I’m a gal who loves bright colours. Brown and grey pastels?…I just can’t get excited about them. Give me a lipstick red, a canary yellow, an ocean blue, a plum purple, a sunset orange, a lime green, and I’m in heaven. Knowing this, you might understand why the browns and greys languish and remain unused in my pastel sets. I prefer making my neutrals by mixing saturated colours.
You may be asking, Sets? Why sets?
Along my pastel journey, I became enamoured with a limited palette. I could see the benefit of using it in my own work – colour harmony, less time spent trying to pick the perfect colour, more experimentation and possibility with a restricted palette, fewer pastels to travel with. Using a limited palette means making use of layering to create new colours and I love the qualities that layering bring to a piece – a sparkle, depth, and cohesion. So I started a project of trying out starter sets from different brands and seeing what I could do with them.
It was a fascinating exploration for sure, creating work solely with pastels out of the box. But I have to say, sometimes I was frustrated by the number of grey or brown pastels in some boxes. So I decided that one day, I would create my own set, one full of colourful pastels.
The opportunity arrived in the form of an invitation to join Unison Colour as an Associate Artist. I was honoured and happily accepted. I’d been a Unison Colour pastel fan and ‘user’ since the early 2000s when a local store started carrying them. (Sadly they no longer stock these pastels.) With the Unison Colour invitation came my chance to create my very own set!
I thought it would be all sorted within a year. Hah! My goal was to create a set with a selection of pastels with which a pastellist – using a bit of liberty with colour interpretation – could paint any subject. In order to reach this goal, I needed to select pastels that I knew, through my own work, could do just that.
From the start, I wanted pastels of primaries and secondaries, and where possible and appropriate, warm and cool versions of each. Each colour would then have a light, middle, and dark value/tone where applicable. So I made my initial selection and went to work. And then came the months and months and months of trial and error.
Along the way, I added colours. And I removed colours. And I added and removed more as I painted my way through various subjects (landscapes, portraits, figures, still life), making sure I had what I needed in the set. Last year, I made a chart to see which colours I was actually using. This was during our HowToPastel 31-pastels-in-31-days challenge when I painted something different each day. There were some surprises. For instance, there was a dark purple I didn’t use once. The same went for a cool bright white. Another discovery was that I kept wanting to reach for an orange that wasn’t in the set (but now is).
Finally, I thought, “Gail, you need to make a decision!” This project has already been two years in the making. And, like a painting, it could go on forever. I just had to decide that it was finished! And so here we are.
As scary as it was to make that final commitment, I’m delighted with the outcome and excited to see what others will create with the vibrant luscious Unison Colour pastel sticks in this box. Let’s celebrate by painting up a storm of colour!