Featured Artist Russell Mackensen

Enjoy the stunning portfolio of oil pastel artist Russell Mackensen, whose fascination with the medium has led him to become a master. See more by visiting his website.


Still life of fruit

“A Cherry On Top” oil pastel, 12″ x 12″


Growing up, I was a multi-sport athlete, while my father was a non-athlete. The one thing we both loved was drawing together. He should have been an artist, but life interrupted that pursuit.


oil pastel painting of candies and metal spheres

“Hard Candy” oil pastel, 24″ x 30″


I was also encouraged by my fourth grade teacher to draw. In high school, I opted out of the traditional art classes and did three years of independent study focusing on different 2D and 3D mediums. I focused on photography and serigraphy for a number of years, but art wasn’t my main love or desire. That teacher also introduced me to architecture. I made plans to pursue that (partly because it was easier to spell than engineer) for my career.


realistic oil pastel painting of red peppers

“Red Peppers” oil pastel, 12″ x 36″


I attended architecture school at the University of Kansas and graduated with my five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree. While there, I continued to do independent studies in art-related course work including color studies via serigraphs and a number of printmaking projects using photographic resists. Time spent in architecture helped me to hone the three-dimensional vision necessary to design structures and see an object’s relation to space.


Hyperrealistic oil pastel painting of a strawberry by Russell Mackensen

“Strawberry Splash” oil pastel, 14″ x 18″


In 2009, my wife and I purchased a pastel painting and an oil painting. We had seen another piece of art in a gallery; I was told it was an oil pastel, a medium I had never heard of. Work as an architect had taken an economic hit and my wife encouraged me to buy some art supplies to keep me busy (and stop driving her nuts). So that is what I purchased! Only to find out that many artists that I have since come in contact with said it was a difficult one to master.


Still life painting with oil pastels

“Copper, Pomegranates and Oranges” oil pastel, 24″ x 12″


Since I started painting in oil pastels, I have striven to conquer this medium. I still work at it. They are a relative newcomer to the art world as a fine art medium. In my discovery of the medium I made the decision to work on a sanded surface that accepts oil pastels well. It allows me to execute the hard edges in the near photorealism I work towards. Working from photographs and the ability to see in 3D has helped me in that pursuit (you can’t paint from photographs).


Still life oil pastel painting of Dale Chihuly's glass art

“Floating Chihuly” oil pastel, 36″ x 24″


I find the medium well-suited to my drawing skills learned as an architect. I always struggled with a paintbrush where the oil pastels just came naturally. The thing I most love about oil pastels is the vibrancy and immediacy of the colors. I enjoy painting brightly colored objects with reflected light or other objects, but I also like the challenges of traditional subjects.


Oil pastel painting of metal spheres by Russell Mackensen

“Spheres #2″ oil pastels, 20″ x 24”


My work has been well received. It has allowed me to become a juried member of the International Guild of Realism and an elected member of The Allied Artists of America.


Oil pastel painting of a still life by Russell Mackensen

“Blue Plate Special” oil pastel, 24″ x 20″


All the honors come not from any particular skill I have learned but from the grace of my God to allow these skills to be used to his glory. Corem Deo!


Russell Mackensen invites you to follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Musero.


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  1. As an artist, I understand and struggle with the challenge of making a 3D subject look 3D on a 2D surface. Russ Mackensen has indeed mastered this challenge. It’s great to hear the story about how he grew into that mastery. And that he gives all the credit to God.

  2. Shirley Taylor says

    Your art is fabulous, what I call real art

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