side to side. So we'll let those dry for a few minutes, and then we'll go on with the second coat, and now there's a thoroughly dry, and we're ready to do a second coat. So again, with an S shape only this time instead of going left to right with it, I'm going to go right to left with it. Notice I let it spray over and around the pieces. That's because I want to make sure that I don't get any pooling or blobs on the work itself. I did just notice something in the air has decided to land on this piece, so I'm just going to get a brush, something with stiff bristles, just going to gently lift that out. So you can see how easy it is to just go in and pull out any fluff that decides to land. Now, I myself, I like things in threes, so now that those have dried that way, I'm going to just spin them just to make sure that my coverage is nice and even, and one more time, and now they're protected. So now you've completely protected your work as best as you can do with oil pastels. The next step will be to mount and frame them but we're going to let them dry for probably about a day before we do that. After your fixed oil pastel paintings are dry, it's time to plan a mount for the art. A mount offers a tidy spacer between the art surface and the glazing of a frame. It's good practice to never let the art touch the glass or plastic, and so even if you don't want to use a mount, be certain to allow an air gap between the art and the glass somehow. I do my own framing but if you take your work to a professional framer, they will also ensure that the work doesn't touch the glass. Mount board is available in lots of colors and various prices depending on the conservation rating of the paper. Go for a quality acid-free board just as you would with any other art material. If you're using a prefabricated frame that comes with a mount, I suggest replacing them out with one you cut yourself from quality materials, or have a framer cut one for you. The mount will be touching your artwork indefinitely, so making sure it's stable for years to come is important. Here's what one of my works in oil and oil pastel looks like in its mount. Because I created it on board, I had to also surround it with strips of the same board to make it level. All the tape is quality framing tape. I use the same mount board for the backer as well as the window mount on the top. Don't go cheap on any of this. Your art deserves quality framing materials but at the very least, whatever touches your work should be acid-free and stable. Here's a piece I framed four years ago. This was created with oil pastels and some oil paint too. The gap created between the mount and the glass protects the oil pastel work from any disturbances. With a little basic care, your oil pastel art will last a lifetime or longer. 13. Final Thoughts: Thank you for joining me for Oil Pastels Boot Camp a Missing Manual for Success. When I first started writing this class, I knew it was going to be a big topic and I hope that my coverage of oil pastels has answered many of your questions as well as introducing you to some new ideas and techniques for working with the medium. Remember to take it slow with oil pastels, build in layers and loosen up any desires for sharp details. Oil pastels are a beautiful, expressive medium and with a little practice and understanding, I know you'll build your confidence with them. As with any painting or drawing medium, test and experiment first to get to know your subject and materials before you commit to a final artwork. If you've studied with me before, you know I'm a big fan of practice and repetition to make progress with your craft. I can't wait to see your blending exercises, experiments and art, so upload to the project section and if you're on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook tag me @jendixonarts so I can see your work. Thank you so much for watching and have a great day.