Savoir-Faire is an importer of fine art materials, brands such as Sennelier, Cretacolor, Fabriano, Raphael, and more. Every Friday they do live video on Instagram. I found out about it from my mentor, Michael Mentler, when he was participating in one of the live videos. This Friday, the topic was oil pastels. In my opinion, it’s under explored medium!
Most art schools and art teachers forbid to use oil pastels. All I’ve heard is “don’t get oil, get regular pastels.” And that’s it, no explanation or reasoning behind it. Sometimes they’d mention that oil pastels are bad, but I would not dare to ask as to why. Now, I think I know why. Because there are oil pastels and then there are Sennelier oil pastels. The difference is in drying time, the smoothness of application, and pigment load. Other brands often are not exactly oil pastels, but wax pastels or crayons instead. Which is why they’re sticky and don’t go on smoothly, don’t ever dry, and don’t always blend that well.
What they are
Originally, oil pastels were developed by Sennelier for Picasso. Prior to this, they did not exist as a drawing medium. Oil pastels consist of pure pigment and binder, they stay in stick form, but judging by the video they glide on very smoothly. I have not yet had a chance to try them myself as I was drawing only with dry media so far. However, I did a bit of research and shall try oil pastels once I get my hands on some in the upcoming weeks.
Pierre mentioned that you can use Sennelier oil pastels on any surface! It’s easy to try them on something quite common like watercolor paper. However, any paper or any surface would do, such as metal, sculpture, cardboard, anything really! You can use several techniques with oil pastes. They’re great for blending colors and creating smooth gradients. Using just fingers instead of brushes or other tools, one could make beautiful drawing. However, if you’re like me and like to keep your fingers clean, then I’d imagine blending sticks would work just as well. Then there’s layering and scratching technique. Where one could layer colors and then scratch away top layer to reveal what’s underneath. I used to love this technique when I was in art school for children. Lastly, one could create a great color wash with oil paint thinner or medium.
When to use
Oil pastels are tricky since they don’t fully dry. However, the top coat of Sennelier oil pastels does, but they stay soft underneath. And in a way it’s the beauty of oil pastels. They go on smooth and easily mix without a brush or really any tools. I can see them being a medium of choice on the go for me as they don’t require any setup or clean up. It’s all in hard form, no need to wash brushes, and no need to think about transportation of brush cleaner which can be an issue on the airplane. Like any other pastels, oil pastels can be fixated to preserve the drawing. In that live video they recommended Lascaux UV fixative for the final coat.
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed my little sum-up about this mysterious medium. Please let me know in the comments if you use oil pastels with any other techniques or have anything to add to my article.