My Pastel Journey as an Untrained Artist

Maybe it was a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment of walking past a Spanish art shop that had a box of pretty pastel sticks in their window display in the centre of Palma. Something about them just made me stop in my tracks. I knew nothing about the medium of soft pastels whatsoever, and had not drawn since infant school, but without thinking I walked into the shop and said “I love the look of the box in the display, please set me up with whatever I need to use them….”

I went back home with a box of just 45 colours, an easel and a packet of textured pastel paper.

I had asked excitedly in the shop how they should be used, or if they had a book to show techniques etc and the Spanish owner said “Do not look at any books, do not watch any videos, do not google it, just play, feel them and paint from your heart”. I have always worked with his words etched in my mind and that is what I have done ever since.

After taking home that life changing box from the art store I played around on a sheet of paper, totally unaware of technique. Yet somehow my second ever painting was of a sunset over my favourite spot in Mallorca, and is still one of my favourites. I still use that as my profile picture across my art social media.

My Pastel Journey as an Untrained Artist 1
Mallorcan Sunset

Over the next couple of years, I grew from painting at the dining table and constantly hoovering up pastel dust, to being lucky enough to have a large and light space under our house where I now have a purpose built studio. It is my sanctuary and I love spending hours and hours in there. I also went on to experiment with various brands of soft pastels from around the world. Some good, others not so good for my style. But I most definitely remember when I first tried Unison Colour soft pastels. It was an epiphany to find such soft sticks which had such deep pigmentation yet had incredible buttery blendability. Using them was a joy and I loved the range and scope of colours they offer.

I started my Unison Colour addiction by selecting a small collection of tones which suited my favourite beach and sunrise or sunset tones. The beauty of this brand is you can select colours individually, or buy pre-selected boxed sets to suit your tastes. As my collection has grown I have then gone on to invest in a much wider range of tones and colours, slowly building my perfect collection tailored to my art which is often in quite warm mediterranean tones and scenes. The quality of these pastels mean you can blend them so effortlessly on your chosen surface and build up a picture using a fairly limited palette initially. The simple beach exercise below shows how working with 7 or 8 colours you can still create a rich effect.

My Pastel Journey as an Untrained Artist 2
Limited Palette Beach Scenes

One huge additional unique benefit to the wide range of tones offered by Unison Colour is the jumbo size sticks. I love these for creating my expansive skies and seascapes. They feel so indulgent yet are worth every penny.

If I was to suggest one thing to a keen soft pastel artist it would be to invest in the hand drawn Unison Colour swatch charts (available here https://
). As a new and untrained artist, these really helped me understand colours, hues and tonal range, and are well worth buying as they have the added security of being laminated so they will stay absolutely true to colour. Seeing colour choices on a computer screen is not really accurate enough for me, as it depends heavily on the settings of each machine and can vary greatly, as can printed colour charts or catalogue photos. I refer to these hand drawn charts time and time again.

My Pastel Journey as an Untrained Artist 3
My Unison Colour Charts and some pastels

I love the feel of soft pastel sticks to this day. I love the anticipation of choosing which to use on any given day, along with a fresh new piece of paper. I love how a painting can be a subconscious extension of how I actually feel that day too. Calm and pensive, deep and conflicted or just light and playful. Pastels are so expressive to me, it is a direct connection between me and the paper, no middle man of a brush.

More recently I have found a beautiful combination of pigment pay off and drama of strokes when combining Unison Pastels with pastel mat card. I have many other surfaces to try but this was a huge departure in vibrancy from my still loved textured paper. I thrive on constantly learning more and developing my skills and now with the dependable superior effects of Unison Pastels I feel equipped and excited to try new styles.

I love the connection and direct touch between my fingers and the paper, feeling it grow and evolve in the moment. I love the immediacy, the freedom and the freshness of soft pastels. I love to paint feelings of light, calm and of peace. Places or scenes I want to get lost in. I am drawn to water, probably as a result of always having lived in coastal areas in England, Wales and now Spain. For me it can be mystical and magical, it can have calm and drama, and it can have all that in just one day!

