Oil sticks

Recently I rediscovered my oil sticks. I had been working on a couple of mixed media pieces on paper and was wondering how I could get the same effect I achieved on an acrylic painting I had just done – without using acrylic (my supplies were rather low).  So out came the oil sticks. And they are so lovely! Creamy, buttery deliciousness.


I set out using them as the top layer on my collaged paintings. They became the blurry smudged mysterious link to the underneath activity. This is precisely why I love them. Oil sticks allow for misty blending. They can be used in a translucent layer to allow what is underneath to sparkle through. Or they can be used in a solid mass of blocked colour. How versatile. And because they are an oil paint in a stick form the end result is a shiny smooth finish as opposed to the matt finish one gets from acrylics.

My exploration of oils sticks led me to wonder whether I could create a whole painting from them. So I did what all good art students do – I explored the www! And didn’t my exploration reveal some amazing artists and information.

I started with one of my favourites of the moment – Sara Paxton. I first saw her work about 3 years ago and have been mesmerised ever since. Her work is vibrant and intriguing. Her subject matter is varied. Her style is loose and inviting. I am always quite inspired after looking at her work. Seeing her work really encourages me to develop my own work and use of oil paint – only I really prefer the oil sticks.

Another example I discovered in my search was  Charles Forsberg. Wow. Amazing use of colour and a very confident use of the medium. I originally discovered this artist via a Youtube video for R&F oil sticks. Check it out here. Inspiring. What I learnt here was that the more you work the medium the more malleable and oil-paint-like it gets. I was also fascinated that the substrate used here was a cradled board – like what one might use for encaustic painting. Upon playing around on my canvas it occurred to me that a more supported surface would lend itself better to Forsberg’s way of working than a stretched canvas, which has less support and more flex. When I was pushing firmly I felt I might make a hole through the canvas.

The other fabulous discovery I made was when I was searching for an oil colour mixing chart. I was working on the theory that oil sticks would work something like normal oil paint when I was searching. I came across the Winsor and Newton Oil painting book. This is a great online resource and is a downloadable PDF. I even loaded it onto my iPad. Brilliant. It contains a little bit of history, a little bit of oil paint science and a little bit of colour theory. Easy to read and very helpful.

Oil sticks are a really interesting media. They can be used as oil paint and brushed on or diluted with a painting medium. They can be used straight from the stick and used as one would use a crayon. I really resisted using them like oil paints because I feel like they are not oil paints. But I think I have to get over that and embrace their versatility. I think it might improve the end result of the canvas I have begun – but I’ll show you that in my next post…


If you haven’t tried oil sticks, you must! I don’t think I mastered them by any means but they have added a new dimension to my work that other media hasn’t. What media do you use that creates further depth to what you do? I would love to hear about it. JP

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