When we were in primary school, making art was an important part of the day in the classroom. Some of the main drawing exercises usually were created with our box of crayons – drawing scenes from our imagination on rough construction paper. Afterwards, the teacher might display the drawings on the classroom board, and we’d get a chance to see our ‘masterpiece’ amongst all our classmate’s ‘masterpieces’.
At the start of each school year, our parents would take us out to a store that carried art supplies, and we’d get to pick out a box of brand new crayons to use. I remember opening that box, and smelling the pleasant waxy odor of those new crayons – it was actually an exhilarating feeling to the senses!
These days, I’ve ‘graduated’ to a more sophisticated version of the kid’s crayons: Oil Pastels.
What are Oil Pastels? Oil pastels (also called wax oil crayon) are a drawing/painting medium for creating color art. Because of their unique characteristics, many artists choose to use them over other color media. Oil pastels possess characteristics that are similar to that of traditional crayons.
There are two types of pastels – oil and soft (or chalk). Although some of the techniques used to draw with both types of pastels are similar, oil pastels and soft pastels are uniquely different.
While soft pastels are made up of a dry, powdered pigment, oil pastels are made up of a pigment that is held together by linseed oil. Oil Pastels have an oily consistency that feels more buttery and creamy. The texture has been described by artists as like lipstick. They are versatile and can be used in a number of ways, on a variety of surfaces. This makes the painting experience feel expressive and free. With oil pastel, colours can be blended by smudging, or brushing small amounts of solvent over the top.
Painting landscapes are good subjects, and are easily created with oil pastels. In painting a landscape, one does not have to worry about adding exact detail, but rather to ‘catch the mood’ of the image.
Surfaces for Oil Pastels – Artists may choose to work on a variety of surfaces including paper, canvas and cardboard, but most commonly, a paper with textured surface or “tooth” is used. Working on paper surfaces with a medium tooth, an artist can apply multiple applications of pastel to the surface to create vivid colour layers.
While there are a number of fine artist oil pastels available, the easiest brands to find in the Penang area are: Pentel Arts Oil Pastels (made in Thailand), Buncho (China) and Mungyo (Korea). I would rate all three about the same in quality, and are easy for beginners and students to use.
As I say to my students, “Try them, blend the colours together, push them around, and just have fun!”