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Planning Retirement Online

Leisure Painter           April 2005


Each month presents a feature from either The Artist or its sister publication, Leisure Painter.

Leisure Painter inspires, guides and encourages beginners and improvers with step-by-step instruction, as well as general advice on ways to develop and progress. Experienced and popular tutors set projects, describe their own working methods and offer helpful tips and ideas



Let's Start with Art

This month:

A step-by-step demonstration showing how to paint a study of colourful red geraniums on a stone window sill using oil pastels

 Materials used

  • Deep ruby-red mount card

  • White gesso primer

  • Black India ink

  • A sharpened matchstick

  • 3B pencil

  • No. 2 long flat hog brush

  • Distilled turpentine

  • Flat chisel Colour Shaper from Royal Sovereign size 2

  • Scalpel

  • Sennelier oil pastels in the following colours:

Black 23 - White 1 - Ultramarine blue 237 - Midnight blue 211 - Olive green 46 - Pine green 213 - Raw umber 35 - Burnt umber 34 - Red light 29 - Ruby red 31 - Bright yellow 18 - Venetian red 32 - Yellow ochre 26 - Raw sienna 37 - Naples yellow 21 - Reddish brown grey 15

Techniques used

  • Washes using turpentine or low-odour oil paint thinners. Oil pastel can be painted directly onto the painting surface in thin washes. Once dry, this presents a satisfactory surface to work other colours over.

  • Layering numerous colours of oil pastel to create textured surfaces.

  • Blending/mixing colours directly onto the surface using fingers or any proprietary blender.

  • Scraping back for fine detail or lifting out to correct an area.

Key points

  • Keep the painting looking fresh by wiping foreign colours off the tip of the pastel as you work.

  • Although oil pastels never dry completely, leaving the painting overnight will enable the surface to harden slightly, allowing further build up of layers.

Time taken

Approximately four hours over two sessions in the studio.



A Colourful Window in Oil Pastel by Tim Fisher

When at home or abroad, looking upwards as well as around can often deliver some rewarding subjects, such as this window with its colourful geranium flowers.


 Red geraniums on a stone window sill



Red geraniums on a stone window sill


Figure 1

Step 1: Offcuts of mount card normally used for picture framing offer a low cost (often free!) surface on which to work oil pastel. I’ve chosen a deep ruby red colour over which I paint a single coat of gesso. Although oil pastel can be worked directly onto any surface, the gesso stops the pastel sinking into the paper, making it easier to cut back edges with a sharp knife. It also gives me a warm pink surface to work on.

Step 2: Using the straight edge of a pencil, I check which way the windowsill slopes. I also note that because I’m looking up at the window from the ground, the top of the window frame appears narrower than the base. I mark these positions on my dry painting surface.


Red geraniums on a stone window sill  - figure 1 

Figure one

Step 3: When I’m satisfied with the composition, I draw in the detail using a sharpened matchstick and black India ink. Matchsticks are great instruments to draw with because of the variety of line produced. As the matchstick starts to run out of ink, I use the drier mark to outline the brickwork.

Step 4: I dilute some of the ink with water in a saucer and paint my darkest darks into the painting. This helps me to obtain full tonal contrast before I add colour.


Figure 2



Step 1: Using turpentine, although any oil paint thinner could be used, I make a small puddle in my saucer and rub the yellow ochre pastel into it. This creates a nice turpsy wash, which I use to paint over the brickwork, leaving some paper as highlights. I then paint more washes into this. Raw sienna is used for shadow tones on the bricks and under the sill. For the foliage, I block in olive green and for the flower heads, red light, remembering to leave highlights on the flowers.

Step 2: Use a hair drier or leave for a few hours and the surface will become dry, ready to work over more pastel.



Red geraniums on a stone windowsill  - figure 2

Figure two


Figure 3

Step 1: I work from the centre of the painting outwards, starting with the flowers and the dark window. I use black and burnt umber for the background window, and a combination of ruby red, bright yellow, light red and white for the flower heads. I paint with short sharp stabbing movements to give the impression of petals and leaves.

Step 2: For highlights on the foliage I use Naples yellow and for the darker leaves, a combination of midnight blue and pine green. Using the scalpel, I scrape flower stems into the paint.

Step 3: Wall textures are built up by layering raw sienna, yellow ochre, raw umber and Venetian red onto the paper. For the wooden lintel above the window, I also introduce some ultramarine blue. I use the Colour Shaper to drag the paint in the direction of the wood grain to achieve the desired result.


Red geraniums on a stone window sill  - figure 3

Figure three


Step 4: Fine detail is now built up. I use the white pastel to bring out the highlights on the top of the sill and on some of the bricks for maximum contrast. I scrape back paint with the scalpel to sharpen the white brickwork against the dark window. Finally, shadow tones on and underneath the windowsill are added with reddish brown grey, some parts of which are rubbed in with the Colour Shaper.



laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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