Sennelier 1949 Oil Pastel Set, 120 Colours
When Pablo Picasso walked into 3 Quai Voltaire, across from the Louvre, in 1948, it wasn't to purchase notebooks like he'd done so many times before. Instead, he was hoping Henri Sennelier would be able to create a medium which could be used on-the-go on any surface, without cracking or fading.
After a year of experimentation, Henri came up with waxy sticks of pigment which delivered thick, dense strokes of colour; he called them "oil pastels" and, after supplying the artist with 40 sticks of each of the 48 hues he'd designed, threw them in a shelf unsure whether we'd ever be able to shift all the remaining stock. Lucky for him, and for the artistic community at large, his creamy oil pastels became a sensation.
Oil pastels do represent indeed a marked step away from the precise rendering of nature of 19th century Neoclassicism, and are by nature imprecise and sensual, leaning towards a free-form and experimental sense of raw creativity. They lend themselves to bold bursts of colour and texture. Similar to dry pastels, they also give the artist an instant repertory of vibrant colours, usable on-the-go, which makes them the perfect companion for preliminary sketches and al fresco painting - oil paints' accessible and informal alter ego.
Soft and creamy, these oil crayons are easily applied, blended and layered, including to large surface areas without unsightly edges. Colours can be mixed together right onto the paper without getting messy or loosing the integrity of each individual colour. Use a palette knife if you prefer to mix and apply - this can be done in thick layers for added texture and shaping (scumbling). Try Sgraffito technique, where lines and textures can be 'carved' scraping lines and shapes out using hard tools. Oil pastels are usually used dry, but wan also be used wet, with a wet brush for a colour wash. As they are oil based they do not fully ever dry or cure and finished work should be fixed, using a glaze or fixative (try hairspray or specialty art products).
These are but a few practical suggestions to illustrate what is an incontestably modern medium, versatile, and straightforward medium for any artist to experiment with.
Paper pairing: just like pastels, oil pastels benefit from papers with a deep grain and 'tooth' which open up the pigment colour and encourage texture. You might try Aquarella, Aquarello or Aquarello Nero.
120 oil pastels in a wooden presentation box
Dimensions: 46 x 42cm approx