Etching with oil pastels may not be a new concept, but this is the first time we’ve done it in our house as an art project with the boys and it was a big hit.
Etching with oil pastels involves creating one layer of colour and then covering it over with a second layer of oil pastels so that the end result is an entirely black piece of paper.
I confess that I did the preparation work for this project myself rather than encouraging the boys to do it. The preparation involved covering sheets of paper entirely with brightly coloured oil pastels.
While children are obviously capable of helping to colour paper with oil pastels themselves, there are three reasons I did it for them:
- Firstly, I wanted the boys to have an entire sheet to of pastel covered paper to work with and I figured it was going to take persistence and patience to do all that colouring.
- Secondly, I wanted the project to be fun with the focus being more on the etching rather than the preparation.
- Thirdly, I wanted the colours to be a surprise for the boys.
Having said all that, next time the boys can help with the preparation process as well.
Oil pastels are a beautifully medium to work with as they slide across the paper leaving rich marks. It was really relaxing colouring these sheets.
Once the colours were finished, another layer of black was added.
This reminded me of watching young children paint at an easel. I’ve seen so many do amazing paintings and then finally cover the whole page with black or brown paint so that the original colours and designs were completely hidden.
The boys were ‘armed’ with bamboo skewers and given time to etch patterns in the black oil pastel. As the black pastel was removed, the bright colours hidden below shined through.
I loved the look of surprise and delight on the boys’ faces when they discovered the colours underneath. Etching in oil pastels is really a pleasurable experience as the pastels slide under your fingers/skewer.
Once the boys had experimented with their sheets of paper, they wanted more paper to work with. As the only piece left, however, was the one I was working on, we ended turning my sheet into a joint project in which everyone drew swirls and twirls.
I loved the way the boys joined in this project with eagerness, taking great care to create patterns which fitted in.
One thing we did find is that holding a very thin skewer became a difficult after a while. The problem was solved, however, by our six year old etcher who jammed a piece of the skewer into the grove of a pen lid. This meant that the pen itself provided a much more comfortable surface to grip. Smart idea my creative youngster! Why didn’t I think if it?
I also like this pen/skewer combination because it meant as it was safe – less stick to end up being accidently poked where sticks shouldn’t go.
Etching with oil pastels is definitely an art activity we’ll be repeating as soon as I’ve managed to buy some more black pastel! This is an art project in which both the process and the end product are rewarding.
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