Sunday, July 24, 2022


Summer 2022 Newsletter: Oil Pastel

Sole Flamingo
Oil pastel by Jill Jeffers Goodell ©2022

While taking some time off for the summer, I’ve challenged myself with a painting/drawing everyday. It’s been fun and surprisingly not as disciplined as I thought. Part of the secret I think is that I haven’t put any firm rules on what I'm  drawing or painting-- anything and everything goes. (see Glastonbury Studios Facebook page for my progress).

And I’ve made a discovery: I like oil pastels. Just for fun I decided to pull out my oil pastels as a daily exercise and was amazed at how much fun they can be. I did so many pastel paintings for so many days, I actually had oil all over my hands, table and even some clothes. So, I’ve quickly learned to keep it at a minimum—no more marathon oil pastel days. Now I pull out my materials, create my “masterpiece,” then clean up—which isn’t too difficult, just soap and water.

Additionally, I’ve also learned a few things about materials. I’ve always leaned toward Pentel sets. Heck for only $10, you can get a 50-stick set. So why not?
Don’t get me wrong. These pastels are still a good buy as well as a good choice, especially when the stick is at room temperature or warmer. But—there’s always a but isn’t there—I was recently introduced to Paul Rubens oil pastels. Wow, what a difference. They are softer to the touch, larger in size (which means more color) and can make a bold impression when met with paper. I do have a problem with their “stickiness” because they have more oil in them, but that’s probably why they are so easy to apply. The cost is twice as much, though. So if you’re on a budget, it may cause you to go for Pentel, rather than Rubens at $25 for the same amount.
Speaking of cost though, the most expensive oil pastels on the market are Sennelier (the first in Europe to create oil pastels). You will pay handsomely for these pastels, but they are the best and go down as if you are working with lipstick. The pigment is strong and they can be manipulated beautifully. However, all that will cost you. A simple 12 stick set is $29.01. I buy them when they are on sale. You can check out sales on Dick BlickJerry's Artarama or Cheap Joes.
Keeping it clean
With the Pentel sticks, you will not need to work too hard on keeping the oil feeling at bay. But both Ruben and Sennelier are chockfull of oil and can get all over your hands and work area—and if you not careful, on your clothes. I personally don’t like the feeling much, so I periodically head over to the sink and wash my hands with soap. I guess the best advice is to either lay down some paper around your work area or use an easel, which will keep the pastels on the paper and no on your drawing board.

By the way, I do NOT use my fingers to blend or manipulate oil pastel, ever! There are just too many chemicals—mostly the colored pigments—for me. Even my dermatologist recommends wearing gloves if I’m going to put my fingers into anything in art. Instead, I use two things:

Color Shapers (also called clay shapers)

Or Finger Cots
The color shapers I use were made for children and are larger than most. The ones shown above are a close match.  You see thinner ones online (see selection above). While I have those in my arsenal, I find myself always leaning to the children’s set. By the way, these are also called clay shapers used by sculptors.

I also use finger cots. Wearing full-size gloves doesn’t work out for me. My hands sweat too much. A good alternative is the finger cot. While I don’t usually mess with oil pastels by using my hand (I do more of that with soft pastels), I do find these are convenient and not too expensive.

Grounds (paper, canvas, wood)
Theoretically, you can use oil pastels on anything: paper, canvas, wood, even glass. I’ve  used sandpaper, which eats up the pastel quickly but creates a deep, luscious color output, especially when using Pentel products. Recently, I found a paper/card called Pastelmat. The surface is somewhat rough but not like sandpaper. The pastels go down very easily, and the paper has enough tooth for lots of layers. Made in France.
I also use Colorfix by Art Spectrum. Made in Australia, it has a fine tooth and comes in a packet of different colors. The surface is similar to sandpaper but not as harsh.

Of course, I also use the standard Canson’s Mi Tientes pastel paper. However, I do have to warn you that the oil from the pastels can leak through to the other side. For that reason, I don’t use this paper often for oil pastels and just stick with it for colored pencils and soft pastels. The paper is also made in France.

