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There it is -- the stack of new oil pastels sets, currently spread out near the sunpatch to warm up. They woke me up this morning. I woke at 8:30 am to a mysterious Thud! Ice-cold Oil Pastels have been delivered! Many thanks to Karl or Kitten for hauling the box in from outside, it weighed as much as my cat.

I opened my eyes and there was the cardboard box, surprisingly compact, holding all of those oil pastels sets plus my new ProArt 4" x 6" sketchbook, a separate Cray-Pas Specialist colorless extender and a set of Royal Sovereign Clay Shapers size 2, all five tip shapes.

It was about time for the sketchbook. I was down to only four blank pages in the old one yesterday. I usually reorder when I'm down to the last fifteen or dozen and think of that as cutting it close, but this time I nearly ran out. I use that size up faster than any other. For some reason it's more comfortable for me doing one sketch per page on a small sketchbook than working large in the letter size one.

That red tin front and center is 48 Neopastels, star of the show, artist grade personal favorites. I love the texture and they mix so well I was doing good realism with just a 12 color set. 48 of them is going to be a pure joy to use, I'll be doing a lot more serious paintings with those. Also the Cray-Pas Specialists and Van Goghs, which are listed as student grade at Blick but fulfill the usual definitions of artist grade well enough or come close.

I'm overwhelmed. I've got a lot of art to do with these -- at least a small artwork in each brand plus color charting them. This almost completes the sets I need in order to do my lightfastness testing. I've got four more sets to pick up next month, three at ASW and one from another site (the only one that carries Maimeri Classico), and my friend Bill has offered to help me with samples of the full range on the ones he bought that I didn't. Van Gogh actually has 88 colors in open stock -- Bill bought all the extra colors. I hadn't. He also has full range sets of Neopastel, Sennelier and Holbein, so I don't need to scrape up another $942 before April 14th to own full range sets of those. Yeesh. It'd be a thousand dollars more to come up to the range he's got available.

Not that I may not eventually get there, but I'm not going to try to do that in just another month or two. I'm busy enough with all the student sets in their largest available sizes to get set up for my lightfastness testing... and in the immediate future, start beefing up the Reviews section of my site and fill up most of the slots under Oil Pastels.

After that there's also doing the reviews on surfaces, but those do not need lightfast-tests. That's something I can stretch out over the summer trying sanded papers from different manufacturers now and then, oil pastel card, various tinted papers. I actually already have most of the surfaces I should review other than multiple brands of sanded pastel paper. I've got Colourfix and Wallis, but will eventually get a Dakota Sampler of Uart and other sanded paper brands all in one pack.

The net result is that I may be doing a whole lot of my sketching in oil pastels. The student grade ones are fine for sketching. When I've tested them, some brands may be fine for serious art too. I will sell some of the sketches but be very clear about which brands I used on them and that they should be protected from light pending lightfastness testing. I suspect some brands may prove better than others in that regard, but it's like colored pencils used to be -- there is no standard yet.

ACEOs of course are fine for that or even OSWOA because they usually get stored in albums. When I ship them in top loaders, it's as good as framing for protection and collectors tend to keep them in boxes or albums. I would recommend rotating them if you buy one that hasn't been done with clearly labeled lightfast supplies -- not just mine but many other ACEO artists use things that fade if they get too much sun.

I'm currently looking at an interesting reference of a bald eagle and planning to sketch it today, not sure which set I'll use but I think I'll get out the Canson paper for it. I want to do it loosely and let the paper form a lot of the background. I'll post it later -- after my fresh new ice-cold oil pastels finish warming up and I can get them to cover without crumbling.

Oil pastels are very temperature-sensitive so it's not fair to test them till they're room temperature. When too cold, they become more crumbly and hard, sometimes to the point where you can't even get full coverage because they'll scrape off what you first put down and still not fill the spots on the paper. If you're having trouble with oil pastels, it helps to warm them in your hands to get them to blend more easily.

Prang, Cray-Pas Junior, Crayola are all clearly marketed for children. Reeves is the children's division of Winsor & Newton so they are all right for kids -- but also good for high school, college students or hobbyists, they tend to market excellent student grade supplies.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
Proud member of the Oil Pastel Society
Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
New Topical Blog: www.robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com for all the cool art stuff that isn't oil pastels!

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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance
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