The Journey of “The Dragon”

Well, folks – it has been a little while again since I have written a blog post. It isn’t because I haven’t been busy, but much to the contrary, it is because I have been doing many different things and have been in many directions. Sometimes it just turns out that way. Either I am busy in the shop making piles of wood pieces for my wonderful customers and shipping out orders (which wouldn’t make for very interesting posts), or I am trying to squeeze every creative moment out of every single day and working on my social media posts and updates to my Facebook group (Let’s Paint (and CREATE!) with Sheila Landry) and keep things moving there. And that doesn’t even consider the work I am doing with my wonderful colleagues and artist friends or the ‘usual’ chores required for everyday living (like cooking and cleaning). I really love my artful and busy life though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am truly blessed and wake up every day excited about what each day will bring.

But as a result of that busy-ness, I seem to fall behind in writing. While not every project that I do is post-worthy, I do get asked frequently about the process that I use to do this project or that, and thankfully, I am in the habit of taking photos of what I am making along the way – just in case I need them. I never regret taking the time to do that and have found those photos to come in really handy when trying to remember a certain process that I may have used for this or that project. It is like a visual diary of how I spend my days and when I look back on the the pictures of what I have created, I usually feel quite accomplished. Especially when it seems that time seems to pass so quickly.

So as I look back on the last post from a few weeks ago, it seems that I had just finished my watercolor flamingo. For a while right after that, I was up in the shop nearly every day cutting orders, as some of my colleagues released some new designs on some of my surfaces and I was pretty swamped. But that story is for another post.

Over the next few weeks I continued to cut orders and in between I made a variety of projects using different types of media from watercolors to soft pastels and even got some needlework done. I even finished my Pink Macaron Bakery project and that brought in another slew of orders for kits and patterns that kept me jumping. I will be dedicating a post to that project very shortly, but I wanted to catch up with some things and take some creative time for my own projects first, as I think there will be another wave of orders when I release it to the public. Again – I showed in it my Facebook group and those lovely ladies kept me quite busy. Showing it here would have overloaded me and I would have been quite overwhelmed. I wanted to be sure I would be ready so that the turnover wouldn’t be too long on those who wanted the kits for it. I was happy with that decision.

I am pretty much caught up and trying to do some organizing and writing and I am going to attempt to write blog posts when I can and publish them once a week on Saturdays. I am not sure if it will work, but I figure if I write about things as I create them and try to aim for a regular posting goal, it may work out for the better. That way, if I have weeks where I am mainly in the shop, I will still have something fun to show you and something for you to look forward to reading about. Things can be more consistent and regular and I won’t be dropping out of sight for weeks at a time. It sounds like a plan, anyway. We will see how it works and move forward from here. . .

So for today’s post, I wanted to share a painting that I just finished yesterday. It is an oil pastel painting of a dragon.

I had seen a photo of an antique brooch that was a dragon and thought it would be a fun and relaxing subject for a painting.

Last year, my partner Keith got me a full set of beautiful Sennelier oil pastels for my birthday. I had seen Lindsay Weirich (The Frugal Crafter) use them in a video of hers and I was intrigued at how much detail you could get from them. (I have followed Lindsay on her YouTube channel and also belong to her Critique Club.) I had seen oil pastels as a child and they always reminded me of a tube of lipstick.

I had thought that you could only create loose, impressionistic art with them, which really isn’t my thing. I like fine detail, and while I am open to learning other types of painting and drawing, I would have never thought to invest in a set of these. But when I saw what she did with them, I felt that I could do my own thing with them and try to bring them to even a greater level of detail that what I had seen. I am always up for a challenge and I had nothing to lose but a little time and a piece of paper. So I gathered my supplies and thought I would have some fun.

One thing I love about the Sennelier pastels is that they work so well on dark paper. I tend use a lot of dark backgrounds and I like the drama of high-contrast drawings. I had done a cat picture on black paper as well as a tan hare on indigo blue paper and the result was stunning. I thought the metallic nature of this dragon would look nice on black, and I chose Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper as my substrate.

I can’t go on without saying how much I love this paper. It is 98lb, 160g and comes in a variety of colors (I have many – so you will be seeing more of it with future artwork.) One side is more textured than the other – almost like a medium cold-pressed watercolor paper. The opposite side is quite smooth, like a hot-pressed paper. It is nice to have a choice and not have to purchase each type separately. For the dragon drawing, since it is quite detailed, I used the smoother side of the paper.

The colors are beautiful, too. But probably most important is that the paper really stands up to quite a bit of ‘beating it up’ during the painting process. I was really impressed. Oh- and no oily ‘bleeding’ occurs on it from the pastel. This was rather surprising to me, as I thought there would be oily halos – especially on the dark paper. But there was absolutely no residue or oil around the areas. Even when I scraped and removed the pastel from the paper. I don’t know if this is attributed to the paper or the pastel, but it is awesome.

I’ll go on to show you what ‘tools’ I used to create this piece. There are probably some that you wouldn’t expect for a painting using this medium:

From left to right, there is a sanding stick (to clean the paper blending stumps), a clay shaping tool, small and large Tombow mono erasers, a hooked clay shaping tool, various sizes of paper stumps, various sizes of stylus’, a wooden stick, and a rubber clay shaping tool.

I had purchased a set of silicon wiping tools as shown below, but I find that the silicon is a bit soft for moving the oil pastel and the rubber clay shaping tool is much better. I do use it though for delicate blending that requires a very light touch.

