When asked by Helen at Unison Colour to write a blog regarding my successes and how I’d achieved them – I must admit I froze feeling like a rabbit in the proverbial headlights as this is me out of my comfort zone analysing the whys and wherefores of my art, but as the saying goes no pain no gain so here goes!
Making the jump to become a professional artist just over 5 years ago never in my wildest dreams could I ever have thought so much would happen in such a relatively short period of time.
The majority of my previous career was spent as a creative, which included running my own Graphic Design business for over 20 years, so I’m very used to hard work and the inevitable long hours. As a designer I found my conscious and unconscious mind working overtime to come up with ideas and the subsequent solutions to fulfil a client brief. I have always woken at random times of the night to make notes or jot down ideas for future projects as well as catching thoughts at the strangest of times during my waking hours again in case they become reference ideas for some project that may manifest itself. This practise has definitely also spilled into my life as an artist – I don’t ever seem to switch off from it – if I’m not in the studio I will be thinking of the next project which involves gathering photos I’ve taken, taking walks in my beautiful Suffolk surroundings, reading books for inspirational text or listening to music for possible triggers for working titles… inspiration is all around me, no time for procrastination!
I started as a pet portrait artist, which was a great springboard to me finding my feet and pushing myself in other directions and discovering what I really love to paint. About 5 years ago my husband kindly bought me the Unison Pastel Portrait Colours set of 36 which I love. I must admit I was quite terrified to use them looking so delicious in their little wrappers. I love the vibrancy of Unison Colour pastels and the fact that they are pretty sturdy compared to some other brands, which I find terrifyingly crumbly.
I use a combination of Unison soft pastels alongside a wide range of pastel pencils; this works for me with my style being contemporary realism and highly detailed.
As my art began to develop I started finding out just how many social media sites there are to inspire, connect and share in the passion of pastels. This lead me to finding out about the Pastel Society and its prestigious exhibition held at the Mall Galleries, London each year. Never could I have believed that my work would ever be selected to hang amongst the glitterati of Pastel Royalty on my very first year of entering!
Having a competitive nature coupled with the fact that there is only one Pastel Society in England with just one call for entry exhibition a year, I started looking further afield to other Societies as well as International Pastel Societies in America to try and showcase my pastels with a view to start making my mark in this vibrant artistic community I’m now very fortunate to inhabit.
2017 was the start of a wonderful few years winning Best in Show with the Institute of East Anglian Artists and exhibiting with The Pastel Society, The Society of Women Artists and The Royal Marine Society at The Mall Galleries, as well as becoming an Associate Artist with Unison Colour.
Having become a Signature Artist with the Pastel Society of America in 2018 and less than 2 years after becoming a professional artist, I decided to submit to the Pastel Society of America’s Annual Enduring Brilliance exhibition. I was truly honoured that not only was ‘Jamel’ juried into this incredible pastel show, it also won the Chartpak Inc. Award for excellence in pastel and went on to exhibit at the Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, Ohio as part of the Pastel Society of America’s travelling show.
When putting my work forward for these Call for Entries I look carefully at what made the grade in previous exhibitions, to try and gauge whether I feel my work is right for that particular exhibition. If so (and obviously it is still all in the lap of the Art Gods) I will enter my strongest work that I feel stands a good chance. As previously mentioned I am competitive by nature – BUT and it’s a big but, if I don’t make the grade it’s because the work that I entered just wasn’t right for that particular show, when that happens there’s always tomorrow and another exhibition to apply to. The judges and jurors have their own agenda and know what they are looking for to make a cohesive exhibition, it’s as simple as that, there’s no point over analysing it.
Recently I have had notification I have accrued the necessary points to become a Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America – again an incredible honour that I often don’t feel worthy of.
Life has been an absolute whirlwind since then in many ways for me personally as well as professionally. I am so incredibly proud of my achievements and the giant steps my career as an artist has taken, doing what I love any time I want to really is something I will never take for granted. Sadly my mum is no longer here to witness these achievements – although she did see my pastel ‘32A’ hanging in the Pastel Society in 2018 and she got to meet a much admired celebrity Michael Portillo. She truly was my biggest supporter always there in times of self-doubt with cups of tea and just the right words to set me straight for the next undertaking.