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View Full Version : Bemoaning limited OP color ranges. Solutions?


AnnieA
04-27-2007, 12:46 AM
I've been recently wishing that there was a greater range of more subtle colors available in artist quality OPs. In soft pastels, there's one brand, Unison, where gorgeous colors are offered, many of them beautiful grays made by combining a color with a bit of it's complement (Bob, please notice that I spelled it correctly this time :D). And Great American soft pastels offers something similar, although in a more limited range. Sennelier's soft pastel range is also very extensive. I think they have 525 different colors offered, although I'm not sure how many of those (if any) are grays mixed with complements. But there are some lovely dark darks, and other brands have some really dark offerings too (Ludwig and Townsend come to mind) Note that when I speak of "grays" here, I'm talking about color - sort of grayed color - not gray made from mixing black and white.

I find the lack of these sorts of colors limiting because I want to paint in an expressive and spontaneous way, rather than working carefully to blend each area to achieve the desired color. Sennelier comes closest to the sort of range I'm thinking of, and many of their colors are really beautiful, but they also tend to be pure colors. They do have a few light grays (I'm talking about the colored grays between #11 and #17), but those are all of a fairly light value; some medium and darker-valued grays would be good too. And those appear to be mixed with a small amount of black rather than a complement.

A variety of pale tints would be very useful too, although I guess Holbein makes those so at least their available in one brand.

Why doesn't Sennelier, or any of the OP manufacturers offer anything like that? Is it likely they would respond to a letter writing campaign? Since Holbein actually reduced their line recently, does that mean that such requests are likely to fall on deaf ears?

I suppose it's possible that I'm just not experienced enough to handle the materials in a way that achieves what I want. But I just can't think of any way that I can make a loose, expressive mark, and then go back and blend it with some other color, and have it remain loose and expressive looking. Once you start messing around with a spontaneously-made mark, it stops being (and looking) spontaneous. I've touched on this before, but I'm not certain I was able to explain what I meant successfully. And, being realistic, although I love the idea of mixing my own colors, as Wendy does, I'm not certain I'll ever really do it. There's got to be an easier way...

Any thoughts on all this would be appreciated. Thanks.

LJW
04-27-2007, 12:06 PM
Annie, I have noticed a lack of deep rich browns in both the Holbein and Sennelier lines. I made my own, combining some Sennelier permanent intense red (I have this in the grande size because I couldn't find it in the regular size) and some powdered pigments (black and yellow ochre) along with a bit of mineral oil. I was quite happy with the resulting colour. It is true that my homemade OPs aren't as consistent in texture as I would like because they do harden very rapidly when removed from the heat. Sometimes a small bit will break off as I'm applying them but either I can lift that off with the colour shaper or blend it in. I don't know any other way of getting more colours. My guess is that the market for artist quality OPs isn't large enough for the companies to make more colours. Jane

sundiver
04-27-2007, 12:19 PM
I love the greens that I made by melting and mixing. It's just about time to do some more and I've been eyeing the garish greens I rarely use and the browns I rarely use. I'm also running out of my mixed pales and got some extra whites for that purpose.
Does anybody actually use those acidy greens that come with every brand?

AnnieA
04-27-2007, 01:45 PM
:sigh: OK

Thanks for responding, Jane and Wendy. Maybe I need to drag out my old set of oil paints...

I guess there just isn't a "perfect medium," although I do have to say that OPs come close.

eclectix
04-27-2007, 02:09 PM
Does anybody actually use those acidy greens that come with every brand?

I do! But only occasionally and in small doses, and only when I want something to look acid green. They do look very unnatural, so I use them only when I want something to look unnatural.

hopalong
04-27-2007, 03:45 PM
Annie, I totally agree with you about the frustration in finding neutral colors. Sometimes I envy oil painters because they can get every neutral with reletively few tubes of paint.I've been thinking of doing a painting only in neutrals to gain confidence (maybe speed too) in handleing neturals. I do think writing to Dick Blick or Holbine would be a help though.

