My Unison Pastels

I have enjoyed making marks on paper since discovering my mother’s notebook and pencil, aged 4. Like most children, I drew a little house. The thrill of seeing a blank page suddenly come to life has stayed with me and I have been painting on and off ever since. I was often given a paint by numbers kit as a birthday or Christmas present and I naturally turned to oil paints for my early creative attempts. Impatience to get something finished the same day made me try watercolours and for many years these and latterly watercolour pencils have been my favourite mediums.

Twelve years ago, I joined an art class in the local village hall, with a tutor who painted in watercolours in a very precise, almost photographic style, by tracing the subject and then transferring it to her paper. I followed her method and produced some accurate but flat and lifeless scenes.  I felt constrained and asked if she ever did any work with pastels, but no, she didn’t like them as they were too messy, and you couldn’t be precise enough with them. Then one day the class visited an artist in his studio. I was taken aback by the impressive painting of a breaking wave on his wall; I could ‘feel’ the spray and the water running around my feet. I felt I should go back to painting in oils and asked him whether this was painted using water-based oils. “No, it’s pastel” he said! Well, that did it. I saw an advertisement in “Paint” magazine for Unison pastels and bought a small selection of colours for my own version of a wave.

Wave, in pastel.
Wave

I had an old pastel pad that had been my mothers and the following day I tried them out on a quick sketch of a beach and took a photograph of the late afternoon sky to work on at home. I had an acceptable painting in under an hour and loved the whole experience of using them.

My Unison Pastels 1
Burnham Beach

This was the sky that I painted the next day.  I enjoyed the way the soft pastels blended but without losing their underlying colour; this looked a much more realistic sky to me than my attempts with watercolours.

My Unison Pastels 2

I have gradually built up my collection of Unison pastels and painted various subjects, still life, landscapes and flowers.

My Unison Pastels 3

But I mostly paint sea and sky and that has become my favourite subject.

A pastel painting, looking out to sea, with the sun not far from the horizon.
Evening Light

I still use watercolours occasionally and I have always taken them on holiday with me because they are so easily portable and don’t take up much room. Then last Christmas I had a present of the Landscape set of Unison pastels. I found the composition of them and the way they could be used for bold ‘washes’ of colour made it really speedy to put down the basic shapes, which suited my new style of painting. Earlier this year I took my Landscape set off to the North Norfolk coast and did this painting of the marshes.

My Unison Pastels 4
Stiffkey Marshes

This was done only using the Landscape Set of 8 pastels and I’m so happy with it. The range of shades and tones from those 8 pastels means I will definitely be taking those on holiday with me in future

I have produced other paintings with the 70 plus pastels that I own and I’m so pleased with them I can’t imagine using anything else.

My Unison Pastels 5
Bluebells

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