Oil Pastels for Beginners

Box set of oil pastelsThere is something I would like oil pastelist beginners to know.  There is a big difference in the quality of oil pastels that you choose to work with!  I think all oil pastel artists start out with a set of student-quality (cheap!) oil pastels, thinking to ourselves ‘Ok I’m going to give these a try, but I don’t want to pay too much because I might not like oil pastels’.  Am I right or am I wrong? :)

But I’m here to tell you.  That cheap $10 or $20 set you got to give oil pastels a try might not be giving oil pastels as a medium much justice.  You’ll take home your new set, find some time and sit down to try to work with them.  Next thing you know, you’re trying to blend something and it gets all flaky and chips of the pastel sticks are all over your surface.  You try another color and blend in the flakes somehow, but this just results in more flakes and by now you may not be happy with oil pastels as a medium.

Ok this may not happen for everyone, but I’m sure it has happened to some of you.  For me, my first experience in oil pastels was ok, I think I got lucky and ended up with a good piece (it was for a school assignment so I had to finish it), and I did enjoy the experience.  But some of you may not, and this may be caused simply by the cheap quality set that you got.

So here is my advice.  I’m going to recommend that you go get yourself a small set of Sennelier oil pastels, just so you can see the difference in quality.  You don’t have to get the largest box Sennelier makes… you don’t even have to get a 24 or 36 piece box.  You could even get a 6-piece starter set, or just get a few individual sticks from Jerry’s or Dick Blicks.  But do yourself a favor, if you have any real interest in the oil pastels medium and just give the Senneliers a try!

Senneliers are vastly richer, smoother, have better color, blend better, stick to the surface better, layer better… I could go on and on.  The difference really is huge.  For me it was like a lightbulb went off, when I first tried them.  I went “Oh..! Now this is what oil pastel is all about!” :)

So that’s my first advice to beginners.  Get a better quality medium!  Since senneliers can be expensive, I just got 2 or 3 sticks each weekend at Jerry’s for awhile.  Eventually I had enough set that I can work with Senneliers exclusively!   Although I still do go back to some of the cheaper quality but just for a base layer and filling in color sometimes.  I’ll talk about that more in a future article.  For now, head to Jerry’s, order online from Dick Blick’s, Amazon, Cheap Joe’s, or wherever you can get them, but just try a few sticks of Senneliers so you can tell the difference.

Best of luck and happy oil-pasteling!

- Eric

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