Oil Pastels first gained popularity in 1924, when the Japanese artist, Kanae Yamamota insisted on providing school children with a new type of crayon that would allow them to find their own artistic self-expression.
This lead Kanae and the teachers Rinzo Satake and Shuku Sasaki to team up and develop an improved wax crayon which, after further improvements, eventually became the oil pastel.
Discarding expensive chalk-like pastels for the newly invented oil pastel opened a whole new world for Japanese school-children whose artistic education system followed a rigid lesson plan – oil pastels allowed them to experiment with colors, blending, impasto with a lot more freedom than before.
Oil pastels continue to be a top choice amongst artists and creative folk looking to experiment with different mediums and tools. They are easily applied and offer a wide range of possibilities and styles for both beginners and professionals.
Check out this beginners guide to painting with oil pastels.
One of the things that make oil pastels incredibly fun and versatile to work with, is the fact that they can be applied to different types of surfaces including glass, wood, metal, rock and even plastic. The ability to use so many different surfaces to paint on is a great source of inspirations to artists and allows them to experiment freely – and this was exactly what Yamamota intended when he first set about developing the oil pastels.
As a beginner, once you have selected the best oil pastels you also need the best surface to practice and perfect your work. Each artist will have different preferences when it comes to the paper type used for oil pastel work, so it is rather difficult to decide on which one works best for you prior to even starting! To make it easier for you, here is a list of the best paper to use for oil pastels based on the advice from artists around the globe.
Strathmore Visual Journal (Watercolour, 140 lb)
The Strathmore Visual Journal for watercolors works wonders for oil pastels too. The paper offers the perfect balance between thick and thin, and at 140lb it is just the right weight to hold oil pastels without smudging. This journal is wire bound which seems to be a preference amongst many artists seeing as paintings can be easily removed, but are also kept safe from rugged edges and typical wear and tear thanks to its hardcover. With 34 acid-free watercolor sheets for £16, you will have plenty of practice opportunities at a minimal cost.
Bee Paper Canvasskin Pad (90lb)
These heavy-weight, canvas textured sheets from Bee Paper are ideal for oil pastels. You can really go to town on these sheets – don’t shy away from rubbing or scratching techniques, because this paper can handle it! At 11×14 inches, they are also perfectly sized for framing and costs are low.
Sennelier Oil Pastel Pad (160lb)
The French manufacturer, Sennelier, was the first to produce oil pastel for professional artists in 1949, and the brand has now established itself as one of the biggest names in the world of art supplies. Although the Sennelier oil pastel pads are a tad more costly, you can rest assured that you are working on top quality paper. Your pastels won’t bleed through the pages and each pad comes equipped with vellum sheets to protect your completed work. The Sennelier oil pastel pads are particularly popular with experienced artists, as it would be a waste to use up this top-quality paper for doodling experiments.
Canson Mixed Media Paper (98lb)
The Canson Mixed Media Paper pads are another great alternative for those who are looking to keep costs low. Each pad comes with 60 sheets of acid-free paper that provide the right texture for oil pastel painting. These pads are available in different sizes which might be something to consider once you feel confident enough to frame your work.