From working on a small piece, to the large scale of working on a triptych, to a more specific commission for clients, I still get a huge buzz of excitement when asked to paint a memory or recreate a specific scene for people, capturing a moment, a place, a feeling. Through the reaches of social media I have been lucky enough to ship work to many parts of Europe, Australia, America and more… Working in soft pastels allows me the unique combination of relaxation, concentration, and reflection with just the right amount of tension, knowing that any single stroke of the pastel can make the perfect difference in transforming it, or changing the direction of a piece completely. Always working with fluidity. Now I know my trusty and ever expanding collection of gorgeous Unison pastels will inspire me to paint more, learn more and enjoy more.

I do go back to the advice given that day I stumbled across soft pastels for the first time, and know I have developed my own style without the burden of following an expectation of learning from other peoples styles. Now I have a foundation laid down I feel I can go and learn and adapt from others, and evolve my art.  

But I will always remember to just ‘feel them and paint from my heart’.

An Interview With The Interviewer

Today we are turning the tables, and talking to Stephen Fuller, an Associate Artist both known for his atmospheric and dramatic landscapes, and his in depth interviews of other Associate Artists.

#thepastel8 Visit to Thorneyburn

A fabulous day was spent at Thorneyburn last Friday in the company of Fiona Carvell, Michelle Lucking, Nina Squire, Cathy Pierce, Lynn Howarth, Meral Altilar, Lucy Brangwin and Rebecca de Mendonça.

Announcing New Associate Artists!

In May we held a recruitment exercise for new Associate Artists and we were overwhelmed with the number of applications. So much so we will have 2 groups of new artists. Our 2nd group will be announced in August 2020.

If you enjoyed reading this…

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive more blogs like this, as well as other Unison Colour news including upcoming events and exclusive offers.

Use the buttons below to share this blog…

30 Responses

  1. Dear Lucy, I’ve admired your artwork on social media for a while. I found you via Unison Colour, listed as one of their Associate Artist. It’s lovely to read about your background, inspiring and encouraging too. Thank you for sharing, we all love what you do.

    1. Dear Nina, Thank you for such lovely compliments – the feeling is mutual as I love following your pastel art also. This Unison Colour forum is such a great way to see each artist’s individual journey. Lucy xxxxx

  2. Very inspiring. Especially the shopkeeper’s advice not to bog yourself down looking at books and videos trying to ‘match up’.

    1. Hi Anne-Marie,
      Yes, I do feel it is better to find your own way through trial and error first. Errors are just opportunities to learn and improve your talent. So happy to hear you found this inspiring. Enjoy your own pastel journey.
      Lucy xxx

  3. Thanks for your blog, it sounds very much like my current beginning with soft pastels and same thoughts of landscape and working from the heart. The dust and finger feeling I can relate to as well, aren’t they messy! Very encouraging, I am looking forward to my journey and enjoying the mess.

    1. Hi Liz,
      Oooo so glad to hear you are enjoying starting out. The messier the fingers – the better the day , in my book at least. It is a great medium to use. Enjoy your own pastel journey, and the mess.

    1. Hi Cindy,
      Thank you so much. That makes me so happy when people to feel they are in the scene, mission accomplished.

  4. As an owner of Some of Lucy’s art the colour and soft blends have always drawn me in …. not only is she a very talented artist but know which are the best tools for the job x

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thank you for your lovely comment. I have loved working on your very personal commissioned pieces. It is such a pleasure when clients are as happy with my work as you.
      Lucy xxx

  5. I love the scenes you create. I find them very calming and you actually feel like you are there. You are very talented.

    1. Hi Jackie,
      The ultimate compliment is when I can make people relax, or imagine being there, from my art. So thank you very much. Really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  6. Hello,
    This is a beautifully written blog. It is clearly written from your heart – a talent not afforded to everyone. I really enjoyed the chance to read a blog from an ‘untrained’ artist as it is totally relatable and real to me, rather than blogs that are sadly beyond me.
    It is so encouraging to us other untrained artists and gives us all inspiration to just have a go. If any of my works came close to yours I would be ecstatic.
    I follow all your work and continue to learn from it.
    You are a real artist.