For larger areas, you can draw right on the paper to apply the oil pastel. I show that in the photo below to the left of the pastel crayon. But for the most part for this piece I applied much of the pastel by gently scraping the crayon with the rubber tool and then applying it to the paper, crumb by crumb and blending it in.

I want to note that this does NOT work like dipping an ink pen into a well. It is quite a slow process and one has to prepare for that fact. There is no quick way to do this other than pick a little piece of pastel off of the crayon and move it to the paper. As you can see in the photo, after using this shade of gold for most of the dragon, very little of it has been used. You can see the little ‘digs’ into the tip of the crayon from me picking at it all through the painting. I just picked it a tiny grain at a time, placed it on the paper where I wanted it, and dragged it into place to paint and blend. While some of you may think I am crazy, I found this to be very controlled and relaxing. After all – the journey is really part of the charm of this process, isn’t it?

For the larger areas, I used the paper blending stumps to blend it and push it into the paper.

I also used the smaller (thinner) paper blending stump to apply pastel to some of the areas. The paper stump seemed to pick up a bit more than the rubber shaping tool and for the medium areas, this worked well.

One thing I loved about the oil pastels is that you have the ability to scrape them off to remove them if needed. This is a great way to add detail lines such as feather lines or shading – especially when there is a darker color underneath. I use the metal clay shaping tools for that.

You can see how much of the pastel can be removed. This is where the quality of the paper is very important. I was able to scrape the heck out of the paper without any sign whatsoever of it tearing or flaking away.

I also use my small Tombow Mono eraser as well as the Medium Mono Knock eraser to clean up any boo boos or edges that I want a bit crisper and cleaner.

The photo below shows just how cleanly it works – even on the black paper. The texture is still intact and there is no discoloration from the oil in the pastel either. Again – this impressed me very much.

I used all of these techniques to create the little dragon:

I was even able to apply tiny white highlights in the eye using the tip of the rubber shaping tool. I found that I use that tool most of all on this piece for all the small details.

Once the pastels were in place, I was able to take a Faber-Castell black colored pencil and deepen the detailed areas, like around the eye and around the ‘pearls’ on the wings and body. I was careful not to overdo this step though, as what makes the painting nice is the subtle shades of color.

The entire painting took me probably about 6-8 hours to complete. For me, however, that isn’t really a long time. I did it in two evenings with some movies in the background and it was quite relaxing for me and I enjoyed creating it very much. Every time I use these oil pastels, I seem to fall in love with them more. This is quite a small scaled painting for this medium and I truly love the challenge of getting ‘unexpected’ results from a product that people usually associate with a much looser style of painting. This is certainly one of my favorite mediums to paint with. I am allergic to oil paint and I get very ill from the fumes and while the base for these are also oil, there is absolutely no odor at all from them or anything offensive about them. Sennelier is the top of the line as far as oil pastels (I do believe that they were the first company to create them at the request of Pablo Picasso) and while they are not cheap, I believe they are the finest oil pastels available. They have excellent coverage, brilliant pigments, and outstanding lightfast ratings. They are creamy and blend beautifully, too. I can’t rave enough about them.

I will be spraying this painting with the Sennelier Oil Pastel Fixativ to set the paint and protect it. I will also be matting and framing it before I display it. The mat will hold it back from the glass of the frame and keep it safe.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my creating process. I am surprised at how little I see or hear about those who use oil pastels. There are also very few videos and lessons on using them, other than in the ‘loose’ style I spoke of earlier. I haven’t really seen others paint with them in the way that I did here. It just goes to show that in art and creating, there really are no rules. I like the result that I achieved with them.

I made a little college of some of the projects that I will be writing about in the future. I thought it would be fun to tease you a little so you can look forward to seeing them:

As you can see, there is quite a variety of things to show you. And I forgot to add the bakery to the collage, too. That was a big thing to finish up. 🙂

That should just about do it for this post. I know it got longer, but I really like explaining the process. To me, the process is the fun part of the whole thing. As I create more artwork and pieces, they tend to go on display here in my studio for a while, or I give them as gifts, and then I carefully tuck them away and move on to something else. Some of them I really don’t want to part with. (Not right away, anyway) But it does seem that I am starting to get quite a collection. As I leaf thorough sketchbooks and folders and come across some paintings that perhaps were forgotten, I get to enjoy them all over again. And that is what artwork is all about, isn’t it? Enjoying the journey every step of the way and also the final result. I certainly do that.

Until next time . . .

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Vera Souther says:

    Thank you for sharing your process! I love your little dragon. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am happy you do. He was a lot of fun!

      Like

    1. Thank you, Andrew. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for showing us the detailed process for doing this Sheila. The dragon is amazing! When I looked at it first I thought you had stuck actual gemstones into the painting. Your detail is awesome! Looking forward to see how you did that map of Ireland and the trinity knot. 😁

    Like

  3. Thank you, Anna. I will be showing it any day. It is nearly to its destination and I don’t really want to highlight it before my friend receives it. But it sure came out nice. 🙂 I surprise myself sometimes. I hope you and Jim are staying cool. I hear there is quite a heat wave in your part of the world. Be careful. ❤

    Like

  4. A true Artist, sharing different mediums. Love your fear-less mindset into creating! Love! Beautiful piece.

    Like

    1. Taking risks is how we learn, as you know, Amy! Besides – it is lots of fun to see what these different mediums do. So many artistic possibilities! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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