Painting in Oils with Pastel and Charcoal

* A guest post by Yael Maimon

When painting in oils with mixed media, I feel I have more freedom to experiment, play and use more imagination and intuition. At the end of the day, this expands my painting horizon. I love seeing how far I can take a painting using various materials, and I am curious to see how one medium interacts with another. Also, it is a great way to really understand the essence and characteristics of my painting materials.

Materials List:

Reference photo

Stretched and primed linen




Soft pastels


Reference photo

Reference photo

Going over my cat photos, I chose this one as my reference for painting Cat, Inner Smile. My photo is just a starting point for me and I use it only for general direction. I love taking artistic liberties and take some time to plan and visualize my painting.










STAGE 1 Establish Drawing and Jump in with Oils


I first make a pencil drawing on my surface, based on my reference photo. Then, I introduce oils, mostly using very thinned paint. I work as quickly as possible, trying to avoid details and just get the overall feeling of the cat’s shape and color.

STAGE 2 Create Dark Background with Charcoal


After the painting is left to dry for a week or so, I come back to it. Now, I want to work on the background as a dark and simple mass, so I introduce charcoal to cover the blank background areas. This way, I “push and pull” the cat into focus. Some of the charcoal is dragged with paper towel from the background onto the cat.

STAGE 3 Paint Foreground with Pastel


I use soft pastel to paint the foreground. Touches of that pastel color are also added here and there on the cat. I feel that I am painting with a limited palette, so I am thinking about introducing new colors.

STAGE 4 Introduce More Colors


I darken the background a bit. Next, introducing more pastel colors, such as different turquoises and light orange, I play with cool and warm tones. I build up the form of the cat trying to create an illusion of a three-dimensional subject. The pastel is applied in light strokes as well as in thick ones.

STAGE 5 Pull the Painting Together (finished painting)

Cat, Inner Smile, 12" X 8", mixed media (oil, charcoal and soft pastel on linen)

Cat, Inner Smile, 12″ X 8″, mixed media (oil, charcoal and soft pastel on linen)


At this stage I work all over the painting. I rework the background, suggest fur texture and make refinements of edges, shades and color. I add a few details with oils, using long thin soft round brush, and finally scratch the painting surface for whiskers. Feeling that I’ve conveyed the desired mood and captured the magical cat qualities I was after, I sign the piece.

Advice: Your painting is your playground and laboratory. Experiment and have fun!

About Yael Maimon

Yael Maimon was born in Ashkelon, Israel in 1980. Drawing and painting since forever, Maimon decided to be fully committed to her art in her early twenties. She enjoys painting in a variety of media including oil, pastel, watercolor and mixed media. Maimon is best known for her Cats series; however she is also working on a Deer series, a figurative series called Once Upon a Time and a still-life Pastry series. Maimon’s paintings are grounded in realism yet impressionistic in nature, traditional yet contemporary. Her artwork was featured in art exhibitions in Israel and abroad and gained international recognition.


See Maimon’s work along with many other inspiring artists in Incite 2 and Incite 3

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