Not long ago, I reviewed the Sennelier Oil Sticks and mentioned that they were the first oil sticks I’d acquired. This wasn’t entirely true; Winsor & Newton had, several years earlier, sent me a little sample Oilbar in Ultramarine Blue, which I’d shoved into my drawer and forgotten about. Wanting to have something to compare the Sennelier oil sticks with, I ordered a few more W&N Oilbars.
So far I only have four colours in the Winsor & Newton Oilbars, as well as a Colourless Blender. I’ve ordered a Cadmium Red, though, just so I have a bright orange-red. Winsor & Newton Oilbars are a bit bigger than the Sennelier Oil Sticks at 50mls, but they are also more expensive, especially if you are buying them locally, with prices ranging from $15-35. In fact, if you live in Australia, Oilbars are one product you are better off buying online from overseas if you can; I got mine from Jackson’s in the UK, where the prices range from about $10-20AUD; the relatively small postage fees they charge are outweighed by the savings on the sticks themselves by the time you’ve ordered two or three.
Once again, my Nan helped me test these, as we were playing with them at about the same time we gave the Sennelier sticks a go. Similar to the Sennelier oil sticks, you can use W&N Oilbars by themselves (blending with the sticks or your fingers) or with solvent and brushes, or a colour shaper tool. In terms of pigment concentration, they are at least on the same level as the Sennelier sticks (which isn’t a surprise given that both are artist grade products), and I found that once I had them going, they were fairly easy to put colour down with, but it seemed to me that the rubbery skin over the W&N Oilbars was thicker and slightly harder to remove than it was on the Senneliers.
The first thing I noticed when I started using these was that they didn’t feel as smooth as the Sennelier Oil Sticks. Some of them – especially Ultramarine Blue – felt very sticky and tacky and were a little harder to blend than the other WN colours. I know that Winsor & Newton apparently changed the formula for these and that my Ultramarine was definitely the older formula, but I’m not sure if my other colours were also old formula or were the updated one (anyone know if there’s any difference in the packaging so I could tell which version I have?). Buff Titanium and Yellow Ochre had pretty smooth coverage, but Magenta and Ultramarine Blue were a bit gunky (for lack of a better word), as you can see in my swatches above.
In terms of drying time, the Oilbars were also comparable with the Sennelier Oil Sticks, though I think they took a little bit longer on average (touch dry in 36 hours and completely dry in about three days). Still, this is a lot faster than regular oil paints dry, and also faster than one of the other major brands of oil paint sticks, the R&Fs. I have not tried these myself – they are much more expensive than the two brands I have and are therefore out of my price range – but from what I’ve heard from others who use them, they are the closest to using real oil paints, in terms of consistency and drying time. Maybe I will try the R&Fs one day if I get given an art supply shop gift voucher for Christmas or a birthday. I also found (and this applies to the Sennelier sticks, too) that the Oilbars dried a little faster if they’d been blended with Zest-It (the citrus-based solvent I use) than if I just blended them by hand or with other sticks.
This painting was done mostly with the Winsor & Newton Oilbars, though I also used Sennelier Oil Sticks in Titanium White and Ivory Black so I could get decent shading and lighting effects.