Opus Resource Library
New Materials Experimentation With Justin Ogilvie
Opus Resource Library

Update On Justin's Exploration with Oil Sticks & Oil Pastels

Last month, we engaged in a conversation with Justin Ogilvie regarding his ventures into exploring and experimenting with new materials. Join us as we delve further into his perspectives and newly developed fascination with oil sticks and oil pastels.

Artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Artwork by Justin Ogilvie

Why did you choose to explore and experiment with Oil Sticks and Oil Pastels?

My goal is to see what quality of mark-making oil sticks and oil pastels bring into my work, and how that may trigger new ideas formally and conceptually. 

This experiment fits within a larger project, in which I aim to create narratives (whether literal or ambiguous) using child-like imagery and approaches. 

Thanks to the budget Opus has provided me, I essentially have a green light to go buy a bunch of supersized, high-end crayons and permission to play!

"Each material has its own voice and personality. When I allow myself to experiment and simply doodle with materials, I begin to ‘hear the voice"

– Justin Ogilvie, Artist

Are you noticing any distinct qualities or differences between the Oil Sticks? 

Discovering the distinct qualities and differences between each material is pure pleasure for me. 

Each material has its own voice and personality. When I allow myself to experiment and simply doodle with materials, I begin to ‘hear the voice’ of each material, identifying various ‘personality traits’ as materials interact with each other. It’s like listening, instead of talking.

Letting go of preciousness is key to this process, so I tend to avoid the organized logic of illusionistic realism, opting instead for abstract, wonky or trippy figuration, for lack of a better word. 

I use play to overcome preciousness, as it induces in me a more open, attentive, and quiet mind. There’s a performative aspect to playing, but it’s very serious the whole time because it’s all so new.

The whole process becomes a series of accumulating questions (“What if this could work? What if that could work? Hmmm”, etc.). At some point, the artwork whispers back to me, announcing that the experiment is over and it’s time to move on. If I’m listening, I’ll move on, and if I’m lucky, there’ll be a nice record of the exchange.

Artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Artwork by Justin Ogilvie

Alex + Justin with Oil Stick

Comparison of Materials

Three oil sticks including options from Kama Pigments, Sennelier, and R&F Pigments.
Three oil sticks including options from Kama Pigments, Sennelier, and R&F Pigments.

R&F Pigment Sticks (Oil Stick)


  • Highest quality oil stick – and most expensive
  • Best pigment load
  • Soft and creamy consistency
  • Widest range of colours 
  • Metallic colours - but no fluorescents
  • Most versatile for markmaking
  • Slow drying (24–72 hrs - making it challenging to layer quickly)
  • Easy to blend with various colours

Tips & Tricks

  • Use a light touch to get a fine line
  • Push hard for amazing thick, chunky, expressionistic mark-making – perhaps it’s most special attribute!
  • Press too hard and the stick’s form collapses, resulting in a splotchy mess (delicate balance required)
  • Messy during use and cleaning - wear gloves

Sennelier Oil Sticks


  • High quality oil stick – and decently priced!
  • High pigment load
  • Medium to hard consistency
  • Wide range of colours
  • Metallic colours – but no fluorescents
  • Dries quickly (12–24 hours, making them great to layer quickly)
  • Decent blending with various colours

Tips & Tricks

  • Press hard for medium line thickness, texture and expressive mark-making
  • Difficult to get a fine line with these oil sticks
  • Oil stick retains it's solid form even when pressing really hard – the benefit of a harder consistency stick.
  • Not too messy during use and cleaning (but I still wear gloves)

Kama Oil Sticks


  • Medium–to–high quality oil stick – most affordable!
  • Decent pigment load
  • Hard Consistency
  • Good range of colours
  • Metallics & fluorescent colours!
  • Fast drying (12–24 hours), making them easy to layer quickly
  • Mediocre blending with various colours

Tips & Tricks

  • Easiest to get a fine line, especially with the smaller-sized sticks
  • When pressing hard, line quality is somewhat expressive (however lacks the texture of R&F and Sennelier)
  • Sticks retain solid form when pressing really hard (the benefit of a hard oil stick)
  • Great for preliminary layers, as it’s the hardest and most affordable oil stick
  • Not too messy during use and cleaning (but I still wear gloves)


  • Top quality pastel – and expensive
  • Incredible pigment load
  • Soft and creamy consistency
  • Water-soluble (amazing!)
  • Easy to blend with other colours 
  • Despite oil pastels almost never drying, these somehow seem to get 90% dry (which means less mess!

