Today I sneaked away to a workshop day to learn about working with color in oil crayons (cray-pas) with Karen O’Neil at the Art School at Old Church in Demarest, NJ. A day well spent, I learned the basics to attempt to add vibrant color to my drawings with this portable, non-toxic, paint-like medium.  At the heart of the matter is using the oil pastels, in vivid shades as shown below, and layering to blend and create the neutral tones that make up so much of what we see (as shown in the swatches), then accessing the infinite range of color a small set provides.

cray-pascolor swatches

After these color exercises, Karen demonstrated her technique and efficiently produced the dramatic sample shown below:

Karen O'Neil demo

The remaining portion of the day whizzed by, sketching from bold vignettes of lively fruits and vegetables set off by splashes of colorful backdrops while gaining the insight of this accomplished colorist.  My fav result of the day was the lemon at the top of the post.  The watermelon’s not so bad…


I’ll be trying my hand at this again.  My drawings are mostly line and this may be just the thing to quickly block in color and up my game by enhancing my ability to define the planes within a composition.  So next time I’ll filling the fruit bowl I might be taking a closer look.

If you’re local to Northern NJ, the Art School offers workshops and classes in a myriad of disciplines.  The workshops are a great way to test out a new medium without a big bite out of your schedule.  A great community resource, the school is where I tuned up my metal smithing skills in order to figure out how to build all my little obsessions… no turning back from that point.

Karen O’Neil works in her Woodstock, NY studio and teaches at the Woodstock School of Art, as well as the Art Student’s League of NY in the city where you can find her classes and workshops on a regular basis.  Head over to her site and join the mailing list if you’d like to know what opportunities may arise.

Many thanks to drawing buddy Elena, who was able to join me for a fun & refreshing day.  :)

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