As a professional artist my work now focuses primarily on the landscape and in a very loose, free and expressive way with mixed media and pastel and is always evolving. Right now, through years of creative experience and personal development, my work is following a more mature and semi abstract path and I like it! This wasn’t always the case.
I’ve had successes with my more figurative work – pastels mainly which were labelled as ‘impressionistic’. Work was accepted at ‘The Pastel Society’ exhibitions which were near sell outs and I won the coveted award of ‘The Artists Purchasing Prize’ with ‘The Artist’ magazine at ‘Patchings Open Arts Competition’ near Nottingham in 2005 which resulted in my winning entry of ‘Evening light on the Grand Canal -Venice’ receiving the top award and being featured on the front cover of ‘The Artist’ magazine.
However, despite all of these different commercial successes and awards I felt there was something missing, something quite unfulfilled about it all – I wasn’t really being true to myself, just the money and not my art. It had to change.
Weaning myself from a style that was successful didn’t sit well with many galleries consistently selling my work. I was constantly asked ‘Why fix something that isn’t broken? However, everything was beginning to feel so ‘commercial’ at the time and pretty formulaic. It was not what I wanted – to be exchanging one commercial job for another did not seem right.
So I stopped the treadmill exhibitions and began to focus on my own work as a very personal response to a subject, not a mere rendition of a place following a set brief, a gallery led promise of sale, and instead decided to create new work that had more meaning to it, integrity and depth.
The change in direction wasn’t an easy decision to make. We had a mortgage at the time and it felt like I was giving up a good income stream and putting extra financial burden on our incomes. Working as a full time designer my job always came first. Pursuing my growing fine art career always had to take second stage. What little time I had left to creatively develop the successes had to come in leaps and bounds to secure my place with expectant gallery owners I still wanted to work with. Unison Colour pastels were always my ‘go to’ media to explore fresh new creative ideas. Thanks to the quality and versatility of the pastels the new studio work happened quite quickly and the outcomes really encouraging and exciting.
Painting by painting, idea upon idea, soon I had a brand new collection of innovative and expressive work to send to my patient galleries. My new style of work was embraced and soon success after success came with sales, awards and commissions too.
As my expressive style has matured and continued to develop, further awards and prizes came. One recent accolade that I’ve been very pleased to share is my acceptance into the Society of Graphic Fine Arts as an Associate Artist. I was encouraged to submit several of my most recent expressive landscape mixed media drawings to the society based on the strength of the work I’m currently creating. This most esteemed art society uphold the highest excellence in drawing and painting so it took a little while to have the confidence to ‘go for it’. I’m delighted I did as there are many fellow artists within the SGFA who’s work I really admire so its great to be exhibiting with them in future society exhibitions nationally.
In 2019 I was awarded ‘Best Monotone’ with the SGFA in an open competition at the Menier Gallery in London. I was very proud of that award – what I’m creating now is seen as worthy of merit and gives me the confidence to keep pushing creative boundaries – especially in my Unison Colour mixed media and contemporary pastel paintings.
I’ve been working recently on a 2.5 year project with publishers ‘Search Press’ to create my very first book with them – ‘Drawing Dramatic Landscapes’. This 166 page book which is to be published on 15 February 2021. This fully illustrated professionally printed soft back book includes many different types of drawings which include Unison Colour pastels – especially the black, white and lovely soft grey ranges of colours. Within the book are step by step guides, advice and focus on traditional and contemporary drawing materials too. Location and studio drawings sit side by side throughout the book with Unison Colour pastels playing their part.
The unique properties and high pigmentation within the whole Unison Colour pastels range gives me the continued confidence to keep pushing creative boundaries in my work. Used either as a solo medium (purely pastel) to both draw, and ‘paint’ or by including them in my mixed media work, what they most certainly help me to create are really exciting paintings filled with personal connection to my subject which visually demonstrate a real creative expression.
I often use Unison Colour pastels in a very painterly way by mixing them directly into one another on my heavy weight watercolour paper (my preferred support) into pools of liquid fixative that is either splashed, poured or applied with a brush to the surface used as a base on which to work or applied in rich layers with other media too. I also heavily fix my pastels to push the media into the paper support to reveal the tooth of the paper again. By doing so, broken and ‘scumbled’ pastel layering creates exciting optical colour mixing and textured effects – very exciting to do.
Masking techniques with Unison Colour aerosol fixative are another creative way in which I use fixative in my work to deliberately create areas of light and dark contrast and tome in my pastel and mixed media work. Protected areas under the masks are free from fixative and therefore will be lighter, areas exposed wont be so when the masks are removed there is a noted difference in tone.