Beyond paper and boards, I am not particularly in love with a wood surface, as it doesn’t have the tooth I want, although I can paint a toothy gesso to its surface. However I do love working on canvas, especially the board-type of canvases. It will eat up your pastel stick faster because it pulls more on the surface, but the ability to manipulate and blend the oil is so much fun, it’s worth it.

This is a medium that never dries. So be prepared to put it under glass. I do have a couple of projects that I’ve done on canvas, which have survived room dust, but usually, I have put my projects within a frame with glass. I have used Miniwax Polycrylic  as a top coat and it seems to have done okay. But I can’t guarantee that it will work every time.

What's coming up in the studio!
Classes to begin September 13 and/or 14. No subject or technique has been determined yet. That all depends on the survery that I'm sending out after publishing this newsletter. Please, please, please do fill it out. There are very few questions.
Be on the look out for the
2022 Summer Survey!
Your voice counts!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Art for Art's Sake

 This is what art is for me...

"Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost."    

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, social theorist and author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Ever since I was a child, I got lost in my art, lost in the world of imagination. Yes, occasionally, it got me into trouble--not lots of trouble, more of a frustration for my parents and teachers. If I wasn't daydreaming, I was doodling or writing. Even as I write this my heart goes aflutter with a peaceful, airy feeling. 

Unfortunately, life usually had to come in with a big BANG. That's why I consider myself so lucky today. I can work on my art with abandon and even teach the same subject endlessly. Being semi-retired is certainly a bonus as well, even though I probably produce more work than ever. 

So what does that have to do with you and your art. In one word, RELAX. Instead of approaching each project with the thought of it being your masterpiece, why not just approach it with "let's have some fun." As I expressed in my article on creating sloppy copies before settling on the "real" thing, I'm here today to encourage you to let go and enjoy.

When we were kids, we did not have preconceived notions on what is good or bad art. That came later, when we were around 11 or 12. Suddenly the gooey paint brush had to create something realistic or it was no good. That's when our internal critic was born. Oh hurray.

I still fall into that trap. For instance, I am currently working on a lesson plan for drawing with ballpoint pens. If you go online, you will find incredible portraits done by people with ballpoint pens. I am astounded looking at these works. Here are couple of artists:

PASSENGER, 2018, 86x106 cm  Oscar Ukonu

Absolutely stunning work. Some artists who do this type of photo realism actually project the photograph onto the paper and create from there. Photo realism has been around since the 1960s and has depended upon photos with amazing art results. See Deborah and Zoe Gustlin’s article on the subject. Even Norman Rockwell projected his photos to create his delightful paintings for the Saturday Evening Post.

Obviously, it is totally unfair for you to compare yourself to these artists, as they may be using tools that are not at your disposal. But more importantly, I submit, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves with any other artist. Instead, I think it’s important that we concentrate on our own style, our own skills.

Yes, we can learn from others and it’s good to adapt ourselves to improve, but comparing oneself to another can be inhibiting. And the worst thing we can do as artists is to create an environment that can be negative—always wishing and hoping. That’s when the internal critic pops in and tries to convince us that we are just imposters, not very good. Can you imagine what the world would be like if Monet, Pissarro, even Van Gogh crushed under that negative thinking.

So this brings me back to art and fun. After spending over 40 years in the advertising and public relations business, I’ve had enough of creating art and words for someone else. It’s time to make art and word for myself. It’s time to relish in the absolute, glorious fun it takes to create something from within. Thus, I challenge you, wipe out the critic in your head and move forward. There’s nothing gained without risk, and besides, like I've heard, "It's only a piece of paper."

What's happening in the studio. The next session will be a bit different than most. I will be talking about three aqua-based  media: acrylic, watercolor and gouache. We will be exploring how to use them all with some basic techniques as well as learning to mix only three colors. I invite you to attend. It's all live online on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays. See below for more details.