ART Smart: Oil Pastel Paintings

No one is born understanding all the different types of paintings and art that artists are creating. In this series we will be taking a look at the basics of each type of art so that you can feel confident and art smart! Wondering how I got to be ART Smart ? I apprenticed in an art shop for three years and while I was there it was my job to play with everything and teach people how each medium works.

What is Oil Pastel?

Oil Pastels are made up of pigment mixed with a non drying oil and wax binder. Bold and naturally expressive, these kind of pastels lend themselves really well to impasto style works. Being the kind of gal that I am – the direct-somewhat-impatient type – I love using oil pastels experimentally. Oil pastels can be blended with a variety of solvents – most solvents for oil paints also work for oil pastels – but they don’t really love to be blended. Because they are so portable many artists use them for sketching, but oil pastels don’t really dry permanently without a special fixative spray. 

How do I care for an Oil Pastel Painting?

The Short Version: As usual for works on paper, and media that is susceptible to humidity – the best way to care for these paintings is to frame them with a mat and glass.  Occasionally oil pastel paintings can develop a white-ish colour on the surface – that is called “wax bloom” and it also happens to coloured pencil which also uses wax as a binder in the pigment. Gentle polishing with a soft cloth will remove the build up and restore the colours.

More About Oil Pastel:

If you are thinking about playing around with these fun toys, I suggest getting a mid grade set to start – skip the cheapest version. These are really fun when they are nice and soft – the cheaper ones are harder and much more difficult to work with. If strict naturalism is what you are going for, you’ll need a rainbow of colours (very similar to soft pastels) but if you’re willing to lean a little to the fauvist style a basic set of colours will be a great place to start.

Oil pastels leave wonderful, expressive marks. That is one of their great strengths.  

Take a peek here for some great oil pastel drawings and there’s more fun art here


Leave a Reply