Locked Down and Dirty

One of the good things about lockdown this year has been reducing the commute between me and my Unison pastels. Prior to March this year my pastels would only see me on the weekends at which point I would need to cram in some activity time with them along with other tasks such as actual parenting, practising my bad jazz drum rudiments and eating Rice Krispies in bed (dangerous stuff).

My day job is in public health and it’s been a little bit busy the last 9 months, plus I was also shielding due to my wife and I being in the moderately vulnerable category. Factor in three teenage daughters climbing the walls and like most households across the country stress levels were challenging shall we say.

Anyway, what’s good for stress? Anything creative is good for stress. Prior to lockdown I spent years managing stress with manic doodling during meetings. Now I was in the alien position of working from home and had the opportunity to actually do some proper art, so I did. Our workdays are long and it’s important for us as it is for everyone to try and punctuate them with breaks to exercise our bodies and minds in ways different to the work we do. 

As a result, my output has increased significantly and having the extra time at home has meant I’ve had the freedom to experiment a bit more with some interesting results! Prior to lockdown I think I was being more conservative with my use of the pastels but given the chance these little buggers are incredibly versatile and when you don’t have to worry about going into the office the next day with one hand-stained orange and the other blue you can do whatever you want with them.

My chosen approach is to use them like a crayon and then use my hands and a bit of water or linseed oil to paint with them. I was for a while using a paint brush but found that my fingers are actually better suited. Add some good music and you can really get into your primal groove and just get lost in the art. I tend to use boxed canvases as well which although expensive do allow me to really attack the surface and get in there. I also use sandpaper, a rasping tool and even a toothbrush to scratch and blend the pastels on the surface, which helps bring out highlights and is just a really cool effect.

Locked Down and Dirty 11
Click to enlarge

Whilst Unison pastels are famed for their literal brilliance, they are also a menace in the hands of anyone as clumsy as I, and well let’s just say my wife Vicky wasn’t always pleased when I inadvertently redecorate walls, light switches and other touch points with pastel covered fingers. 

Of course, I wouldn’t have made anywhere as near as much mess if Unison hadn’t gone and made me an Associate Artist (at least that’s what I tell my wife)! Seriously though becoming an AA has literally been the highlight of this year. To say it has boosted my confidence and given me new purpose during this year would be an understatement. Yes, their pastels are beautiful, I think we can all agree on that but what is even more beautiful is when an established product leader such as Unison reaches out and gives opportunities to people who may not be obvious candidates for support. I’m not young, not artistically trained and my work isn’t subtle or elegant, but I do have passion for what I do, and I am extremely grateful to Helen and everyone at Unison for taking a chance on me. 

Announcing More New Associate Artists

We can now announce our second group of new Associate Artists to Unison Colour. Our Associate Artists perform a fantastic role for Unison Colour and we are proud to welcome the following people…

It's a gas, by Nigel Smith

Chunky, and a bit crumbly

Nigel Smith’s story begins as a child, but it’s not until his 40s, when spurred on by family members at a time dealing with grief and mental health problems, that he puts his art in to action.

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11 Responses

  1. Чувство благодарности–это прекрасно, это то, что переполняет и меня тоже после знакомства с группой Юнисон. Творческий процесс сродни волшебству, он настраивает на новую волну, мне кажется, что люди становятся лучше. А от этого окружение тоже становится лучше!

  2. Great to read how you , like som many others this last year, really have come ” closer” to your art materials and use them in such a very personal and interesting way! I had never thought about using pastels w linseed oil, so thanks for that tip! Your art make me think of a fantastic illustrator we had in Sweden when I was a kid, forgotten his name sadly, but your paintings give me the same feeling I had then. So thank you, I had not thought of those pictures for many years!
    Here in Sweden we haven´t been in such strict lockdowns as you have in the UK, in fact we have had hardly any restrictions at all apart from restaurants and public gatherings in churches , sport arenas etc, but people have still done loads of self isolating in their homes, neither seeing family or friends, and worked from home, so a lot of people I have talked to have taken out their old unused art stuff and started making art and craft just to pass the time and get away from the awfulness of the situation.
    And congratulations to becoming an Associate Artist for Unison too. I is brilliant that they reach out also to artists who do so very different art from the usual art one thinks of as a typical pastel painting.
    You are lucky to live in the UK and can get these wonderful pastels easily. Now after Brexit I have to source them in shops in the EU- otherwise they are far to expensive now, w all the fees, to buy from the UK, and sadly the choice is so much more restricted as all the shops I have found sell only a few sets. So to all of you pastelist in the UK, be very happy that you have such fantastic pastels made in your own country!

    1. Anna thank you very much for the kind words and if you ever remember who the illustrator was I’d love to know and be able to look up some of their work. That’s a real pain about the pastels and Brexit but then Brexit is a massive pain full stop with literally zero benefits for anyone. Good luck though trying to source some. Nigel

  3. Ahh thanks Estelle and Michele, that means a lot

    Anna thank you very much for the kind words and if you ever remember who the illustrator was I’d love to know and be able to look up some of their work. That’s a real pain about the pastels and Brexit but then Brexit is a massive pain full stop with literally zero benefits for anyone. Good luck though trying to source some. Nigel

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