I work exclusively with oil pastel, a medium that, perhaps, people may not be familiar with. I love oil pastels as they allow me to draw and paint at the same time! As colour mixes are achieved by layering they retain a luminosity difficult to replicate in other media. The working process is slow (I would spend a lot longer building up an oil pastel than an oil or acryic painting). As with paint I can scrape and blend. However paint brushes are replaced by silicone colour shapers for blending and I use metal painting knives and dental tools to scrape back and draw into the pigment. Oil pastels use wax and inert oils as a binder making them non-yellowing and giving them excellent adhesion characteristics. They are completely acid free, and they never harden, thus they will never crack. They can be applied to any paper, rigid support or fabric support without technical restraints, allowing the artist complete freedom of expression while maintaining archival stability. Oil pastels were first developed in Japan in the 1920’s as a high grade crayon for use in schools to encourage children to be creative and were manafactured and sold by the Sakura Cray Pas Company. In 1947, artists Henri Goetz and Pablo Picasso approached Henri Sennelier (an artists paint manufacturer in Paris) with the idea of designing a professional version of the children’s product. Two years later in 1949, with the help of the two artists, Sennelier developed the first professional oil pastels. They had a creamy consistency with a brilliant colour palette. The first 48 colours were manufactured specifically to suit Picasso’s palette. Sennelier now offer a range of 120 colours. They were followed by Caran d’Ache in Switzerland who make 96 high grade colours, and Holbein (Japan) who make an amazing range of beautiful oil pastels totaling 225 colours! These brands provide the colour light fastness and stability required by professional artists. As oil pastels never harden, once complete, they need to be protected either by framing under glass or by using a specially formulated fixative which forms a protective outer layer to prevent smudging if touched. Mary Burke – Working with Oil Pastel 63