Tips & Tricks

  • Decent to get a fine line (thicker than pencil crayon, thinner than an oil stick)
  • Push hard for great thick, chunky, expressionistic mark-making, perhaps its most special attribute
  • Press too hard, the stick snaps in half but is still usable
  • Not messy during use and cleaning (but I still wear gloves)

How are you incorporating these new materials into your artwork?

Incorporating oil sticks & oil pastels in my work has increased the presence of line, immediacy, gestural energy, and bold colour, all of which I’m thrilled to see.

I’m particularly excited by the kind of wandering & scribbly line quality that is possible with sticks, difficult to accomplish with a brush (at least for me).

I have also become obsessed with creating discreet little shapes (splotches, patches, squiggles) of colour, that neighbour each other but rarely ever touch. Somehow these archipelagoes of colour embody philosophical tensions of autonomy vs. relational, and for me this seems to poke critically, yet poetically at the atomized nature of societies today.

Oil Pastel  artwork by Justin Ogilvie
Justin Ogilvie

Oil Pastel

What has been the most challenging part of this experimenting experience so far? 

Spray Paint (Acrylic)

At the outset of the experiment, I hoped to play with Montana Acrylic spray paint as well. 

It’s a little mundane to state the obvious, but being in a rainy climate during winter months has prevented me from being able to spray my artwork outdoors, as the fumes are quite strong and being indoors isn’t an option. 

I’m determined to get over this small hurdle eventually. Playing with oil sticks & pastels will keep me pleasantly preoccupied until the sun comes out.

Oil Pastels (Almost) Never Dry

Oil pastels use a type of mineral oil (in addition to wax) as their binder which makes them take years to dry (some never dry) and stay workable, so that’s something to keep in mind. In contrast, oil sticks typically use wax as their binder, and do dry. 

I tried using Sennelier Oil Pastel Fixative a few times, which coats the pastel drawing in a somewhat shiny sheen. I personally don’t like sprays (for drawings) or varnishes (for paintings), as they coat the image with a homogenous surface, and the artwork seems to no longer breathe. 

For this reason, I am leaning toward oil sticks for my more serious work, and oil pastels for preliminary studies.

Have there been any surprises with this experiment?

The biggest surprise in this experiment has been how important the quality of surface is when using an oil stick or oil pastel.

If the surface is absorbent, it really ‘grabs hold’ of the pigment when making marks, depositing rich, bold passages filled with texture and vitality. When working on slicker surfaces, the pigments kind of slide across and skim by, and not much pigment is left behind.

To create absorbent surfaces, I have been applying Clear Acrylic Gesso (by Liquitex) and Black Gesso (by Golden) to canvas, panels, paper, etc. Both gessoes have marble dust in their chemical compositions, so once dry, they are very absorbent, matte, and resemble sandpaper almost. At first, this is intimidating, as it eats away at your pastels & bars rather quickly, but the experience of mark-making is so rich and worth every penny. Very pleased with this discovery!

More Materials To Consider

Watch Artist Video Series

Hooked on Discovery with Justin Ogilvie

Need to Catch up? Watch our Interview with Justin Ogilvie Here

We'd like to thank Justin Ogilvie, for making this interview possible.

To see more of Justin Ogilvie's work, visit his website: Justinogilvie.Com , his profile at Canvas Method , and his Instagram at @Justin_Ogilvie