Pat Isaac
04-27-2007, 04:12 PM
The thought of writing to the companies has occured to me more than once and I think we should just do it. I love the Sennelier grays #11- #17, but you are right annie, that they are not dark. Holbein has some nice warm grays that are relatively dark, but not like the soft pastel darks. It does take a lot of mixing and I haven't tried to make any of my own yet. Lazy, I guess.
I think Jane may be right about the market for quality OPs. However, they are getting known and Sennelier did come out with new colors a few years ago.

Pat

AnnieA
04-27-2007, 06:16 PM
Lindsay and Pat: I wonder if a letter from people in the OP society making the request would carry more weight? I'm not a member myself, but what do you two think? I'd be perfectly willing to write myself, but I'm just thinking of what might be most effective. I wonder if the Blick rep who sometimes posts here at WC could assist. He does seem quite helpful...

I've thought that maybe one reason that Holbein eventually had to cut back on the number of values in their color ranges is that most people just don't paint like that, using pure color all the time, and if the artist is going to have to blend to get the desired color anyway, why buy those medium values? Munsell is a good system for understanding color, but the colors one wants to use in the real world aren't so pure.

Perhaps one of these companies could do a "Limited Edition" set, just to test the level of interest. I really don't know how the manufacturing process is set up, but if they developed the sort of range I'm talking about, limiting sales to a set (or maybe just a few sets), where people would have to buy the entire thing, rather than individual pastels, might protect them against losing money on it. They could do an advertising blitz and generate a lot of interest, I would think. Maybe, as the less well-known artist brands, Sakura or Caran d'Ache would want to do it, in order to drum up new interest in their products.

But I guess, as with soft pastels, to really have the sort of range I dream of, they would have to provide literally hundreds (thousands, perhaps) of different color choices, so I guess it would be difficult for them to justify it in terms of current sales. :( (And difficult, too, for many OP artist to afford the full range.) Still, a nice collection of dark darks (even just a few would help), and maybe just a limited range of colored grays in a few different values would be so lovely. :sigh:

hopalong
04-27-2007, 07:00 PM
I think getting a Blick rep behind us would be a geat idea. I wanted to add taht recently Iattended a prisma demo awhere I recieved a set of the "new" colors that were added to thier colored pencil line. Although I HATE prisma pencils (the points break) the colros were wonderful for landscapes. Yummy neutrals. I was intoxicated...at least until the points stared popping. GRRRR.

But even as few as 10 decent neutrals could be very very meaningful.

hopalong
04-27-2007, 07:06 PM
Would you like to peititon Holbein to manufacture a greater range of neutral colors? If you'd like to send them an email, here is the link.




http://us.f807.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?login=1&To=usa@holbeinusa.com&intl=us&.intl=

AnnieA
04-27-2007, 09:31 PM
Lindsay: Yeah, maybe the Blick rep would have more pull. I suppose he would have the figures on the sort of business that's done in OPs thru Blick. Since they're one of the biggest art suppliers, his thoughts would probably be useful.

Too bad about the CPs.

Also, since posting this thread I've taken a look at the Sennelier OP chart that I got just recently. Although I thought I already had most of the dark ones, it looks like there are a few that I'm missing. Maybe getting those will help.

laika
04-28-2007, 12:37 AM
hmm... sounds like there's a demand in search of a supply. i smell a business opportunity for Jane's Kitchen Table Oil Pastels :)

gentleartist
04-28-2007, 07:06 AM
The link took me to my own yahoo email account...so it didn't work for me and I would like Holbein's addy so I can write.
linda b

Pat Isaac
04-28-2007, 09:41 AM
The link took me to my own mail account. You could try this link
comments@holbeinhk.com

Pat

Pat Isaac
04-28-2007, 09:53 AM
I merged these 2 threads as they were the same subject.

Pat

AnnieA
04-28-2007, 11:58 AM
Thanks for the link, Lindsay!

Pat, do you also have the links for Sennelier, Sakura and Caran d'Ache handy? I had them at one time, but they're not accessible right now.

Pat Isaac
04-28-2007, 12:35 PM
Here is a link for Sennelier. http://www.sennelier.fr/accueilgb.htm
Caran D'ache http://www.carandache.ch/
Sakura http://www.gellyroll.com/

There is contact information on all the sites.

Pat

hopalong
04-28-2007, 12:52 PM
My link to holbine sets you up for an email from your own account but notice the "TO" part. Sends you directly to Holbine.

AnnieA
04-28-2007, 01:28 PM
Well, thanks to both of you.

Pat, I wonder if the OP society's imprimateur might carry more weight than just individuals writing. Would they be interested in running with this?

I've written to Howard Metzenberg, the WC Blick rep, to ask him to weigh in here.

You know, really, if Sennelier would just provide a dark value for each of their grays that I mentioned earlier, that would help a lot. They're really very useful colors. But I guess I also wish they would make a blue-violet gray, as their blue gray tends toward green. (If the colors really were as dark as their brochure shows, that would be nice too.) I guess I'm focusing on Senneliers, because that's what I use most often, but this really applies to any manufacturer.

Pat Isaac
04-28-2007, 03:45 PM
Yeah, those colors in the Sennelier line would be a boon!
Let's see if some answers come in.

Pat

BeckyMc
04-28-2007, 08:20 PM
This is my own, somewhat primitive color chart for Sennelier, that someone ( I forget who) helped me format into a single document. I think I've got a true representation of almost every color. I think I've since purchased some dark gray's that aren't on the chart, maybe Payne's grey??? Caran d'Ache has quite a few nice grays and browns, as well.


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/28-Apr-2007/45982-Sennelier_Chart_Merged.jpg

AnnieA
04-28-2007, 11:10 PM
Hey, thanks Becky. :) It looks like you've got a great collection of Senns. Don't you love some of the colors in the 200 range (the "new" colors)? They're gorgeous. (Actually, maybe a few of those are what I mean by "grays" - there just aren't enough of them.)

Sennelier does make a Payne's gray, and a Charcoal and another one or two dark grays/blacks. What I've been wishing for though, is some of the super dark colors that the soft pastel ranges often offer. I've noticed people calling them grays, but that word really is somewhat deceptive, as most people think: gray=black+white. The grays I'm talking about are either color+black or colorA+complement of colorA. One can mix OPs to get those colors, but it would be so wonderful, and make it easier to work expressively with OPs, to have them pre-made.

BeckyMc
04-29-2007, 07:46 PM
There's a much larger market for the SP's, hence the variety of wonderful darks, although I think there are more darks available here for SP's lately, than before. I'd like to see more lights for OP's as well, as those are also difficult to achieve. If we had more manufacturers, there would probably be more variety!

redclare
04-29-2007, 09:57 PM
Sennelier does make a Payne's gray, and a Charcoal and another one or two dark grays/blacks. What I've been wishing for though, is some of the super dark colors that the soft pastel ranges often offer. I've noticed people calling them grays, but that word really is somewhat deceptive, as most people think: gray=black+white. The grays I'm talking about are either color+black or colorA+complement of colorA. One can mix OPs to get those colors, but it would be so wonderful, and make it easier to work expressively with OPs, to have them pre-made.

Annie, it's great that you are trying to stir things up! I use Sennelier OPs and, like you, find myself wishing there were more rich dark darks available in ready-made form, e.g. especially some really deep dark blues. I have almost all of the dark colors they make, and with the exception of a couple of the browns, they're just not as dark as I would like. I often will do an underpainting in acrylic or oils just to get those really rich darks (I suppose I could experiment with mixing OP colors a bit more:rolleyes: )... But I think this is the opposite of the spontaneous approach you are aiming for.

I support your idea for writing a letter!

Golden Kfir
05-01-2007, 12:08 AM
Neopastels have a good range of darks and neutrals. They're more waxy then what you used too. Sometimes mixing different brands is like mixing oil and water. Neopastels do have a high pigment count, rich colors but they are more waxy. I like them. Everyone has their own preferences. Good luck in your search.

Josh

AnnieA
05-01-2007, 09:56 AM
Rebecca: thanks for the feedback. I hope everyone will write to the manufacturers to let them know what we need. (hint, hint :D)

Thanks, Josh. I always forget about Neopastels and have never used them. I'll have to try a stick or two to see what they're like.

Pat Isaac
05-01-2007, 04:35 PM
I wrote to some of the manufacturers and haven't heard anything yet.
I have used the neopastels some, but do find them much harder that what I like.
Here's hoping......

Pat

3243
06-30-2007, 12:19 AM
I agree with all of you about the need for more darks and neutral colors, but my biggest problem is the lack of ultra-light colors, both neutral and higher-chroma. It's frustrating to capture the nuances of fog, for example, as well as the colors of brightest light. SOMEBODY needs to make an oil pastel range of at least 400-500 colors, partly so I can finally get out of my creative block.

sundiver
07-07-2007, 12:20 AM
I just "made" some new colours today. I had some extra whites for melting, and made some really pale ones, some gorgeous salmon and peach shades, a couple of turquoises, toned down some acidy greens, and made some very dark green, dark blue, and dark eggplanty red. Even the colour I made from melting all the leftover crumbs that stayed on the foil made a lovely grey-blue.
Holbeins, Specialists, and CDs mixed together easily. Didn't even try to melt the Senns, based on someone else's bad results with them.
I'm very pleased with what I got today! New pastels, yippee!

Pat Isaac
07-07-2007, 07:36 AM
I have yet to try that. What is the problem with melting the Senns? I really should do this to get some nice neutral darks.How about a picture of the colors, Wendy?

Pat

sundiver
07-07-2007, 11:32 AM
I don't remember exactly about the Senns, but someone in here tried them and they wouldn't harden or something.
Here's a picture of most of them. They are roughly triangular in shape; I just made a foil trough and poured them into it. When they were hard I cut them in half and put half in my plein air kit, half in my "regular" box.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Jul-2007/6393-new_melted_colours.jpg

Pat Isaac
07-07-2007, 11:40 AM
Thanks, Wendy. Lovely colors.

Pat

hopalong
07-07-2007, 04:20 PM
Thanks Wendy for posting this. Wonderful colors!!!

ColorMyWorld
07-07-2007, 06:15 PM
Wendy, I've melted the Senns. I hadn't noticed that the new ones were any different in texture than the "parent" colors.

AnnieA
07-07-2007, 06:41 PM
Wendy those colors look luscious! I wish I could motivate myself to take the time to try the same thing (it may also be that I'm afraid of "wasting" OP. :lol:).

Just a thought here...what if one used a Senn colorless blender (so the resulting OP would be as soft as possible) and mixed in just a little bit of pure pigment powder (using a pigment that tends to be transparent). Would one be inventing an actual glazing OP? Or would this just not work for some reason that I haven't anticipated?

ColorMyWorld
07-08-2007, 09:12 AM
Annie, I've thought about mixing pigmet into an existing color to get new colors but haven't been able to find small quantities of pigment at a small price. Anyone know of a source?

Howard Metzenberg
09-17-2007, 09:45 PM
Hi,

This thread started when I was traveling abroad. I'm afraid I missed it until now. I see you were waiting for me to say something. Give me a few weeks to look into it.

Howard Metzenberg
Blick Art Materials
Highland Park, IL

Pat Isaac
09-18-2007, 06:36 AM
Thanks, Howard, that would be great.

Pat

Howard Metzenberg
09-18-2007, 06:13 PM
Pat,

Let me take a first pass now. I have always been interested in the business and economics of everything, including the technical questions of how these things are manufactured.

My first take on this problem is, I am amazed at how small the sales of oil pastels really are. I looked at our sales figures (which are of course proprietary) outside of the school lines (such as Sakura Cray-Pas). Sales of soft pastels themselves are tiny within the universe of art supplies, but artist grade oil pastels are truly a niche within a niche. To achieve economies of scale in the artist lines would require producing batches that last many years. I estimate that only a few thousand of each color are sold every year across the entire world. I would guess that only a few hundred complete sets sell each year.

Howard Metzenberg
Blick Art Materials
Highland Park, IL

Pat Isaac
09-19-2007, 08:52 AM
Thanks for the information, Howard. We all thought that might be one of the reasons. The amount is a lot smaller than I thought. Guess we'll just have to promote them more.

Pat

AnnieA
09-20-2007, 10:29 PM
Thanks very much for your reply, Howard. I too, kinda thought that would be the reason. I wonder if the suppliers might ever consider making up a limited series set of light/dark colors, for instance, and then promoting it with the OPS and here at Wet Canvas? Or would that, too, be a money-loser for them? In a way, it's a circular problem: the limits of the color ranges may make OPs less appealing as a medium to some, which in turns means the manufacturers are less inclined to offer expanded ranges.

On the other hand, since a few WC members make up their own OPs, maybe this is something they ought to consider as a way of augmenting their art supplies budget (to be spent entirely at Blick's, I assure you, Howard. :)). They could sell their homemade OPs to those of us who aren't inclined to do so ourselves. Wendy? Ann? Jane? :D

Your time and effort in researching this is much appreciated, Howard. :)

Howard Metzenberg
09-28-2007, 01:25 AM
What I've learned is, when you produce a batch of oil pastels, the downtime for clean-up between colors is quite high.

This is to a certain extent my own economic analysis. I'm always looking at how things are manufactured, and one of the things I have learned about art materials in general is that set-up and clean-up costs for each batch are often surprisingly high, and the batches themselves are small. An oil-based medium has even higher clean-up costs than a water soluble medium, which is one of the reasons why oil paints are so much more expensive than acrylics.

With an oil based medium, the down time in disassembling and cleaning the mechanism and those parts that are in contact with the oil and pigment is much greater.

I think this may explain why there are so many fewer offerings in oil pastels than in soft pastels. It is much more practical for tiny companies to create new products in soft pastels, because the market is bigger. When set-up and clean-up costs are high, larger batches are the only way to achieve economies of scale. But in the case of oil pastels, the market is so small that producing large batches is not feasible.

Howard Metzenberg
Blick Art Materials
Highland Park, IL

PS: Why doesn't one of you enterprising oil pastelists start a business. We love to find unique new products to offer, and we would be delighted to be your reseller if you maintain sufficient production to keep us in stock.

LJW
09-28-2007, 08:53 AM
Howard, thanks for your insights. I have experimented with making my own OPs, but finding the right mix of ingredients and achieving quality control are issues for me. Perhaps some oil pastellist with an entrepreneurial spirit will take up your challenge. Jane

AnnieA
09-28-2007, 11:21 AM
Howard: Thanks very much for your insights. I hadn't really thought of the issue in terms of the clean up times between batches, but what you said makes a lot of sense and explains a lot too.

I've been talking up the idea of a small business producing unique OP colors, but as you can see, Jane is still resistant (I'm still working on it :evil:) and there haven't been any other nibbles. But I suppose such a small business might experience some of the same difficulties as the larger ones, so it might not be such a profitable idea for someone who would probably prefer to be painting anyway.

There's so much that can be done with OPs, even without the extensive range that would represent absolute perfection, so I guess I'll just keep painting, while continuing to hope for the enterprising OP artist to come along and offer those glazing colors and the others that I dream about. Thanks again, Howard. :)

Pat Isaac
09-28-2007, 03:35 PM
What you say truly does make a lot of sense. Along with Annie and the others I will hope that more colors will come out. Sennelier did put out a whole new set several years ago, so they may again.
Thank you for your efforts.

Pat

Howard Metzenberg
10-01-2007, 07:19 AM
While this discussion has been going on, I asked our pastel specialist about getting the in the full sets of Holbein. Sad news. As this discussion is taking place, Holbein is actually decreasing their oil pastel line by about 40%, cutting out many of the intermediate tints. If you like their offerings, you might want to go to one of our competitors (since we don't have any to sell) and buy up the last of the tints that are being discontinued. The full box of 225 will no longer be sold, so whatever you can find is all there will ever be.

Howard Metzenberg
Blick Art Materials
Highland Park, IL

Howard Metzenberg
10-01-2007, 07:27 AM
I have seen that there are two techniques that can be used in making pastels. One is to roll a bunch of pigment out flat (as if it were dough) and then cut it into standard sized pieces. I'll call this the cookie cutter approach. It appears to be what Holbein uses. It results in square shaped pastels.

The other is to extrude the pigment mixture into a mold, under pressure, with some heat to help the process along. This is the technique that Sennelier and Sakura follow. I'll call this the extrusion/mold approach.

I have seen soft pastels manufactured, but not oil pastels. I was amazed at how small the machine and manufacturing line were for a well-known brand, at how tiny each batch was, and how much work is done by hand. A lot of expensive, old fashioned machine tooling went into building the manufacturing line I saw. (It was in Europe, not the USA.) Given all the economic factors, the small batches, the expensive pigments and equipment, the amount of handwork needed, it's not surprising that real artist grade pastels, whether oil pastels or soft pastels, cost several dollars each.

I'm sure you can imagine, there are also a lot of distribution problems. The Holbein ones break too easily IMHO. This makes it hard for companies to offer them either in open stock, or in retail environments, where there is often a lot of wear, tear, and breakage in the store as customers try things out. Also, pastels in general are a messy element in a warehouse. Imagine what can happen if a bunch of them spill out of a box on a conveyor belt, or get dropped or crushed by a careless worker. You can see why resellers (like us) deal overwhelmingly in sets, why so few offer open stock. The open stock is more a loss leader to keep good customers happy. And I am sure impressed with the tiny operations like Dakota that keep an enormous range of open stock. I know that, with the exception of a few faster moving brands, they sell so slowly and suffer so much breakage as to be quite uneconomical. So I praise one of our competitors again.

Howard Metzenberg
Blick Art Materials
Highland Park, IL

Pat Isaac
10-01-2007, 07:52 AM
I knew that Holbein was eliminating their #2 and #4 tints to create a smaller range. Actually I don't think that will be a very big loss as there will still be the light, medium and dark tints to each color, still leaving a decent range. I do agree that Holbein breaks easily.
Thank you for your input into the manufacturing end of pastels and it is easy to see how delicate the whole porcess is. I'm thankful that an art store nearby has open stock in their oil pastels...

Pat

AnnieA
10-01-2007, 12:27 PM
Howard: Many thanks for your in-depth analysis of these issues. The idea about making a flat pastel with what you call a cookie-cutter approach is interesting. Perhaps if I ever do decide to make some, that's what I'll try, as it sounds easier. Also interesting was the information about how, in the extrusion/mold method, the molds are kept warmed to ease in filling. I hope the people that do make their own OPs, or plan to, will read this, as I seem to recall Jane mentioning that she had some difficulties with too-quick cooling of the liquid OP material when pulling it off the heat, causing it to partially harden before she could completely fill the mold. Perhaps sitting the molds in some sort of hot or warm water bath while they're being filled would be a solution.

I also had heard about the reduced Holbein line and am hoping Pat is right about the remaining offerings being sufficient in most cases. I happened to be in a local store that carries Holbein open stock just recently, and noticed that they are now being individually packaged. That should help the retailers, and Holbein, to remain viable. (I noticed elsewhere that Unison soft pastels in open stock are being similarly packaged.)

You're a wealth of useful information, Howard. Thanks very much.

LJW
10-01-2007, 12:39 PM
I had been under the impression that the full sets were going to continue to be available, even though the individual OPs were reduced to three values. I'm sure you have the insider info on this Howard and it makes sense that they would just produce three values overall - so I have just ordered a set of 225 from Jerry's using a 20% off coupon available to on-line users. If anyone needs the coupon number I can supply it - Note: the coupon is only good until the 4th of October, and for orders of $100.00 or more. Jane