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 How to use oil pastels for the beginner

© 2006 by Regina Donaldson

Using oil pastels as a medium for canvas-based painting is no longer any different at all from using regular, petroleum-based oil paint. Oil pastels are easy and flexible to work with; offering artists of all skill levels an unlimited armory of creative potential. Most importantly, oil pastels are also considered a safe alternative to both oil pains and soft pastels.

For centuries, artists have had to give up oil paints, especially in their old age, as the dust associated with oil paint itself caused health concerns. In the 1950s, advances in the science of oil-like pastel paint made it possible to produce the first-ever dust-free alternative, but painters have never taken to it until recently, when they got the formulas just right… Over time, the blacks finally became dark enough; the hues finally became separate enough, and so on. The end result is that we now have a dust-free, ecology-friendly alternative to oil-based paints that can be made into tube or stick form, and perform just as well in every way. It’s taken over 50 years for science to get the formula just right, but in the 1990s they finally succeeded in producing a non-petroleum-based paint that had no harmful effects to the environment, and best of all, no dust!

The man who wrote the book on how to use oil pastels, quite literally, has a lot to say on this subject. In 1983, an artist from New York by the name of John Elliot wrote the very first article on how to use oil pastels, even before the formula had been perfected, for the prestigious American Artist magazine. For many years before that he passionately worked towards pushing paint manufacturers into speeding along the progress of their work towards perfecting the paint. If there is any one many behind the phenomenon of oil pastels, it is John Elliot.

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