The Art of S. Michael Gaston
Techniques Photo

My work can be divided into four areas of concentration: oil paintings, pastels, and drawings (see below). Each medium has its own unique qualities, and I approach them
according to their limitations and possibilities. For example, unlike oils, pastels cannot be mixed before being applied to a surface and therefore one must have a very large collection of pastel colors from which to choose. Drawings are more immediate
but far more limited in color range. They do, however, provide excellent feedback in their range of lights and darks.


Oil PaintingsOil Techniques


Pastel DrawingPastel Techniques


Charcoal DrawingDrawing Techniques

On a gessoed canvas, I paint a thin, warm mid-tone layer of Venetian Red that serves as a background for the composition.

I then draw a scaled-up drawing on the canvas. Next, I block out light and dark values in lean oils and follow up with middle values in thin washes.

Now I begin painting more thickly in oils, refining the entire composition by using larger, then smaller sable brushes, keeping in mind the luminosity and color variations the painting requires.

I complete the work with layers of colored glazes to bring out the most dramatic effects.



My pastel surface is usually museum grade sandpaper (such as Wallis) with a warm-toned ground. I sketch a rough drawing with a light-colored pastel pencil and begin to refine the design from upper left to lower right using hard and soft pastels.

I layer the colors carefully, even using my fingertips to create a rich and saturated quality that is difficult to achieve with any other method.

Because of the fine texture of this technique and the layers of color that are gradually built up, the pastels have an exceptional luminosity.





The drawings that I create are usually done within a five to thirty minute time span. The drawing surface is a museum grade white or off-white charcoal paper, although I also like to use toned grounds.

I start with soft and then hard vine charcoal, compressed charcoal and charcoal pencils for most of the drawing, and I may soften or lighten areas with chamois, stomp, or even a brush. Most of my erasing is done with a kneaded eraser, but I also employ an electric eraser for special areas.