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My Journey with Pastel

My Journey with Pastel 1
Flamboyance, by Julie Freeman

I have always had an interest in drawing, particularly realism. Bringing my subjects to life is always a challenge and very rewarding.

During my time living in the USA and UK 1980-1993 I dabbled with Portrait commissions. Initially coloured pencils or white charcoal on black backgrounds. Monochromatic work was always interesting and a total focus on values, a basic requirement for realism.

After returning to New Zealand and my children were teens, I went back to work part time in an Art Shop. What a wonderful job meeting so many amazing artists and getting to know all about art materials.

I discovered pastel pencils! One of our customers was the local Representative for PANZ, The Pastel Artists of NZ, and she encouraged me to join. I entered my first pastel into the National Exhibition in 2009 and was accepted and won a Merit Award.

I continued practising, started to exhibit and each year entered a variety of shows, with continued success over the next several years. My body of work is constantly evolving and influenced by New Zealand’s beautiful scenery, flora and fauna that I missed for the 15 years I was overseas.

I was awarded Master Pastellist in 2017 with PANZ, Signature Status with the Pastel Society of America 2016 and was awarded Master Circle status with IAPS in 2018.

Although the shop had a few brands of soft pastel available I had been apprehensive because of my love of detail. One of the benefits of awards here, specifically pastel exhibitions, was winning boxes of pastels, the majority being Unison as they are a major sponsor for PANZ. I wasn’t sure how I was going to use them and get the detail that I loved.

For smaller works my subjects were done primarily with the pastel pencils, and I started using the Unisons for softer muted backgrounds. The colours are amazing and so many to choose from, I was fortunate to have a good selection. They are great for larger and quicker coverage, so buttery and easy to blend. As my style evolved and I started working bigger I was able to use the Unisons in my main body of the work as well. Pastel sticks can be very versatile, I do blend a lot and use the side of the pastel for quicker coverage and then work pastel pencils in, whether it’s for detailing or subtle colour shifts. I can use the tip or shards with the smaller sharper edges for some details. Of course soft pastels do have a vibrancy that pencils don’t have, as they have more pigment. So most of my work now is a combination of both.

I am gradually increasing my stock as I need certain colours. The laminated Unison colour chart is accurate and definitely a must in anyone’s collection. I know my style will evolve further and I am sure Unison will continue to play a major role.

My Journey with Pastel 2
Everest, by Julie Freeman

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18 Responses

  1. Julie your work is wonderful – the colours and feathers on the flamingo are absolutely superb!
    I loved “Everest” with the foamed sea – very realistic.
    Reading about your story I can certainly see why you have won awards for your work, it’s amazing!

  2. What a wonderful wave. I’ve tried painting the sea in oils, and now in Unison soft pastels. Your seascape is inspiring. It’s amazing. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you I do enjoy the energy, movement and color of the sea. Never the same, so many opportunities for artwork 😀

  3. Hi, love your work, stunning! I was wondering what type of papers or surfaces you work on to achieve to achieve such fantastic results?

    1. I was using Art Spectrum Colourfix, a sanded surface, holds many layers of pastel. A good selection of colors, which are also available in pots as primers. So you can prime any surface to use. I also use Clairefontaine Pastelmat an amazing surface that feels relatively smooth, it’s a cellulose coating that also holds a few layers. I find you don’t actually need to be heavy handed with the soft pastels, they can saturate the surface if you are not careful. It’s a different process as it grabs the pastel, so after first layers are down you can start to manipulate and blend, and only need a light hand. I love both.

  4. Beautiful and inspiring work. Amazing colours and detail. The colour and texture in the flamingo is incredible, and the movement in the seascape …. you can almost hear it.

  5. Good to read more about your journey Julie! I have loved your work since I discovered pastel a few years ago. I have been using purely pastel in stick format to date (mainly Unison of course!) but have just started using my first set of Carbothello pencils in conjunction – it’s an exciting mix and so much to learn!

  6. Hi Julie
    Both pieces are stunning. I note you had used the Art Spectrum paper, do you use an underpainting at all with this? I tried an alcohol wash and was a bit disappointed. I am fairly new to pastels so looking for tips and my main block is always what is best way to start in to the picture. Any advice you can give would be appreciated. Thanks Helen

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