You can see the mini Shiva in the the upper right.

I switched from cattle markers to artists’ oil paint sticks when I heard that cattle markers aren’t very colorfast. I have a couple year-old cattle marker drawings hanging in my house and I haven’t detected any fading yet, but I made the switch, just in case I happen to sell anything.

Other notable differences? Artists’ paint sticks cost a lot more than cattle markers. They average around $4 or $5 per stick, compared to about $1 apiece for cattle markers. So, being frugal, I tried a few different kinds — some brand new from the art store, some on sale, and some from E-Bay — with the help of my super-shopper boyfriend. I concluded that buying paint sticks on sale or second-hand is risky. (More on that to come…)

Of the oil sticks I’ve tried, I’m happy with Shiva Artist’s Paintstik Oil Colors. They have a nice consistency — like drawing with creamy lipstick — and there are several colors to choose from.

Now the bargain shopper caveats:

Left: Discontinued Winsor Newton extra thin oil bar was sticky and icky. Center: Shiva Paint Stick works great. Right: Discontinued Markall thin stick was a waste of money, even on sale.

Mini Shivas: I thought I’d try the mini-sized version of the Shivas because they were on sale, but I wouldn’t recommend them. They’re the same thickness as the large sticks (see top image of palette), but very short (think lipstick sample). By the time you peel off the crust, there’s not much left, and they’re so short, they’re hard to draw with. Putting them in a sleeve leftover from a full-sized stick helps, but I decided they’re too much fuss to deal with, even to save money.

Extra Thin Sticks: Since I’m drawing small (which is crazy, I know), I thought I’d try to find some extra thin sticks. I ended up getting some thin Markall paintstiks on sale, but they were as dry and brittle as chalk. Granted they may have been old, and I believe this product has been discontinued, but if you see it on sale, don’t buy it! The paper didn’t want to come off, they broke easily and they were pretty much nothing but crust. Useless.

I also tried some thin Winsor Newton oil bars (again, on sale) but they were like trying to draw with a piece of salt water taffy, and the wrapping was difficult and messy to remove. Apparently these have been discontinued, too, for obvious reasons, so I learned my lesson about buying discontinued oil sticks.

There are several other brands of oil sticks, but so far, I don’t have any complaints about the big Shivas. The best way I’ve found to peel them is to use my thumbnail, protected by a paper towel. That way, I can feel the consistency underneath, and not lose as much paint as I would if I used a knife to peel them. (God, I’m so cheap!)

I’m still trying to develop a good way to avoid the little gunky bits of dried oil stick skin that make “oil stick dandruff” all over my workspace and pollute my drawings, but for now, I’m pretending that it’s intentional texture. As far as making thin lines goes, I know in my heart I should just be painting bigger, I just haven’t given up the convenience of storing and hanging cheapie 16 x 20″ canvas boards yet. Soon, soon.