The Magic of Dark Skies: An exhibition in collaboration with Unison Colour and the Northumberland Dark Skies Park – Part II

Following on from Part One, here we meet two more artists who are taking part in The Magic of Dark Skies Exhibition in collaboration with Unison Colour and the Northumberland Dark Skies Park.

Please enjoy reading more about Kristin Holm Dybvig and Amy Shuckburgh and their work created using the Unison Colour Dark Skies Pastel Set.

KRISTIN HOLM DYBVIG

Associate Artist of Unison Colour

Kristin Holm Dybvig lives and works on the west coast of Norway and has always enjoyed working emotively with colour, representing her love for nature with abstract images using colours to evoke feelings and experiences.

Dusk to Dawn soft pastel painting by Kristin Holm Dybvig
Dusk to Dawn

1. What inspired you to create this artwork for Unison Colour Soft Pastels representing Dark Skies? and…

2. How did you approach capturing the essence of Dark Skies in your artwork? 

I base my artworks on memories of places and experiences that are reinterpreted and reinvented through colour. I’m enchanted by untouched nature and gripped by the great majestic landscapes with an age that engenders respect and awe. But I’m concerned about how rapidly untouched nature and landscapes without traces of human activity are disappearing.

I live on a peninsula on the West coast of Norway. Between sea and fjord, mountains and heath, high skies and a lot of weather it is easy to find inspiration for my artwork. By focusing on my experience, I try to elevate the subject from place to atmosphere, working from memories and using abstraction as a tool to allowing the colours to become the main character in my work. I want the viewers to meet the artwork with their own interpretations, this way the artwork will gain its independence and achieve a universal appeal.

Small pastel sketches by Kristin Holm Dybvig.
Small sketches

My initial idea for this Dark Skies palette was naturally to use the night sky as the main motive, but I found it more interesting to take a closer look at what the dark sky does for the landscape. Every time I look at the mountains surrounding me, they appear to have a different colour. Some times it looks like they are far away and other times they seem to be really close. The mountains appear in blues and violets, pink and greys, and changes with the weather, the time of day and time of the year all determined by the light provided by the sky. Often, when we think about reflections we think about how the sky is mirrored in the sea, or in water but much the same happens with the landscape. Everything is coloured by the sky!

“Dusk to dawn” is inspired by mountains coloured by the evening sky. The title refers to the domination of the twilight this time of the year, in midwinter we have approximately five hours of daylight on one of the rare clear days and much less when its cloudy. The poetry of the landscape is painted with the subtle palette of the Dark skies pastel set and capture the lingering ethereal mood as evening descends.

Kristin Holm Dybvig poses by one of her paintings at The Sill.
Kristin at The Sill

3. Can you tell me about the techniques or additional mediums you used to convey the feeling of Dark Skies, and show stages of the creative process that you went through to complete your piece ?

I like to work on a sturdy cotton paper, this is Arches 300g cold pressed cotton paper with four deckle edges. I don’t plan much before I start. “Dusk to dawn” is based on a memory of a place I visited many years ago, this particular memory has been the inception of several artworks, every time it emerges on the paper it changes.

I select the best paper that tolerates a lot of changes and it can withstand rough treatment. I used extra black and added a few lines with pastel pencils towards the end, but the rest is simply made by moving, shaping and blending the beautiful soft pastels from Unison Colour on to the papers surface using hands and fingers. The superb qualities of Unison Colour soft pastels provides me with the best tools to capture the delicate nuances of the ever-changing light. My enthusiasm for the colour range and texture is as strong as ever, it’s a pleasure to use them.

The clue is to dry off excess dust from my hands as I go, to keep the colours clean. At the very end I spray a thin layer of fixative to prevent any excess pastel dust from falling inside the frame. I cover the whole paper as I like to frame it floating to show off the beautiful deckle edges.

4. Did you encounter any specific challenges to this piece, and if so, how did you overcome them? and…

5. What emotions or atmospheres were you aiming to evoke in viewers with this piece?

The biggest challenge was to stay loyal to the limited palette of the Dark Skies pastel set. I love colour, it is the main ingredient and red treads through all my work.

I focus on interesting colour combinations to express moods and start new artworks by selecting the colours I want to use, adding more as the work progresses. This time it took me quite some time to get it right; motive, mood and colour palette had to line up just right. It has been an interesting process and it has illuminated how my creative process works. While trying out this new pallet I created artworks where I had to bring in new colours, that did not belong in the set, to make the composition work and other times the artwork demanded different colours to express the expected mood. I created quite a few artworks before I finally decided on this mountain landscape, and almost finished off all of the darkest pastels before I began. I was set on this mood and I knew well what the Dark Skies pastel set could do before I began thanks to trial and error. In “Dusk to dawn” the palette and motive go hand in hand and express the mood I want beautifully.

6. Did you draw from personal experiences or specific locations when creating this representation of Dark Skies? and…

7. How do you think your artwork contributes to the broader conversation about preserving and appreciating natural darkness?

I want to begin with one of my favourite poems that gives perspective to my answer…

Ode to Nature.
“She brings forth ever new forms
what is there never was
what  was never will return
all is new and yet forever old”

G.C. Tobler

Preserving nature, has become one of the most important concerns of our time. In dark sky areas the human imprint is limited, and the stress upon all living beings are lessened by this single limitation we have given ourselves. In Norway, we think that we have limitless access to untouched nature and have made unwise decisions for decades that are starting to show damaging effects, still there is but little will to make better decisions. The dark sky areas here are rapidly disappearing, getting smaller and further apart, sadly there is a lack of consciousness of what we are in danger of loosing in this phenomenal quality of the night sky, the positive effect it has and the perspective it provides.

