Laundry line



90 min

What you need:

Oil pastels

The variety of textures and earth tones in this Venetian scenery make a beautiful subject matter, especially when combined with the strong contrast in form and lighting. To capture the many details in this image - like the brick, the wrought iron and the shutters - you draw on top of the oil pastel after it has been laid down. Using a sharp tool, like a graphite pencil, allows you to scratch detail into an even layer of oil pastel.

Step 1

Creating a strong drawing is always the best place to begin. This scene has much detail, so it gives you a solid base for your composition. Place a sheet of paper under your drawing hand while you work, to prevent the movement of your hand from smearing the graphite.

Step 2 & 3

Next, create a transparent mixture of yellow ocher acrylic paint and matte medium, and then brush a layer of this over your drawing. This process both tones the paper and seals the graphite. It’s important to apply this carefully, without much brush work, or the drawing will be lost. It works best if you do a couple of layers. Then group your darker values using Vandyke brown. By varying the pressure of your marks, you are able to achieve darker darks—always striving for an even application of the oil pastel. As needed, use a ruler to make straight lines. Since it is difficult to draw thin lines with oil pastel, use a pencil in black to draw the railings.

At this point, cover the burnt ochre doors with an even coat of brown. Then, using deep green, focus on all the greens that are close in value, layering darks where appropriate.  Add deep green on top of the Vandyke brown in the windows, as needed. Later separate the greens by layering other colors on top, and then smudging. For now, lightly add a layer of dark blue over the shadows and darks. Then, using your finger, smudge the oil pastels together, thus evening the tone. After smudging, draw back in with the dark blue to recover the drawing. A kneaded eraser can correct smudging Errors.

Step 4 & 5

Next, put a layer of Vandyke brown on top of the three center windows and blended accordingly. Then smudge, and follow this by drawing back into the doors with all the colors used thus far. Continue working shadows throughout, gradually replacing and smudging colors. Add brown to the brick areas, to the bars over the bottom right window. Finally, work on the metal door, smudging and drawing with Vandyke Brown.

In this step, fill in the two upper left windows with olive green. Next, add a layer of yellow green on top to create the light. As needed, re-draw the railing with a pencil. Then use grey on the three bottom middle doors. At this point, use only gray on the center door, but the two other bottom doors are smudged and layered with Vandyke brown, focusing on the darker areas of these doors.

Step 6 & 7

Then draw all the pipe with gray and smudge. Use olive green to draw the shutters on the window on the right, and then smudge. Use dark blue and focus on details and darks. Then, introduce a small amount of light blue to the bottom doors. Add a little gray to the shadowed edge of the white window frames and the white arch around the center door. With may green, touch up the barred window and any other areas needed. Also add a little gray on the window bars.

Now focus on the walls, using yellow ocher oil pastel lightly over them all. Then add a layer of gray to the stucco on the left, and blend it. On the right, add a layer of white and blend it. Also work on the lower portion of the image, on the casting shadow of the pipe, smudging the rail and window on the lower left.

Step 8

This is the point where you bring in the white. All window frames are given a thick layer. The light sections of the laundry are also given a thick layer. For the white portions on the wall and the brick, use a varied mark to simulate texture.

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Excerpt from “Oil Pastel Step by Step,” published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Nathan Rohlander. Visit