This can be subtle or dramatic depending on colour choices. Masking techniques with fixative can be used in so many different ways to create exciting paintings. I never see the use of fixative with pastels as a negative. As a regular contributor to ‘The Artist’ magazine it was great to have these innovative contemporary techniques and more feature in the October ‘20 issue of the magazine showing what’s possible to create with Unison Colour pastels as a versatile painting and drawing media in my work.
In many of my mixed media paintings I use aerosol acrylic spray paints. Different spray effects are created by applying different nozzles. Replicating what one media does with another adds to the versatility of your creative vocabulary. With Unison Colour pastels I use a craft knife to shave pastel pigments from different heights and angles into pools of liquid or sprayed fixative to give a spattered paint effect which contrast to blended and drawn marks. Instead of using fixative clean water can be used. The results are a softer more subdued effect applicable to different subjects I have in mind.
Unison Colour pastels can be worked into either type of dampened surface, which gives a very painterly effect. In areas that are not dampened that still remain dry contrasting dry to blended effects occur in contrast to one another. Once the fixative or water has evaporated pastel still retains the quality of a rich velvety finish with strong colours and subtle yet dynamic with lighter tones and tints. This layering process can continue over and over again until I’m happy that the finished effect is one that is both visually exciting to look at yet at the same time an expression of what the subject is whilst retaining its sense of place – a harmonious balance as it were.
Without doubt there are favourite colours I have in the Unison colour range. These I put together in my Unison Colour ‘Moorland Set’ of 36 colours of lights, darks, earths and brighter colours that together as a set are very much my go to colours, if you like. From these I can create so much! The darks are important too – they add so much depth to your paintings! It was great to work with Unison Colour lab to create the new ‘Dark 24’ which is both in the Unison colour Moorland set and in the 8 colour ‘Midnight set’ which I use all the time. For seascapes I use plenty of blues and in particular Blue Green 3, 7, 9 15 and 16, Ocean blue 11, and my favourite blues Blue Violets 4, 19, 11, 12 and light blue violet 9 and 14 and more grey ones Blue Violet 15, and 16 which work really well with colours in the Moorland Set when mixed together or optically layered to make them extend even further in a colour range.
Using these blues with the Midnight set, dark moody paintings are created. A flash of a bright colour now and then from the Moorland set creates a real focus and depth in the painting with those final strokes of luscious colour – they make all the difference!
Currently I am working on a series of paintings called ‘mystic moorland’ taking my work with Unison Colour pastels and other media to new and exciting places – especially on a large scale. Using lots of different past and present printed and montage photographs in a layering process combined with texture mediums such as slate dust, marble dust, gesso and pumice, Sandfix and so on, these unique and exciting surfaces add another dimension to my expressive mixed media and pastel work.
Each painting is very unique with its own visual narrative. Mixing past (historically archived) and present modern digitally captured images with paint and other dry and soft drawing media layered with Unison Colour pastels are compelling as well as exciting to create. It takes time and a lot of thought process to build such paintings having to wait at least 24 hours between each transfer process to ensure the photographic image adheres correctly.
I distress many of my own digitally captured location photographs prior to transfer with computer software to create the right type of effect prior to output. Half tones are discarded and line only is enhanced. There’s a fine margin act to leaving behind and accentuating the right amount of detail and information as well as discarding the unwanted. I don’t montage the images in the computer, instead I do that physically within each painting as it has a more organic feel to the creative process than a heavily digitally layered ‘mechanical looking’ image.
On location I always sketch to work out the architecture and construction of the landscape. These are invaluable in the studio and are often referred back to if I feel I’m getting lost in the creative process. Often on location I will sample what’s actually there physically in the landscape in the form of physical and tactile surface rubbings bringing back a real sense of the discovered to include in my work.
I will go to extremes to get what I need or what I sense is the missing important element in a painting. For example, one particular south Peninne moorland ruin was the main focus of a piece of work. I’d used numerous elements in the composition to construct the painting from sketches, photographs and so on but there was something missing. A key graphical element to tie the whole thing together – the historical and skilfully carved date stone above the main entrance door. It was so high up I had to pay a return visit to the ruin with a step ladder which I carried up the moor to get to the right height to gain access to it to take a sample textured rubbing of it which I later incorporated in the work.
Such physical engagement with the subject has resonance with the viewer. All the surprising and intriguing elements create a visual narrative and have meaning were interconnected elements all play their part.
There’s quite a balance between getting it right were traditional creative skills and modern technology are in balance. If you over do it you have to start again – there’s no going back so a lot of thought goes into them. However, during the painting and pastel processes and layering everything is instinctive so control and expression are in equilibrium.
Unison Colour pastels will always be part of my creative scene. Used either as a solo medium for quick field sketches, pastel paintings in their own right or combined with other media as part of my creative process they have and always will be a valuable contributor to the work I do and the successful outcomes they help create.