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Mar 06, 2021
Andy Taylor Oil Pastels and the Artist’s Process
Andy Taylor oil pastel - DR-20018
Andy Taylor, “DR-20018,” Oil Pastel on Paper, 9.5 x 7 in
Andy Taylor oil pastel - DR-20013
Andy Taylor, “DR-20013,” Oil Pastel on Paper, 9.5 x 7 in
Andy Taylor oil pastel - DR-20016
Andy Taylor, “DR-20016,” Oil Pastel on Paper, 9.5 x 7 in
Andy Taylor oil pastels - DR-20017
Andy Taylor, “DR-20017,” Oil Pastel on Paper, 9.5 x 7 in

Andy Taylor oil pastels. Andy has been drawing and painting the scenery within a day’s drive of his Carbondale, Colorado studio. Taylor is known for his colorful, gestural style, and is considered to be a “master of color.” The subjective reactions to reality in the form of shape and color are a signature of Taylor’s work. Taylor starts his process with pen and ink drawings with marginalia and oil pastel on paper, a process he considers to be the bones of a painting and a form of meditation. His sketches are visual reminders of a scene, but are always left incomplete, leaving room within the process to “invent significance and freedom to make discoveries” as he paints. Below, enjoy the insights provided by the artist.

Tell us about oil pastels as a medium

I use oil pastels for some small studies because they yield immediate intense and vivid color. Compared to other pastels, they are not dusty — they are not shedding pigment and chalk as one works or after they are framed. And, according to the manufacturer, the oil pastels I use do not require a fixative which I hate to use. I find them a quick and easy way to experiment, which is how I use drawing whether it is pen and ink or colored pencil or oil pastel. Pastel is a bit of a misrepresentation since we often use word as an adjective to mean pale and I use them to achieve the exact opposite.

“Pastel is a bit of a misrepresentation since we often use word as an adjective to mean pale and I use them to achieve the exact opposite.”

Andy Taylor

Oil pastels are essentially fancy crayons — crayons, in that they are made with pigment and a binder of wax and oil; fancy, in that they have more and better pigments combined with less binder. Like many art materials, the quality spans a vast range, the only measure of which seems to be price.

One of the difficulties working with oil pastels is layering of colors. Oil pastels can get very smeary very fast, just like oil paint. But, just like oil paint, if one keeps the initial layer or layers thin, the final colors can be thicker and more intense without getting messy.  

How do pastels fit in to your process as a painter? 

I do drawings (pen, colored pencil, oil pastel and a very few watercolors) for three reasons: The first reason is that drawing is quick, inexpensive and convenient. It is good exercise for hand/eye coordination and good exercise for mind/eye coordination.

Andy Taylor drawings
Artist Andy Taylor pen sketch
Andy Taylor - 17 Oct 19 - horizontal
Andy Taylor, “17 Oct 19,” Colored Pencil on Paper, 10 x 6.25 in
Andy Taylor - 22 Sept 18 - 2
Andy Taylor, “22 Sept 18 – 2,” Colored Pencil on Paper, 7 x 9.5 in

The second reason is to gather information in ways that might be useful for paintings — looking at the composition (how all the parts fit), the colors (is there anything special about them), and the values (dark and light). How does it all work on the page/canvas?  I use the pen and colored pencil drawings for this purpose. The size is convenient for walking and travel; the media are indelible so when I drop the sketchbook in the river or when my water bottle leaks nothing is lost (both of which have happened).

The third reason for doing drawings is to experiment. I can try all sorts of things on paper; if they fail, they get trashed — just a little time lost. A few times, maybe more than a few, I have felt that my art is stagnant or that I want to attempt a new direction or that I can do better than I have. Unlike “writer’s block” when words might be elusive, I am not at a loss for the images that I want to make — just the opposite — but I want to push what I think is good in what I have done. I have always turned to oil pastels as a means to try to move forward. I’m not sure why, except I like their immediate intensity, the ease, and the lack of commitment — the trash bin is always near.

Andy Taylor Oil Pastels

Andy Taylor - DR-20012
Andy Taylor, “DR-20012,” Oil Pastel on Paper, 9.5 x 7 in
Andy Taylor oil pastel - 12
Andy Taylor, “12,” Oil Pastel on Paper, 7 x 9.5 in

What do you love about pastel?  (in contrast to oil paint or pencil)

Once upon time, when I was about 10 or 12, either my parents or one of my aunts gave me a set of soft pastels. I kept them, treasured them, and rarely used them. I could never quite figure out how to use them. Sometime after that I acquired, either by gift or child coercion, a set of hard pastels (pastels in pencil form with the hardness of a 2B or B charcoal pencil). I used them extensively early in my career, although timidly, and continue to use them occasionally today.

In my 20s I met with Antoinette Kraushaar (Kraushaar Gallery) to show her some of my work. She suggested that I try oil pastels which, of course, I immediately did. My first attempts were, at best, awkward, but stronger than anything I had done with soft pastels.

As with any medium, there is a great range in quality. Several years later and after trying several brands, I found a type that suited how I like to work.

I use oil pastels in a way that is similar to how I paint — thin layers of two or three colors. Things can get ugly, greasy, and muddy fast if I use them aggressively — very similar to oil paints.

Why do you use toned paper?

Toned paper, or a toned ground on a canvas enables one to work in both directions in values, leaving the tone as a rough middle point.

The other thing toned paper provides is unity. No matter how hard one tries to cover it up, the tone is always present. I like to think of it as an advantage, rather than something to obscure.

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