Mixed Media Art Techniques – Oil Pastels, Watercolors, and White Gouache

About Lynne Hoppe

I was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but moved ‘out west’ in my early twenties. At about the same time I realized that I didn’t really know who I was, so I set off on a path of self exploration that continues to this day. Even though I’ve lived in Northern California for 20 years I consider myself a nomad at heart; I always feel that life can change in the blink of an eye and who knows where the next stop might be.

I’ve been creative all my life, but seven years ago (when I was 50) I fell in love with painting. I paint what’s inside of me and what I enjoy painting. I like to see what one color looks like next to another; how the presence of a line here or a shadow there changes everything. I like to experiment….

Visit Lynne’s Website Here

Mixed Media Art Demonstration

(Click Images for Larger Views)

‘pink messenger #1’ ~ watercolors, colored pencil, gouache, oil pastels, casein paint and graphite on old book page – approx. 5″ x 7″

Paint faces using oil pastels, watercolors, and white gouache

Alrighty! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while… this is a more thorough way of answering the questions that i’m most often asked – how I get the skin to look the way it looks, and how I get watercolors to mix with oil pastels.

I’m going to start by listing the ‘ingredients’ that I used on pink messenger’s face (above), followed by how/where I used them.

  1. caran d’ache cream oil pastel – the first layer of ‘skin’
  2. sennelier brown ochre oil pastel – shading
  3. sennelier paynes grey oil pastel – shading
  4. m. graham paynes grey gouache – shading and for making the pupils/eyes darker
  5. m. graham titanium white gouache – skin
  6. daniel smith quinacridone gold watercolor – shading
  7. zecchi paynes grey watercolor – shading, the eyes, eyebrows (along with burnt sienna, which i forgot to number!)
  8. zecchi vermilion watercolor – cheeks and lips
  9. zecchi scarlet watercolor – cheeks and lips
  10. yarka golden deep, titian’s and claret – cheeks and lips
  11. pelikan pale pink opaque watercolor – cheeks, lips, and general shading
  12. caran d’ache neo-color II salmon pink – cheeks and lips
  13. derwent 8B graphite pencil – drawing the face
  14. prismacolor burnt sienna colored pencil – eyelids

You don’t have to use these brands, of course; this is just what I use, and the list is ever evolving. The one ingredient that might not be replaceable is the cream caran d’ache oil pastel. Its color and consistency are unique.


I’ll call the ones on the left the ‘soft’ brushes, and the ones on the right, well I’ll just call them what they are – filberts. You’ll see below how I use them, but the basic idea is that you put color down with a soft brush so you don’t tempt the layer of paint below to move around. This is really important if you’re putting watercolors on gouache or white casein paint – do it with a soft brush. Use the filberts to put gouache (or casein paint) on the oil pastel – they’re nice and stiff and can push the heavy gouache around.

A little word about colored pencils…

Here are jeanette’s lips, and you can see the lines of the tuscan red prismacolor pencil I used on them. On pink messenger I used the burnt sienna pencil to draw a line that sort of defines her upper eyelid. I use them wherever they seem like they’ll be useful, and they’re useful a lot… believe me, jeanette’s lips were lacking before I put the colored pencil on there, and I am not shy about using them on oil pastels – unless you have very heavy layer of oil pastels down, you can use colored pencils to shade them beautifully.


The piece of paper on the left was the beginning of pink messenger…. I’m showing it to emphasize the fact that a piece can change a LOT before it’s done, and I think the layers and changes that go into a piece are what give it not only depth, but also a kind of ‘strength’. This goes for faces too…

Originally I was going to use this piece as a jumping off point for writing about how I do the faces, but then I realized that that wouldn’t be enough, so below i’ll go through a step-by-step using another face. But here you can see pink messenger with just the cream caran d’ache oil pastel smeared around, and a little quinacridone gold watercolor rubbed in on her eyelids. That beautiful pink tip on her nose came through from what was underneath and I was careful throughout the process not to cover it up. : )

Before I drew pink messenger in, I covered the entire page with a layer of matte gel medium so I could work without having to worry about picking up the color from below.

Just imagine the steps below for pink messenger – I always do the same thing/s over and over until I get what I like.

