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Introducing the Oil pastel

April 16, 2015

Oil pastel is a great medium with an interesting history.

Orbital: Jo Hall    Oil pastel 2015

In 1921 the Sakura Cray-Pas Company was set up in Japan to develop an improved quality wax crayon.  This was a direct response to an attempt to give young Japanese children a medium allowing them to work freely with colour, replacing long hours spent copying ideograms in black India ink.  Sadly the product had a low pigment content, and blending and impasto effects proved impossible.  By 1924 Sakura developed a high viscosity crayon: the oil pastel, comprised of a mix of paraffin, stearic acid and coconut oil mashed and used as a binder for the pigments.

Till a stabilizer was developed in 1927, two types were produced; winter pastels where additional oil was added to prevent hardening and summer pastels with very little oil to prevent melting.  Unfortunately these pastels were too expensive for state schools and Japanese schools at that time were sceptical of self-expression in general, so cheaper coloured pencils were imported from Germany.

Commercially, oil pastels were a success, but not at all comparable to professional quality oil pastels available now.  These early products were intended to introduce western art education to Japanese children and not as a fine art medium.

However, Sakura did manage to introduce oil pastels to a few artists including Picasso, but during the second world war these became unavailable, so Picasso convinced Henri Sennelier, a French manufacturer of quality art materials, to develop a fine arts version. These became available in 1949; superior in wax viscosity, texture and pigment quality and capable of producing more consistent and attractive works.  They are many professional artists’ preferred choice today.

The information above was gleaned from Wikipedia where a fuller account may be found.

The photographs below are from a one day workshop held  on  February 14th at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts Maidenhead where we explored ways of working with this vibrant medium which can be blended, scratched into and is compatible with oil paint.

Participants were encouraged to experiment with coloured and white paper and find ways of blending colours.

 

Pam is working on bright green paper

 

 

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One response to “Introducing the Oil pastel”

  1. Yamilet says:

    I love this idea. I homeschool my three kidods, 14, 8 and 3. In science, all three are learning about animals; my youngest two are learning how animals camouflage themselves. This project was a perfect addition to our lessons, especially since all three could do this project! They all sat down and created their hidden masterpieces! Thank you so much for sharing this idea. They are beautiful!

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