I want to convey my concern and love for untouched nature to the viewer. Instead of showing the harsh brutality of how we treat nature.  I prefer to convey the beauty of the landscapes by displaying the vulnerable as well as the greatness, communicating the value of the landscapes themselves and appreciating the natural world.

My artwork celebrating The magic of dark skies are set at dusk, it’s a lyrical landscape conveying the beauty of the land as the day draws to a close and the evening sky provide this delicate ethereal light enveloping it all in its soft darkness.

One of the reasons I choose to work in soft pastel is that it’s simply coloured dust. In addition to the fact that I find the medium inspiring and the work process suits me well, it constantly reminds me that the traces we leave behind should be soft and impermanent. We are here together for a little while, people, animals and plants, we are dependent on each other, something we seem to completely forget these days. We do not own nature, we are part of it, we are here for a brief visit and should be able to pass it on in better condition when we leave. A nice motto to keep in mind is from the Anglican Church’s Liturgical Handbook: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”

8. Where can we see more of your art?

Website: www.kristinholmdybvig.com

Instagram: @kristinholmdybvig

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kristinholm-dybvig

Thank you for all the interesting questions Lucy!

AMY SHUCKBURGH

Associate Artist of  Unison Colour

Amy Shuckburgh, based in Somerset, is known for her beautifully expressive strokes and light energetic landscapes as well as still life, and figurative work, using soft pastel, oil paint and collage. She is also renowned for her vibrant pictures of the west country, Cornwall, France and Wales.

Two of Amy Shuckburgh's soft pastel dark sky paintings.

1. What inspired you to create these artworks for Unison Colour Soft Pastels representing Dark Skies?

Living in rural Somerset, our cottage is off-road, so we have to walk about 200 yards to get to our front door, and at night the darkness is extraordinary, intense and visceral. I was obsessed with looking for the moon which rose over the tops of the trees at the end of the garden, and later in the night to see how the moonlight flooded the fields. I wanted to draw the feeling of inkiness and disorientation; the shift in perception of the other senses when in the proper dark in such a remote spot. 

Dark Sky pastel painting by Amy Shuckburgh.

2. How did you approach capturing the essence of Dark Skies in your artwork? 

I took photographs and film of the woods in the dark, and then finding the source material failed to fully capture he feeling of being outside in the dark, I worked predominately from memory which allowed me more freedom.

3. Can you tell me about the techniques or additional mediums you used to convey the feeling of Dark Skies, and show stages of the creative process that you went through to complete your piece ?

I used pastel paper for the smaller works and special course-grain pastel card for the larger piece which takes the pastel so well it’s a joy to use. I also tried the sparkly pastel dust that Unison Colour wanted me to experiment with, but I prefer the way vibration and dazzle can be created through a combination and interplay of pigment and colour. I worked over some of the drawings in pencil and built them up in layers over time.

Amy Shuckburgh's dark sky soft pastel paintings laid out together before framing.
Dark Skies Works

4. Did you encounter any specific challenges to this piece, and if so, how did you overcome them ?

I find capturing darkness quite counter-intuitive because I like to work in vivid and sometimes unexpected colours and even my nocturnal scenes tend to incorporate a wider palate. Working with a limited palate provided by Unison Colour for this project was tense as I wanted to bring in other tones, but I followed the rules obediently! Having confines in a process is cathartic in a way though, and I like a challenge.

5. What emotions or atmospheres were you aiming to evoke in viewers with this piece?

What appeals to me about nightscapes is the sense of mystery and the tangle of senses, so I hope that there is enough confusion when looking at my drawings to keep the viewer searching. Of course there is also calm and tranquillity of a kind to be found in the darkness, but I am more interested in leaving things unexplained and ambivalent. 

Amy hold's a couple of her paintings up for the camera.
Close up in Studio

6. Did you draw from personal experiences or specific locations when creating this representation of Dark Skies?

My own personal experience of my home in Somerset was completely critical to these pieces. Celebrating the location and my love of the place was my main intention. Since being invited to take part in this exhibition, and doing the work, I have moved back to London, so the pieces I created in the dark at home carry even more significance for me, as a testimony to the years I spent living in this remote and beautiful place. 

7. How do you think your artwork contributes to the broader conversation about preserving and appreciating natural darkness?

I wrote a poem to accompany the work I am showing in the exhibition, in which I explore and expand on the ideas of escape and sanctuary, of a greater connection with life and also with death, which I feel most intensely when I’m in nature. In the dark we really see.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

Mary Oliver

8.Where can we see more of your art?

Instagram: @amyshuckburghart

Website: www.amyshuckburgh.com

In Part Three, we chat with William Morrison-Bell and Matilda Bevan.

The Magic of Dark Skies: An exhibition in collaboration with Unison Colour and the Northumberland Dark Skies Park - Part II 1

The Magic of Dark Skies: An exhibition in collaboration with Unison Colour and the Northumberland Dark Skies Park – Part III

The Magic of Dark Skies: An exhibition in collaboration with Unison Colour and the Northumberland Dark Skies Park - Part II 2

The Magic of Dark Skies: An exhibition in collaboration with Unison Colour and the Northumberland Dark Skies Park – Part I

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.

Starry, Starry Night: A Dark Sky Palette

This December marks the ten-year anniversary of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, an area encompassing the Northumberland National Park and most of Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Interview With An Associate Artist: Nel Whatmore

In today’s ‘Interview with an Associate Artist’ we’ll be chatting to Nel Whatmore.  Nel has been a professional artist for 35 years and is the joint founder of the New Pastel School with Rebecca de Mendonça.

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