    1. Hi Tom,
      Thank you for such compliments ! I am glad this resonates so well with you.
      I was always intimidated by trained artists, but I found my own way by just giving it a go.
      I am glad my story helps you.
      Enjoy your pastel journey too.

  7. I completely identify with your first experience. I saw a beautiful box of pastels in an art shop and just knew I wanted them – I had never used them before, nor did I know anything about using them. Like you, I just dived in and have loved them ever since (for 55 years!). I have ‘time off’ by using other mediums for a while – I find that keeps work fresh – but always return to pastels. My favourite dream is having the whole range of Unison pastels…………mmmmm, what bliss!

    1. Hi Carlina,
      That’s great to see you started the same way. I agree once you have discovered Unison Colour pastels there is no going back. I am building my collection as I can too. I have never tried any other medium of art though.
      Wishing you continued enjoyment and success,

  8. Inspirational, Lucy. Beautifully written, your words will encourage burgeoning artists to follow their hearts and dreams. Your work is so tranquil, it’s possible to completely lose oneself in the soothing colours and a experience a deep sense of being transported to a place of peace.

    1. Hi Angela,
      Really lovely reading your comments. I get a huge amount of calm painting these scenes, so I am thrilled that comes across to a viewer also. Much appreciated.

  9. Thank you for sharing your “untrained “ background because this is the way I feel. I know I can created nice painting but whe I start to check youtube and other social media and see all the others giving so many advices, it stop me for creating what I feel, the way I see it.

    I also felt in love with the unisson and now I am doing pastel.

    1. Hi Michele,
      Thank you for commenting. I agree it can be intimidating when you see too many people telling you too many things, and you end up chasing your tail. If you follow my instagram, I usually post my progress photos of my paintings as I build them to break it down into stages. Many people say they find that helpful.
      Enjoy your pastelling.

  10. I can’t agree with the shopkeeper. There is much to learn and enjoy to see the great variety from seeing for example the Pastel society annual exhibition. After nearly sixty years of using pastels on paper finding pastel board with its gripping clay surface increased my tactile pleasure, besides providing a greater permanence. One can always learn from others.

    1. Hi,
      Yes I agree and your comments are absolutely valid.
      His advice was meant for me to start out and develop my own style in the beginning a few years ago.
      But now I love learning from others, to expand and add to my skill set, as well as using different textures of board, card etc. I will continue to learn for as long as I continue to paint I hope.
      Really appreciate you commenting.

    1. Hi Fiona,
      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment.
      I am lucky to love what I do, when others love it too , it is the icing on the cake.

    1. Hi Ros,
      Thank you for your comment – so glad you feel the tranquility.
      I really do think starting from scratch worked well for me, now allowing me to learn more from others.

  11. Thanks Lucy for your amazing artwork. Your images remind me of happier times. They really do enrich us at the prospect of enjoying blue skies and warm sunshine once again. You’re an excellent artist and always look forward to seeing your work.

    1. Hi Chris,
      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment.
      So happy my work can remind you of happier times gone, and hopefully happier times to come too.
      Really appreciate you taking this time to write.
      Lucy xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Blog Posts

A soft pastel painting of a tree during golden hour.

Discovering Reflected Color

When asked to identify the color of a shadow, it is common to respond that it would be a darker color of whatever is in shadow.  A shadow of a tree on green grass would be a darker green.  A shadow of the same tree on dirt would be a darker brown.

Garden of Colour and Flight

On two sides looking out the windows is the woods, the view begins not four foot off the sidewalls where trees and open forest floor slope up and gently away. When the spring rain comes, water gathers in the high places and forms water falling streams that run toward and alongside the studio heading toward gathering ponds on the lower side.

Log In

When requesting a Password Reset using the 'Lost your password?' option, you'll receive an email with a link to reset your password. It's important to note that if you request multiple emails, only the most recent link will work.

Customer Enquiries

Got a question?

Please don’t hesitate to send us any questions, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
If you’d rather send us an email, please get in touch at:

Or give us a call on +44 (0)1434 240203 and choose option 1, for Liz.

Trade Enquiries

For trade enquiries, please contact us as below:


[email protected] or call Liz on +44 (0)1434 240203 Option 1

China and Russia
North America
ROW (Exc. China and Russia)