Get Inspired With Sennelier

October 19, 2020

The Prominent, Top Performing Pastels with Roberta Combs

Like many Opus customers, Federation of Canadian Artists Spilsbury Medal award winner and Gold Medal recipient from the International Associations of Pastel Societies, Roberta Combs, has been asking us to stock the Sennelier brand. We’ve listened and these infamous, luxurious French materials are finally hitting our shelves, just in time for the holidays. 


Sennelier shop in Paris, France 1887

Sennelier is one of those brands that emanates authenticity. Since its inception in 1887, the Parisian company has been combining traditions of the old masters with innovations in modern chemistry. Over the years, a roll call of famous artists has championed their materials – Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Bonnard… it was Picasso’s need for a medium that could be used freely on a variety of surfaces without fading or cracking which prompted them to create their internationally-renowned oil pastels. Such prodigious endorsements and illustrious history, coupled with an expansive, unparalleled range of colours and consistent, exceptional quality have solidified Sennelier’s infallible reputation.


Roberta explains, ‘Sennelier pastels are almost pure pigment and have a brilliance and luminosity that is instantly apparent in your painting. They can be layered or blended to create a misty softness or invoke dramatic moods.’ 

She uses the large contact surface Soft Pastels, which offer comfortable handling and allow expansive areas to be covered with a high degree of regularity. ‘Sennelier has one of the widest colour ranges available with 525 delicious choices of hand rolled soft pastels. Their rich pigments blend seamlessly together, resulting in a velvety, lush painting. Soft pastels are not usually combined like other mediums – instead of blending colours to make new ones, pastel artists reach for the exact green they have in mind.’


‘My relationship with Sennelier may have started with these yummy pastels, but when I paired them with Sennelier La Carte sanded paper, it was truly that “aha!” moment.’ 


The high tooth texture pastel card Roberta describes is made from a thin layer of finely ground vegetable fibres (fine cork particles) which gives a velvety grain surface and decreases the need for fixative. ‘It can take many layers of these soft pastels to create rich and complex aspects to your painting. If you blend with your pastel sticks, your overlapping shades create an exciting depth of texture and motion. If you blend your colours with your fingers as I do, La Carte is the only paper I know that allows you to create layers of buttery velvet richness throughout, without shredding your finger pads.’


As was the case for her predecessors, Sennelier materials have greatly contributed to Roberta’s creative process. ‘When my artistic journey led me back to pastels, I was fortunate to have the guidance of already established pastel masters. Sennelier pastels were one of my first “staple” sets. They made art exciting again.’


Although these products can be geared towards professionals, Roberta points out how employing artist grade materials  can also benefit beginners (and every skill-set in between!):  ‘Using high quality pastels will yield high quality results. Sennelier soft pastels are effective when building your painting, blending your colours, creating depth, drama and light, and will come through for a rich buttery finish. They produce an immediate satisfaction in the way your painting begins to develop. I’ve seen artists become very discouraged while using poor quality, low pigment, chalky pastels. When I teach, I try to stress that having fewer pastels of a high quality is much better than having more of a lower quality. It’s rewarding to introduce students to pastel painting and watch for that moment when they realise they are creating an exciting and vibrant painting with pastels.’

Roberta’s passion and loyalty to Sennelier is set to continue. When asked what role these products will have in her future creative endeavours, she explains, ‘I have shown my pastel paintings all over North America and in Europe in juried exhibitions and competitions. When you want to be included in these shows with the best artists, you have to bring your A-game. Only the best quality art supplies will result in the best paintings you can produce. Sennelier pastels are always included in my pastel box.’


As well as the Soft Pastel range and La Carte papers Roberta uses, the high pigmented Sennelier Oil Sticks will be a welcome addition in all our stores. These versatile materials allow oil painting to be approached differently, extending the artist’s freedom of expression. 

We’re also stocking their famous Oil Pastels, the product designed for Picasso that makes use of components used in all Sennelier colours: top quality pigments, an extremely pure synthetic binding medium, and mineral wax.  

Anyone already supporting Sennelier should be able to relate to Roberta when she says, ‘It’s important to set yourself up for success in order to have the best chance of experiencing how much fun pastel painting is.’ And for those of you just discovering the brand, we encourage you to have a go!


‘It’s important to set yourself up for success in order to have the best chance of experiencing how much fun pastel painting is.’ 

By All Means Create


Roberta Combs

Roberta Combs is a Spilsbury Medal award winner in the Federation of Canadian Artists. Her award-winning work has been seen in such publications as International Artists Magazine, Southwest Art Magazine, and the Pastel Journal Magazine.