Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 1

Read Part I of this blog by Andrew Moodie

My knowledge of the North York Moors is scant at best! My go to locations have tended to be the Yorkshire Dales, given their proximity to Harrogate where I live, or the Yorkshire coast when the Dales landscape turns to green in summer. But the Moors are now Rob’s backyard having moved there quite recently from Leeds and I’ve jumped at the chance to join him when he’s invited me on a paint out to some of his favourite locations.

And so I arrived early doors to meet both Rob and Ian, (who I have met a couple of times at other workshops run by Rob – he has a loyal following!). I could immediately see the potential that the long distance views of this wonderful place presented.

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 2
First mixed media study

Ian settled down to paint near the car park and Rob, as is his want, clambered down the slope like a mountain goat to a precipitous position (he has previous for this having once led me on a near death expedition up a mountain in the Lakes!). He had his sketch book out for preparatory tonal work. Now that’s a good idea but I’m well known for carting an inordinate amount of equipment with me on plein air outings; a sketch pad would tip me over the edge! I prefer to crack on with painting, working quickly to capture the existing lighting conditions. I usually work for between 1 and 2 hours and then take some photo references to help complete the painting in my studio. However, those photos are only there to jog the memory. The experience of having stood in front of the scene is what really counts!

I painted a couple of quick scenes, having decided on a watercolour underpainting with some liquid graphite before applying pastel. I was reasonably happy with my first but the second didn’t seem to work; you can’t win everything! But these served as my warm ups in the same way as Rob’s initial sketches worked for him.

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 5
Create tracks with gestural strokes

The summer sun was now beating down on us. So after lunch sat together admiring the view, I sloshed on more sun cream and started another painting, deciding on essentially the same view as I had started with. I had enjoyed watching Rob as he worked on one of his tonal studies, and that helped me to work out what to focus on this time. 

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 6
Adding some bright blue for vibrancy

I started by laying down watercolour, working loosely wet in wet on Moulin du Roy hot pressed 300gsm (140lb) watercolour paper. I’ve been working on square formats recently and this piece was 12 x 12”. I’m not a watercolourist so I’m just looking to create a foundation for my pastel work, thinking of lights and darks and complimentary colours. I lay down yellows and reds knowing that these will work well with my Unison purples and reds that I’m planning to use. I only spend 15 minutes or so on this stage before eagerly starting to use my pastels on top. I don’t wait for the watercolour to dry, enjoying the marks the pastels make in the wet paint but that phase lasts all of 10 minutes as the heat of the sun has soon dried everything.

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 7
Vibrant mark making and colours

I work layers of pastel over each other, using short bursts of fixative to create more tooth where necessary. I generally avoid blending by rubbing, preferring to let the pastel marks show and instead blending by working one colour over another. I indicate tracks in the valley using quick gestural linear strokes. And add some vibrancy to the work with different colours including a bright blue against the dark earth colours. I continue in this way until I decide the light is beginning to change. I take a photo on my iPhone to complete the painting back in my studio.

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 8
Ready to finish in the studio

Those of you who enjoy the Unison Colour Pastel Academy can watch my short tutorial videos which further demonstrate this method of working.

Happy with what I’ve done, I catch up again with Rob and Ian and we exchange our thoughts on the day so far and how amazing it is to be outside painting on a day like this and in front of a view like this!

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 9
Hole of Horcum – completed painting

I reckon there’s just enough time to do one more painting. We had been talking about moving towards semi abstraction, something we are all interested in. So for 40 minutes or so I ‘attacked’ a sheet of SAIT P500 black sanded pastel paper, again 12″ X 12”, with free flowing pastel strokes, using the general topography in front of me as a guide for a work I called Horcum Heat, as a reference to the reds and yellows I had used. I am not at all sure if this was successful but it was certainly fun to do!

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 10
Horcum Heat

The end of a great day, made all the more enjoyable by having spent it in the company of two other friends and artists. It’s something that never fails to both inspire and inform, particularly as we are all fans of Unison pastels, and each have our own individual ways of using them. By seeing other artists’ work and how they interpret the same scene is an education. And it inevitably leads on to discussion about individual methodology and working processes, all of which help us to progress on our own artistic journeys.

As Rob mentions, I’m looking forward to joining with him to present our interpretations of a Yorkshire Year, including our summer outing to the Hole of Horcum, at our joint exhibition at Nunnington Hall in 2024. It would be lovely to see you there!

Northern Unison Colour Associate Artists Do It Again: Part II 1

Read Part I of this blog by Andrew Moodie

Life Drawing For Better Pastel Painting

I have attended a variety of life drawing classes over the years and have come to realise just how helpful they are to my progression as a pastel artist of landscapes.

Nifty Shades of Grey

Creative expression with Unison Colour black, white and grey toned pastels.

If At First You Don’t ‘Quite’ Succeed

‘I have many times felt that I have lost the excitement and energy of the initial underpainting stage by overuse of pastel, and I felt that had perhaps happened here when I considered the finished work.’

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