View Full Version : Intro and Oil Pastel Question--Gesso Ground

Cadmium Jen
02-02-2004, 12:28 AM
Hello everyone,

This is my first post here. What a wealth of information on oil pastel in the archive! Like a lot of people here, I first tried the medium years ago but wasnít impressed. I tried again about two years ago and have been totally in love with it ever since.

Iíve read John Elliotís Oil Pastel for Beginners, but for a more comprehensive look at the medium Iíd definitely recommend Kenneth Leslieís 1990 book, Oil Pastels . . . if you can get your hands on a copy. (Myself, I keep checking it out of the library.) Leslie is a real innovator whoís tried all the major brands, plus other products such as Oilbar, on a variety of paper/grounds--and shares the results. The book contains a lot of paintings by a number of artists, and many of them are abstract works, which unfortunately I donít usually see in pastel books, so itís pretty refreshing.

Anyway, Iím considering using acrylic gesso as a ground (scared of oil acids rotting my paper!) Iím not very familiar with gesso and wonder if anyone has recommendations for a good brand to try. Also, does anyone have tips on applying it? Is it necessary to tape down or stretch the paper beforehand?

02-02-2004, 12:46 AM
You do need to protect the paper from oil pastels. When I use gesso (Liquitex brand) on watercolor paper, I staple it down or tape it down because it will pucker. If you use 300# on a block, it will be fine. If you use gesso illustration board, it will bend, but you can gesso the opposite side and it will flatten out. I have just placed it under books for a couple of days and flattened it out, too.

You might like to try different ways of applying the gesso because of the different texture you can achieve.

I really don't use oil pastels, but the application of gesso for oil painting is the same principle. You want to protect the paper from the oils.

Oh, yes! Welcome to the pastel forum! Looking forward to viewing your work. There is a lot of info about oil pastels in the Library (sub-forum just above the regular pastels forum) and some great threads here with work displayed.

02-02-2004, 02:45 AM
Hi and welcome! Oh...will have to check out that book! I use proart professional gesso and am happy with it, but don't like the plasticy feel of acrylic, so I dilute it 1/2 and 1/2 and add two tablespoons of marble dust, apply with a foam roller or brush, 3 coats opposite directions...makes a lovely surface for oil pastels and it doesn't buckle any kind of board..and even on mat board it does tend to make it curve a tiny bit doing only one side...but rest some weight on it after it dries and it goes away. Carly's advice is right on about wc paper though. You can also tint this too. Quick and easy to do. Look forward to seeing some of your work!

02-02-2004, 06:10 AM
Welcome, Jen! Glad to have you here. I've had Leslie's book out from the library too. I also have John Elliot's book. But he doesn't say anything about it being necessary to prime the paper. And he's been painting with them for a long time. Does Leslie say anything about it? Is this really necessary to do?

Cadmium Jen
02-02-2004, 01:00 PM
Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions.

Eileen--Leslie mentions the danger of oil seeping into the paper and degrading it over time. He suggests using gesso, or acrylic medium or varnish, or--most intriguing--unflavored gelatin! I just might try that.

General question: should works on paper be mounted onto a board? And whatís a good way to do that?

02-02-2004, 01:36 PM
Jen, I checked John Elliot's website, and here is what he has to say about the subject:

"(Dec 17, 2001) Is it safe to paint with oil pastel directly on paper or do I need to gesso the surface first?

As long as the oil pastels you use contain INERT oil (such as mineral oil) in the binder, rather than chemically active oil (such as linseed oil), you can paint directly on paper. I have oil pastel paintings I did more than 40 years ago directly on pastel paper, museum board, and 300 and 400 lb watercolor papers. These paintings are just as I painted them, and I expect them to last far into the future.

I do not know the exact formulas used by the major oil pastel manufacturers. However, I have been assured by the Presidents of both HK Holbein and Sennelier, that their professional artist quality oil pastels use INERT oil. Hence, you can safely use these professional quality brands. There may be other brands using inert oil: I will update this site as I learn of them.

Of course, you will need to select archivally safe papers as well Ė some terms to look for are acid-free, archivally safe, etc.

When in doubt, check directly with the manufacturer."

I use Caran D'ache and am not sure how they figure into this. I'll have to check it out.

02-03-2004, 07:06 AM
Here is Caran D'ache's reply:

Neopastel contains what you call inert oil ( what I call mineral oil).

Best regards

Eric Vitus
Responsable R&D Couleurs
19, chemin du Foron
1226 ThŰnex-GenŤve

I'm so glad! I'd hate to have to go to the trouble of priming the paper.