I guess there’s truth in the saying that doing art and buying art supplies are two kinds of hobbies (or passions). You can’t have one without the other, but also one can get carried away a little bit too much. Especially in the world of art supplies. Sure, it’s easy get around with just a piece of paper and a piece of graphite (whether a pencil or a stick), or maybe charcoal, and be satisfied to the very heart’s content. Artists have done it, for centuries, actually. But this is the 21st century and the more chances of making something extraordinary, the more chances of being harder to choose. Not to mention, you’re not just limited to the retailers in your city or closest neighbouring places, countries even. With online shopping and the worldwide possibility of shipping and air mail, you can just about get everything you could ever want.
I like to search for my materials, navigate these endless opportunities and to try out anything I can get my hands on. Try to use same material from different producers, try to find my favourites, my go-to list. I found out about Unison Colour pastels by following Zaria Forman (@zarialynn – love her!) on Instagram. Seeing her marvellous artworks with pastels, I had to see more into the ones she was using, and so I did. Read the story and checked out the available sets. Being only a student at the time, and the fact that I hadn’t used them very often, ordering the whole set seemed for me too much. I knew I had to see and touch them before buying, so I searched for the closest retailer that holds them. Found it in Paris, only 2000 km (~ 1242.8 miles) away from Riga, Latvia, where I was. Wrote down the address, knowing it will be a while before I get there.
Just so happened, a few months after that, I was in the middle of planning a trip with friends to Normandy, France, and the last day of the trip would be in Paris. Our need-to-see tour would take us along the Seine, close to the Sennelier shop. So, while everybody was moving towards Jardin des Tuileries, I took a detour over Pont des Arts. I had only a half an hour, which passed like a minute. Found the pastels and came to the hard part – I had to choose just some of them… Not to mention to the art-supply-shopaholic that I am, this place was a paradise on Earth, but that’s another story. Took my pick and left as happy as a six-year-old on the Christmas morning.
I must admit, since my trip to France, I hadn’t used them. For almost two years they were just sitting in a beautiful wooden box, not to be touched, waiting… for some grand idea, that might come. Since they were so special to me, I wanted to save them, for a time and an idea, creating a piece with the dedication they deserved. So, one, not so special day, I decided not to wait anymore, but to just go for it. And for the grand piece I could always get some more.
Decided to go with the blues, since one of them was shattered and I didn’t want to lose any part of it. The ones I used for the piece are BV 18, BG 2, GREY 34, and some other lighter shades I had. It started out almost as a meditation. I didn’t have a sketch or an idea what to draw, just the tones I wanted to use. The shapes evolved as I tried mixing the pastels with each other.
Mountains are my weakness and my strength, I always want to draw them, and I always have ideas how, as if I know that I can’t go wrong. So, adding layer, by layer to the scene I love the most, I fell more in love with a technique and the material I had neglected for some time. It’s the process of creating I crave, especially, when improvising. And the more I do, the more I want to create. It’s a mechanism that runs by itself, and the materials being the fuel. Testing new kinds can sometimes ignite long fires. So, when it comes to it, I’m open to anything, but suddenly, these just became a priority.
Maybe I didn’t make something grand with them, or maybe few months or years I’ll look back to realize, that I love the piece more than I do now. But one thing I know for sure, having such fine materials to work with, gave me such pleasure and joy and so many new ideas, scribbled on the side of the next sheet of paper, waiting their turn to be turned in to something bigger.
“Mountain blues”, 40×28 cm, pastel on paper, 2020.
I know, I know, it’s not about the tools and the materials, it’s what you do with them. But having the ones you really love, kind of acts on the soul. Don’t you think? So, my advice to you, don’t save to use them. Maybe you’ll find something grand on the way.