Add an Instant WOW Factor with Oil Pastels

As the year comes to a close, I’ve been looking back at all of the mixed-media techniques, inspiration, and art that we’ve been fortunate enough to share with you through Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, our website, our Facebook page, and beyond. We’ve connected with hundreds of artists, including readers such as yourself, and we’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going into 2017.

We’ve celebrated all things mixed media, including stencils and stamps, paper art and collage, and handmade gifts and art journaling. Watercolor and acrylic have made appearances as well, and we’ve also shined a spotlight on oil pastels. In case you missed it, here’s “A Look At…Oil Pastels” from the magazine’s editors and Jane Davenport, from our January/February 2016 issue (click here to download the entire year’s worth of Cloth Paper Scissors). Try something new and see how it expands your artistic horizons!

The first part of the article examines the medium and how it works: “Oil pastels offer a short learning curve and little setup–open the box and start creating. This crayon-like medium, made of pigments mixed with wax and oil, offers good, smooth coverage and intense colors. They can be used on paper or canvas and are perfect for art journals and collage. Mixed with a solvent, oil pastels can be used like paint.”

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Download all of the 2016 issues of Cloth Paper Scissors for a year’s worth of inspiration and techniques! Artwork by Anita Cook

A Look At Oil Pastels by Jane Davenport

One of my earliest art memories is creating a beautiful mural in the hallway of our house using my mother’s brand-new bright red YSL lipstick. As an adult I realize the error of my ways, but at the time I was shocked that she was so angry, because I had so much fun doing it! I can still remember the way the lipstick glided over the white walls with ease. When I use oil pastels now I feel like that young artist is set free again.

My current favorite oil pastels are the Holbein Artist’s Oil Pastels. They are professional-grade tools and non-toxic, which is important because I like to use my fingers to blend them. They come in a huge range of colors and are available in different size sets (I have the 24-count set). Within a sturdy box there are several clear plastic cases that keep the pastels separate, which is handy for traveling.

The rectangular shape of the pastel sticks themselves is worth noting; the edges are very useful for adding details. They seem to be just the right size for my hands, which makes them easy to control. Best of all, there are no labels to peel off. Oil pastels can be a messy medium, but because the Holbein pastels are not too oily or dry, cleanup isn’t a big issue. I can get most of the color off my hands with a baby wipe.

oil pastels | Jane Davenport,
Using oil pastels: Figure 1

What excites me most is the opacity and density of this medium. I used the pastels on a highly patterned background created with acrylic paint. (Figure 1) It was easy to cover the paint and concentrate on forming the details and blending the colors of my focal image.

oil pastels | Jane Davenport,
Using oil pastels: Figure 2

Oil pastels are capable of adding an instant wow factor and impact to anything they touch, and they are easy to layer. (Figure 2)

They’re fun to scratch into, too (I like to use my fingernails).

Using oil pastels | Jane Davenport,
Figure 3

Because of their shape, you can rub them flat across a textured page to emphasize the texture of the ground. (Figure 3)

oil pastels | Jane Davenport,

A solvent will turn oil pastels into oil paint. I used Archival Oils Odourless Lean Medium to smudge the dress and background, (Figure 4) and used a baby wipe to shape the oil paint I created.

oil pastels | Jane Davenport,
Jane Davenport’s art journal portrait, made using oil pastels.

I mainly work in art journals, so oil pastels can sometimes cause a problem, transferring from one page to another. My solution is to paint matte medium over the dried oil pastel to help them stay put. Using acrylic paints and mediums over an oil-based medium is usually a big no-no (the dried acrylic will crack and fall off the oil-based surface), but my matte-medium method has worked well in my journal.

All oil pastels are worthy of closer investigation. They encourage me to work in a very loose way, so I highly recommend trying them if you want to loosen up your own style.

I hope you are inspired to play just like I did when I wielded my mother’s lipstick all those years ago (Sorry, Mum!). ~Jane

Jane ‘Danger’ Davenport ( is a professional artist, author, popular online workshop teacher, international art-retreat leader, and art materials colorist from Byron Bay, Australia. Jane has a Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop DVD called “The Whimsical Face” and she is the author of Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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