I’ve just put the cream caran d’ache oil pastel on and smeared it around. as you can see, I don’t put oil pastel over the lips and eyes, and I also try not to cover up the eyebrow area or the outline of the nose.

Then I put a little quinacridone gold watercolor on a soft brush and painted it along the top edge of the face and the outline of the nose.

This is what it looks like once I’ve smeared the quinacridone gold around. To do that, I dip the tip of my finger in the water cup (that i rinse my brushes in) and then quickly smear the paint around. If it’s too dark, I dip my finger again and dilute it, or take a paper towel and wipe some off. For shading, a little goes a long ways.

Now I’ve added some red watercolor to her left cheek and some orange to her right and smeared them both in. Also I smudged the pencil (the derwent 8B) around with a blending stump.

Still using a soft brush I gave her the beginning of some lips, and with paynes grey watercolor I painted her pupils. I also added some white to her eyes with white gouache. the arrows are pointing to places where I put little dabs of sennelier brown ochre oil pastel.

Here she is with the brown ochre oil pastel smudged in (with a blending stump and/or my fingers), and some hair. for her hair i used quinacridone gold and burnt sienna watercolor.

That’s the end of what I’d call the first layer. Of course I could do a lot more shading with oil pastels or watercolors, and sometimes I do. I just do whatever seems like the thing to do…

Now I’m gonna put some white gouache on her forehead and nose, and I’m just showing the filbert brush and tube of gouache so you can see that this is what I use. I paint right out of the tube. I just scoop the paint out with the brush and put it on the oil pastel. The firmness of the filbert makes this easy. Do not add any water to the gouache – if you do it’ll bead up.

Here she is with more white gouache on her – I put some on her cheeks, chin, neck and a little more on her forehead. Also I gave her some eyebrows with paynes grey and quinacridone gold watercolors, and I added a bit more white to the eye on the left.

At this point I could refine her – finish her lips, work on her eyes, add more shading, etc.,or,

I could put cream oil pastel on most of her face and start a whole new layer. When I get to a place like this it’s not easy for me to stop and photograph what I’m doing because I’m in a painting frenzy, lol! But I would definitely keep going – smearing in more watercolors, adding more oil pastel – whatever seemed to be called for.

The reason that I’m not more specific about things like first I paint the eyes, then the mouth, or the number of layers I use, is because I don’t have a plan like that. I just paint whatever I know/feel to paint next and keep going ’til it looks right. I follow my intuition, and I feel like everyone can do that…

Often I have so many alternating layers of gouache, oil pastels, and/or watercolors down that things start to flake off, and I don’t mind that. It can add a lot of interest.

One more thing… I’ve been asked how I get the skin to look like this, and the answer is easy -I wipe off what I’ve done. I start with a small area and keep wiping until it seems right. Then I go back and paint the eyes in again – or whatever… when you paint on matte gel medium a sort of ghost image remains after you’ve wiped everything off; this will most likely inform what you want to do next…

If you have any questions please feel free to ask! i’ll answer them in the comments section so everyone can see…

Finished Piece

‘charlotte’ ~ watercolors, gouache, oil pastels, colored pencil, casein paint and graphite on page from milton poetry book – 4″ x 6″

It turns out that the face I started below was jeanette’s younger sister, charlotte! I had no idea!

I don’t think she’s changed too much… I added more white gouache and cream oil pastel to her skin, but mostly I worked on fine tuning her eyes, lips, and hair with watercolors, gouache, and oil pastels. Her hair is mainly pale yellow oil pastel and gamboge gouache. I like to add oil pastels to hair without blending them in… I messed with her eyebrows quite a lot, seeing which color/s looked best. All the while I was messing with stuff I was trying to figure out what her left eye (as you’re looking at her) needed. Finally I realized that I needed to lighten the edges of it near the outside of her face, which I did with white gouache. Then she popped alive.

If you click you can see the heavy white that I added to her forehead, nose, chin and neck – that’s white casein paint. It’s easier to get a layer of dense white with casein paint than with gouache. It’s just a heavier paint.

The background is entirely covered with white casein, which I then painted on top of. on the right side you can see some faint flowers – I drew those in with a purple prismacolor pencil. A perfect example of the usefulness of colored pencils, I think…

I’ll put a link to these posts in the sidebar so they’re easy to access…

Thank you for your positive responses and kind words!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *