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Old 09-29-2017, 10:33 AM
gmistix gmistix is offline
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question about attitudes toward OP

Hello,

I'm looking for some insight on the negative attitude toward OP as a fine art medium. I've read on WC and other forums that OP pastels are considered a child's medium and aren't fine art quality. I have also discovered that the pastel societies I have access to don't allow oil pastels.

One of the excuses is that they never dry. Wet (not dry) and "re-workable" are two distinctly different states. I understand that they don't harden off (cure) like oil paintings. However, you can't touch works made with soft pastels or they smudge and have to frame them behind glass. What's the difference? Considering, Pablo Picasso asked Sennelier to formulate artist quality OP (which are widely used today), I don't understand this attitude.

Last night I went to a soft pastels class through the adult ed program in my area. The art teacher (she teaches art in the public school system) scrunched up her nose at my mention of OPs and said you can't layer with them (and you're stuck with one or two layers and it's flat) and they don't dry....blah, blah, blah. I showed her my pic of my owl wip. She thought it looked great but didn't acknowledge that I said I did that in oil pastels. Being a newbie to OPs and my first night of class, I didn't argue.

She sells in a couple of galleries so I tried to pick her brain about different mediums and their salability. She said that pastels were neither more popular nor less and it didn't matter to customer BUT that was soft pastels. She acted like I shouldn't consider trying to get into a gallery with oil pastels.

I am certainly disappointment by this attitude. I am new to oil pastels but I already love the artist quality ones. I expect to try to get into galleries at some point no matter what she has said. I was wondering if anyone can shed some light on this for me.

A little OT -- but she mentioned that if you put a mat on your soft pastel that it drives the price down because people don't know what it is and the pastel is likely to shed and ruin the mat. ??? This seems ridiculous to me. A mat devalues the painting? (Yes, she talked about framing with a spacer to allow a gutter for pastel dust.) She has her pastels framed without mats.

Last edited by gmistix : 09-29-2017 at 10:36 AM. Reason: addition for clarity
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Old 09-29-2017, 02:52 PM
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raizes raizes is offline
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmistix
Hello,

I'm looking for some insight on the negative attitude toward OP as a fine art medium. I've read on WC and other forums that OP pastels are considered a child's medium and aren't fine art quality. I have also discovered that the pastel societies I have access to don't allow oil pastels.

Wrong. just plain wrong, and probably based on inexperience and/or frustration from the artist on mastering the medium. Oil pastels are a fine art medium. In fact for the majority of my OP paintings, most people (artists included) could not tell that I used op's and thought it was done with oil paint and brush. When I tell them it's oil pastels, they look somewhat surprised. Funny thing, I still use a few brushes with my OP's. I think of OP's as oil paint in stick form. I'm really not sure where this attitude comes from to think that OP's are a child's medium.. To me it sounds like inexperience followed by frustration and perhaps inability/lack desire to push through, challenge oneself and learn.

Quote:
One of the excuses is that they never dry. Wet (not dry) and "re-workable" are two distinctly different states. I understand that they don't harden off (cure) like oil paintings. However, you can't touch works made with soft pastels or they smudge and have to frame them behind glass. What's the difference? Considering, Pablo Picasso asked Sennelier to formulate artist quality OP (which are widely used today), I don't understand this attitude.

My OP pieces are not wet and in fact have "hardened" up nicely. They are still workable? yes they are, but it would it take a decent amount of pressure for me to lift or move the pigment around. I have several finished op paintings that are not behind glass and do not have a fixative finish on them, and they look just as vibrant as they did when new.

Quote:
Last night I went to a soft pastels class through the adult ed program in my area. The art teacher (she teaches art in the public school system) scrunched up her nose at my mention of OPs and said you can't layer with them (and you're stuck with one or two layers and it's flat) and they don't dry....blah, blah, blah. I showed her my pic of my owl wip. She thought it looked great but didn't acknowledge that I said I did that in oil pastels. Being a newbie to OPs and my first night of class, I didn't argue.

I would have picked up my things and left. Not a class for me. I don't need an art teacher who is prejudiced, or downplaying my medium of choice only because of their obvious inexperience. You absolutely can layer them. It's about technique, and process. I can get many layers to my paintings and I show wip pics displaying that process. It can be done and you can get some great results.

Quote:
She sells in a couple of galleries so I tried to pick her brain about different mediums and their salability. She said that pastels were neither more popular nor less and it didn't matter to customer BUT that was soft pastels. She acted like I shouldn't consider trying to get into a gallery with oil pastels.

Whatever. If the finished piece is good, people will buy. bottom line.

Quote:
I am certainly disappointment by this attitude. I am new to oil pastels but I already love the artist quality ones. I expect to try to get into galleries at some point no matter what she has said. I was wondering if anyone can shed some light on this for me.

Do what you love. That's what matters. If your heart, mind and soul are drawn to OP's , then go with it regardless of what "art teacher" or other might say. Your best work comes from the heart. People will sense that. I loved your owl painting you posted here and I hope you continue to learn, experiment and push through.
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Old 09-29-2017, 03:38 PM
gmistix gmistix is offline
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Thank you, Rich. I agree with you on all your points. I just don't know where it's coming from...maybe the fact that there are so many brands of cheap oil pastels available? A bad experience with Cray-Pas as a child? I was hoping to find some mentoring through a pastels "society" but as I mentioned the ones I checked didn't acknowledge OP. One actually stated "no oil pastels" in the online membership info.

> I don't need an art teacher who is prejudiced, or downplaying my medium of choice

Believe me, I was regretting signing up for the class. I wasn't happy with a couple of aspects of the class when I got home. I have been looking forward to it for two months. I had taken a different medium class with this person and that was a lot of fun. It felt like quite a shift in attitude from what I had seen before. I decided I was there to learn more soft pastels techniques, so I let it go.

>I've read on WC and other forums that OP pastels are considered a child's medium and aren't fine art quality.

With this, I meant that there seems to be a common perception they're not artist quality and basically crayons. Being a fan of wax pastels too, I have to say that my Neocolor I wax pastels are closer to being overpriced crayons than really good OPs are.

I also paint with watercolor and the teach said that oil paintings bring the most money and watercolors are priced the cheapest of all the mediums. I was doubly baffled by that. Watercolors can be far more difficult to produce than acrylics and pastels. I have no experience with oil painting but I had heard that they command higher prices. I thought watercolors were second to oils in a gallery market. Maybe it's just the local culture in my area.

>Do what you love. That's what matters. If your heart, mind and soul are drawn to OP's , then go with it regardless of what "art teacher" or other might say. Your best work comes from the heart. People will sense that. I loved your owl painting you posted here and I hope you continue to learn, experiment and push through.

Thanks for the gem of encouragement. I will be continuing. I feel very drawn to OPs right now. I was hoping to get some other peoples' perspectives on the attitude I've been running across. Don't worry, I won't let it discourage me.
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Old 09-29-2017, 05:22 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

cray-pas brand can be difficult to work with. I started with those, but learned the more expensive sets were just better. My fav op brand is Sennelier and second to that would be Mungyo. But Sennelier's are so creamy and dreamy to work with. I still have my cray pas set and I like to use them sometimes early on in the painting, then finish with layers of mungyo's or senneliers as the top layers.

Also the surface you paint on with OP can make a huge difference.

Last art show I did, there were about dozen of us artists, all of us painting live. I was the only oil pastel artist. Everyone else there was either using acrylic, oil or watercolor. The people that came and watched were fascinated with the op's and I had several groups just stop and watch and ask questions. Why? maybe cause they are unique enough or not of the norm. But folks were fascinated that a decent size painting can be created with sticks of "fancy crayons" (as one stated to me).
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Old 09-30-2017, 01:54 AM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Rich has some great points there. It takes time to learn all the ins and outs of op's and many people give up far too quickly when trying out this, at times, rather difficult medium.
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Old 09-30-2017, 05:38 PM
reeta reeta is offline
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Ditto on everything Rich has said!!!
I have been using oil pastels for the last twenty years, and if you stick with them long enough you are going to encounter alot more of what you have already experienced.
A thick skin is helpful. There is a lot of prejudice toward oil pastels, but if you do good work, people will respond to it. I was in a gallery for several years and sold well over a hundred oil pastel paintings through that gallery, and I was the ONLY oil pastelist. The other artists were great there... supportive and encouraging, and apparently the buyers did not care that they were oil pastels. They were responding to the art.

Find your tribe, and stick with what you love. The more of us who are doing that, word will get out.
Good luck.
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Old 10-01-2017, 02:09 AM
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laika laika is offline
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

From the "New Artist's Handbook," by Ray Smith, DK Publishing, page 84: "However, they [oil pastels] are too vulnerable to be recommended for permanent work. It would be more common to use them in work designed for reproduction or as a preliminary material for digital imagery."

Pretty harsh. Are they any more "vulnerable" than soft pastels, or watercolors, or encuastic in the Big Scheme?
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Old 10-01-2017, 11:28 AM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Here's what he really meant to say lamar.

"However, they are too vulnerable FOR ME to be recommended for MY permanent work. It would be more common FOR ME to use them in work designed for reproduction or as a preliminary material for digital imagery."

His opinion is not my experience with oil pastels.
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Old 10-01-2017, 01:28 PM
ntl ntl is offline
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

I think Rich has a valid point. Anyone's opinions may be just that, and of course, like elbows, most people have one or two. Time and science may determine differently. Different items will fare better with different treatment, and that's true with almost anything, from shoes to ships to sealing wax.
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Old 10-01-2017, 05:28 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Rich, ntl, I agree with y'all, but I thought the quote from a book on artist's materials by a major publisher might speak to the original question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmistix
I'm looking for some insight on the negative attitude toward OP as a fine art medium.

I see no reason why artist-grade OPs would be any more fragile, or "vulnerable," as the book calls them, than some media that I myself consider rather fragile, like gouache, watercolor, or soft pastels, for instance. Framed under glass, there's no reason why an OP work wouldn't be a durable work.
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Old 10-04-2017, 04:33 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

I'm late to the conversation, but am stunned at what was published in this "New Artist's Handbook" about oil pastels. This is purely artist bias, as Rich pointed out. But unfortunately, the newcomer will not appreciate it as such, take it as routine truth and so a negative stereotype gets propagated - in a book that new artists turn to for help and advice.

Of all the mediums I've played with over the years (outside of photo oils and photo oil pencils), I've had the biggest hassles with soft pastels, for the reasons stated above. One false move and there goes the chalk dust. But that doesn't mean beautiful work can't be had from the medium.

I would agree that the "child's medium" tag comes from the wide variety of cheap pastels available, and for an art teacher to preschoolers or the under-10 crowd, this is a step above (and different from) the typical crayons found at home, so passes muster for children without breaking the school's budget. Plus their size and shape is easier for little hands than trying to paint with a brush. But as the OP is already aware, these hardly compare to the lustrous quality of Senneliers.

I love my cheap Crar-pas Expressionists for my first layer or underpaintings. Their hardness makes them ideal to layer over with softer ops. It all has a place in the studio.

To the OP: I'm glad you were able to find encouragement here to continue your work with OPs!
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Old 10-04-2017, 08:08 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Quote:
Originally Posted by terriks
I'm late to the conversation, but am stunned at what was published in this "New Artist's Handbook" about oil pastels.

Yeah, and it's in a very nice DK book, not some obscure publisher. He also states that "animal fat" is in the OP recipe, as if we were all painting with lard!

The book is at my local library. I would type out the author's full description, but I"m stuck using a phone for internet right now.
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Old 10-05-2017, 03:13 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Animal fat...? The descriptions I've read on Senns is a "synthetic binding with mineral wax."

It's very strange.
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Old 10-05-2017, 05:00 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Animal fat? Really? I also had to double check the ingredients from Sennelier website. Where does the author get his animal fat op's from? Sennelier states nothing on animal fat in the ingredients.
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Old 10-05-2017, 07:12 PM
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Re: question about attitudes toward OP

Rich, Terri, yes, "animal fat," seriously! Hydrocarbon waxes and animal fat.

When I get a chance, I'll just take a picture of the page and post it as a jpeg and see if it's readable.
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