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Interview: Toni Frostick

28th February, 2020
By Unison Colour

Following our sponsorship of a number of awards at this year’s Pastel Society Exhibition, we have the third in our series of interviews with our winners.  This time it’s Young Artist Award winner, Toni Frostick, who has kindly given up some of her time to answer some questions.

To begin, check out Toni’s work.  The first piece: ‘Wheels of the Roving Cafe, is the award winner.

On to the questions…

1. When did you discover your love of art?

I think it really hit me how much I loved art when I got a job managing an art supplier in London 5 years ago.

Prior to this my background was managing mobile phone suppliers and I was so proud that I somehow managed to get the job yet also nervous as I didn’t count myself as a ‘real’ artist when I joined. I very much felt like a phony.

I had only begun sketching when I was 26 years old and it started off as just a therapeutic outlet. Pictures I did were portraits using graphite or biro, I didn’t really classify them seriously as art.

Suddenly, however being surrounded by art supplies and artists as co-workers or customers I realised that I was envious of these people. It dawned on me that I ‘needed’ art to be a bigger part of my life even to the point of sacrificing my working career which up and till that point, has always been my main priority.

It was a big shift in mentality for me personally. I have since left the company yet thanks to them I went back to university and got an Art History Degree and now I work part time so that I can focus on my art.

2. What were your earliest influences?

Picasso’s Guernica and Dali’s works were childhood influences I was strongly drawn to. I liked them because it blew my mind how forward thinking these artists were and how brave they were to challenge convention. I used to copy Picassos work as a child to understand how he created them.

My G.C.S.E art teacher rarely liked my work however, which often lead to heated discussions that I was too surrealist to the point I ended up throwing one of my works out the window in frustration.

I think that’s why I didn’t take art beyond G.C.S.E as I felt like it be too constricted which I now know I was very very wrong.

In the future I would like to contribute to working class schools in regard to art as I feel there is potentially a lot of wasted talent there.

3. What led you to using pastels?

It was only when one of my team at the art supplier I worked for handed me a box of pastels and told me to buy them.

I had honestly never contemplated pastels as a medium, I had never used them in school or at any point of my life.

She was very insistent however and told me to buy them and let her know how I went with them…..I guess I better tell her and say thanks!

4. What is your favourite subject to paint?

A lot of my works are cityscapes which I enjoy doing, however portraiture I feel will always be my first love.

I was good with cartoons in school yet portraiture was my weak point which irritated me, and I hate not being able to do things so I put a lot of work into learning to do portraits.

5. Who inspires you?

In my studio room I have an image of the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer’s print ‘Melencolia I’ which is an enigma yet to be solved by art historians.

He inspires me not just because of his draughtsmanship, painting skills or even that he was an exceptional businessman. It is mainly because of his constant drive not just to perfect his work but also to understand art and the artists themselves which is what I think the image ‘Melencholia I’ is partly an expression of.

6. What was the first painting that you were happy to complete?

Happy to complete, that’s a difficult one for me because if I am brutally honest, I am never really happy with any of my works.

I enjoy the process but as soon as I am finished, I can’t help but notice areas where I feel they could be better, not quite right, not as good as I want it to be.

I think this is a good thing however as it pushes me to learn more and improve for the next piece.

7. Do you have a routine when you begin a painting?

I like to start in the morning, usually around 9 and just work throughout the day, I ideally want a 6-8-hour stretch so I feel like I have done a day’s work.

I cannot work in silence so I go through phases of what I will have in the background. Usually I alternate between podcasts such as Talk Art or television series which can be anything from Absolutely Fabulous to at the present Mindhunter. Just depends upon my mood really.

8. What time of day do you like to paint?

Ideally, I like to paint throughout the night, I used to draw, paint after work starting at 7 and sometimes finishing at 3am in the morning or later.

That’s my ideal time however due to my current part time job where I start work at 4am I have had to adapt that and now throughout the day on my days off.

9. What plans do you have in the pipeline?

To be able to leave my part time job and dedicate my time solely to art is my first big step.

In regard to my current Shoreditch series, I would like to expand by adding portraits of locals, whether that be graffiti artists, stall holders or anyone who has contributed to the community as a way of telling their stories.

I feel that is the next natural step I need to take.

10. How did you feel when you won the Unison Colour prize?

Simply shocked, I really couldn’t believe it as I was already surprised that I even got a work in to the Mall Galleries. I never saw it as a real possibility that I would win a prize.

11. Do you have any hints and tips for anyone who is beginning with pastels?

I think just draw what you love and don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s the only way you learn. My first pastel drawing was a right mess, yet I stuck at it as I just had fun with it.

12. Anything else that you would like to add?

I just want to say a big thank you again to Unison for the award and for the interest shown in my work. Thank you.


You can find our first interview in this series, with Member Award winner Jill Jeffrey, here.

You can find our second interview in this series, with Non-Member Award winner Allison Berrett, here.

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One Response

  1. The three winners exhibited beautiful work and I enjoyed reading their interviews very much. I particularly enjoyed Toni’s comments and want to encourage her to keep going as she is truly gifted. I’m 75 yrs young and have been making art since the age of 10 and I’m still learning. I’ve disliked so much of my art along the way but when I’ve looked at it years later often think “hey that’s pretty good”. We’re so hard on ourselves but that what gets us to the next level.

    Great work winners and keep going!

    LilyN in Portland, Oregon

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