Oil Sticks: Shiva Artist’s PaintStiks (review)

On a recent trip into the city to meet up with some friends, I dropped into a few art supply shops while I was waiting. One of them had a clearance table set up near the door, and several minutes of rifling through it like a magpie in a garbage can yielded some Shiva Artist’s PaintStiks.

Most of these little cardboard packets contained one full-sized stick, but there were a few of these ones that contained three sample-sized sticks, including this set and one with metallic/iridescent colours. I decided to get this one since it was a cheaper way to try more colours. Unfortunately they didn’t have any white PaintStiks left. Here’s the colour chart I painted when I first got home with the sticks.

The packet claims that these will be touch dry in 24 hours. This was accurate for two of my three colours, but Wedgewood Blue took closer to 36 hours to be touch dry. Still, this puts them pretty much on par with the Sennelier Oil Sticks, and it’s still much faster than traditional oil paint’s drying time. As with other oil paint sticks, a ‘skin’ of dry oil colour forms over the stick after a couple of hours when it isn’t being used, to keep the inner paint fresh. The skin formed on the Shiva sticks was quite thick compared to both the Sennelier and Winsor & Newton Oilbars, which means that in the long run, a greater percentage of each stick will be unusable. The skin is at least easy to remove; just slice a bit off with a palette knife and then use your fingers to peel off a larger section, exposing the fresh paint inside. Texture-wise, the Shiva PaintStiks are quite soft and squishy, similar to the Sennelier sticks, and they lay down colour easily. You can also scribble with them on the palette and add solvent or a medium like Liquin to the swatch of colour and then pick it up with a brush to use it like normal oil paint. You can just push the paint around with a brush without the use of a medium, but it’s much more difficult.As I mentioned in one (or both) of my reviews for the other oil sticks I’ve tried, I’d recommend using a colour shaper for fine detail, as the chunky nature of the oil sticks can make it hard to get accurate lines.

Shiva PaintStiks are slightly shorter and thinner than the Sennelier Oil Sticks (38ml), and significantly shorter and thinner than Winsor & Newton Oilbars (58ml) but as far as I can see, the actual quantity in mls is not listed for PaintStiks. In the few local art supply stores that carry them, the Shiva PaintStiks seem to be a little dearer than the Sennelier Oil Sticks, but when purchased from the UK they’re slightly cheaper, though the difference in size between the brands means they’re probably about the same per ml.

There are 77 colours available, with 22 of these being iridescent colours. I regret not getting some of the iridescent ones to try; the art shop had another three-pack of mini sticks in Gold, Silver and Copper, but I figured I’d already spent enough money that day. They also do not have any pigment information listed – either on the sticks themselves or on the documentation on the manufacturer’s website – though they do provide lightfastness ratings for each colour. Most of the iridescent colours are lightfast but of the 55 standard colours, only about half of them were rated as *** (excellent). I was disappointed to find that the Wedgewood Blue I got was only rated ** (very good) while the other two colours were rated * (fair, though in my experience when something is rated “fair” it usually means “poor”). On the bright side, the pigment concentration in the Shiva PaintStiks is comparable with the other oil stick brands, so you can build up solid layers of colour quickly and easily.

Here’s a little landscape I painted quickly from imagination on a small canvas panel this morning. I had to use some Winsor & Newton Oilbars and Sennelier Oil Sticks as the colour range in my Shiva PaintStik sample pack was quite limited.

The Shiva Artist’s PaintStiks are a reasonably priced option for those who want to play with oil paint in stick form, though I’d suggest looking at the colour chart online before ordering to make sure you avoid fugitive colours if you intend to sell or display your work. Depending on where you are, it may be cheaper to buy the Sennelier Oil Sticks, in which case I’d suggest going for those instead, but PaintStiks are perfectly viable and will get the job done.

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