When I first picked up a pastel after years of aggressive pain medications, I quickly realised that all I really needed was my faculties back and a beautiful distraction.
My name is Emma Hunt, and I am a Pastel Landscape Artist, Teacher and Curator, living in the beautiful county of Cumbria where I’m inspired by Lake and Sea every day. My road to this vocation came later in life at 44 years old. This is my story of how it all happened.
I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in 2018. This is a life-limiting, incurable genetic condition that arises when there is a malfunction of collagen in the body. It has many consequences, some more serious than others and has differing impacts on its’ sufferers. My biggest issue was coping with the pain, but I also have leaky heart valves and other complications. I had some short spells of remission, but I had basically retired to my bed for almost 12 years, believing this was my only prognosis. I did not appreciate the beautiful landscape around me, I rarely opened my curtains.
But with the diagnosis came more intervention and I was directed to a pain management consultant. When she said she wanted me to reduce my pain medication, it felt like the end of my world. I wasn’t coping with the pain as it was so how can they expect me to do better with less? However, I didn’t realise I was also addicted to many strong painkillers, including fentanyl. I needed a machine to keep me breathing at night because the doses I’d been given were so high, it suppressed my breathing.
So, in 2019, I started to reduce and quickly realised I had been sleepwalking through my life. I saw colour, everything stood out like 3D instead of the muted flat scenes I’d been seeing before. Over the period of several months, I had stopped all painkillers completely.
Then in July 2019, a friend challenged me when I saw some artwork he’d bought and felt it was a lot of money for very little work. I had dabbled with art as a child and early adulthood. He asked me to go and do something. I didn’t have very high-quality materials (like I do now) but I set to work on this dandelion.
Something amazing happened at the same time. I realised I was distracted from pain or worry – just lost in the moment and soothing practice of applying pastel. This became a key coping mechanism that to a desire to share the benefit.
Before I could do that, I had to overcome social anxiety. The only way to do that is to face your fears and do it anyway. So, I did and started to sell paintings in a lovely bar in Whitehaven called The Harbourmaster. From there, it grew, and I approached a women’s centre called Women out West to offer my services as a pastel teacher in November 2019. I am still volunteering now, and the results have been amazing.
Then, when COVID came, I was no different to anyone else; I felt that wartime spirit and wanted to do my bit to help. I auctioned paintings off and raised £800 for PPE and I turned my camera to my work and began teaching free pastel workshops from my Facebook page @EmmaHuntArtist.
As I started to explore better materials, I knew I had to try Unison Colour Pastels. I knew instantly that my life was made easier for it…. they were smooth on the paper and just a joy to work with.
In May 2021, I was delighted to meet Helen Bullock at The Rectory as I asked cheekily if Unison Colour could help me with materials so I could continue to help my charity, Women Out West. I was humbled by the donation and those pastels are still being used, every week to give our most vulnerable and fragile women an hour of peace and distraction.
Now, I am humbled once again by being invited to be an Associate Artist. I cannot wait to see how things develop and look forward to sharing so much more with you!
This is my latest ones, a study of Castlerigg Sunset last week.