Product Review -- Mont Marte Oil Pastels
Mont Marte is an interesting company local to Australia. Its excellent quality art supplies go for very low prices in Australian dollars and of course are impossible to get outside Australia and New Zealand. Readers from Down Under may have trouble getting brands from the USA, though UK and European brands may show up at high prices. So here's a review of the easily found inexpensive Mont Marte oil pastels, available in a range of 24 interesting colors.
An Australian friend sent me this set as a get-well present when I had surgery in 2005. It's what got me interested in oil pastels again. The colors were so rich and beautiful, very strong deep opaque jewel tones in round wrapped sticks.
They blend well. They're very soft compared to colored pencils, despite some tendency to crumbs in heavy applications. I had fun with them and used them for sketching. I found myself taking them out and enjoying them more often than I expected. Though I suspected they weren't artist grade, they were great.
The big challenge with oil pastels is working small. The pumpkin above is an ACEO that I did in October 2008, brightened a little with a fluorescent orange Gallery pastel for fun on what I think is watercolor paper. I cut a lot of watercolor paper blanks for ATCs and ACEOs Artist Trading Cards must be 2.5" x 3.5" and never be sold, only traded. Art Cards Editions and Originals were created on eBay as a version that could be either sold or traded.
I was able to get more detail than I expected by sliding the sleeve off the smooth clean end of the stick and using the edge, a technique possible again by wearing the stick down flat or at an angle till there's an edge. The watercolor paper took several layers and showed some strong strokes. Compared to my artist grade oil pastels, these are too hard and they crumble, but compared to wax crayons they are creamy smooth and soft.
We'll find out how they perform for lightfastness in my upcoming home fading tests. I'll put up strips of each color in each brand I own with cardboard taped over half the patches into some bright windows on the back porch, then check them after a month, three months, six months and a year to get a good rough approximation of which colors fade most and fastest. Even in student grade oil pastels, some colors may be very light resistant -- which makes them appropriate for use in serious artwork if they have the texture you like best or happen to be the ones easiest to find in your country.
I have tried other Mont Marte products like their colored pencils since, and they are excellent. So it's possible the low prices may be a matter of low shipping costs and few middlemen between Mont Marte and the Asian factories that produce their supplies. Here's a color chart of my 24 color set, which I think is the full range for their oil pastels: