Oil Pastel Portrait Makeover

My friend Robin Laws recently shared a new technique she has been studying. She was inspired by a Spanish artist named Guim Tio, who is known for using magazine pages as a starting point for his abstract portrait makeovers.

Some of his work:

His work is much more expressive and abstract that I have dared to attempt (yet), but I loved the idea and decided I had to try the technique myself.

I thought this would also be a good chance to do a value study, so I selected a high contrast black and white image from Pinterest.



Using only my white and black oil pastels, I first filled in the dark areas, then gradually added in white for the midtones. The highlight areas are pure white.

Somewhere in the middle my girl started looking very masculine. I went back to my reference photo and added back in some of the darks that had been lost while blending. I was able to restore her feminine charm, then gifted her with beautiful red lips.

The last step was to roughly fill in the scribbled background. My original plan was to lay down a layer of white so I could add some subtle hints of other colors, but I liked the scribbles so much I decided to leave them as they were. They added a wonderful loose, expressive quality that contrasted well with the more detailed portrait. I simply smudged it with my fingers to soften the lines and called it done.

Here she is!


I love how she turned out, and I learned so much about using my oil pastels. I would love to experiment with this more at some point – wouldn’t it be interesting to do more value studies this way with other colors?

FYI – Robin has filmed a video tutorial demonstrating her process! Visit her website here for more information.

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