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An insight into the Artist Robert Dutton

24 June 2016

Unison Colour were fortunate enough to interview the extremely busy Robert Dutton about his work, what inspires him & of course working with us at Unison Colour.

'Pennine Light' Unison Colour Pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes 'Touch' 350gsm pastel paper 12x9 inches (31x23cm)

I asked Robert what did he prefered to paint?

My subjects are mixed & are as successful as each other (thankfully) but my northern expressive landscapes are what I like to paint best.

The South Pennines in particular are my biggest inspiration. A wild, wonderful & always dramatic landscape whatever time of the year & one with a rich heritage too. This is the place where Yorkshire & Lancashire & North Derbyshire intertwine. It is a unique environment of steep-sided valleys, heather covered moorland, wooded vales & valleys containing a rich industrial heritage with a lacework of canals ancient green lanes & packhorse trails interconnecting the historic mill towns. There is enough to keep an artist like me busy for years!

You have to be passionate about what you paint otherwise the lack of connection to your subject will become evident in your work. I paint areas or subjects i know well, frequently visiting particular places of interest discovering & experiencing the actual physical environments long before i begin to paint them. In this way my paintings have deeper meaning, value & intent for everything I choose to paint thereafter.

 Working outdoors is important to you, can you explain why?

By working directly in nature my expressive painting techniques express the feeling of drama i experience in the landscape right there & then. Using a variety of creative media from graphite, charcoal, pastel & paint. I often mix several in the same painting, building up layers as I work. Unison Colour pastels help during every stage of the creative process helping to keep a strong sense of drawing & painting with colour with these beautiful soft pastels in every expresssive painting.

Autumn Glow over the Langdale Pikes - Cumbria. Unison Colour pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes 'Touch' 350gsm pastel paper

When working outdoors or in the studio it is always best to work on top notch papers & choose the best professional art brand of materials to attain best results - thats why i use Unison Colour! My chosen paper supports are primarily from the Canson range & include 'Moulin du Roy' 300gsm (140lb) 100% rag content watercolour paper in either 'rough', 'not' or 'hot pressed' (smooth). All three unique surfaces work beautifully with Unison Colour & all of my water based mixed media painting techniques.

'Light & rain. rain & light' - Cumbria. Mixed media with Unison Colour pastels on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gsm (140lb) 'rough' 100% rag content watercolour paper

Without doubt Canson's dedicated pastel paper Canson Mi-Tientes Touch (350gsm) (& available in 10 different subtle colours) together with Unison Colour pastels has completely transformed the way I work these days.

Can you tell us what are your favourite mediums & why?

To give me the maximum amount of flexibility when working I choose mixed media. For me, a greater aspect of depth of feelings & expression is possible when multiple layering with different media & Unison Colour pastels within so many of my paintings.

'Heading Out' Unison Colour pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes 'Touch' 350gsm pastel paper

My own unique way of painting evokes the energy & force of nature I experience when working in the landscape. This is also true of my wildlife paintings placing the animal or bird in context in a landscape or seascape setting or choosing a portrait or direct species study. These paintings maintain detail & expression at the same time in booth a loose & energetic way. Although I admire photo realist work, it is not my approach. Instead it is the spirit of the living bird or mammal that is the essence of my pastel & mixed media paintings.

When landscape painting I'm fully aware of the layers of history that have shaped the very structure of the landscape I'm immersed within, continually changing & in a state of flux - just like my work!

Information gathered from the field from quick colour sketches using Unison Colour pastels allow me to capture the fleeting atmospheric effects often experienced when on the move.

Flowing Waters - Ashness Bridge, Cumbria. Mixed media with Unison Colour pastels on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gsm 'not' 100% rag content watercolour paper

In  the studio I often combine base layers of acrylic ink wet in wet & other media, glazing one over the other before applying further layers of Unison Colour pastels that make all the difference!

The speed of application & ease of expression using a direct response with pastels due to their versatility is important to me as i need to express my ideas quickly. Paint mixing slows you down so with the huge range of Unison Colour pastels I have pretty much every shade & colour i need!

Do you think that it is true that pastels can be thought of as being 'old fashioned'?

Today's most forward thinking artists are very 'switched on' to the creative possibilities & versatility that pastels offer. Regardless of your level of ability as an artist to be able to both draw & paint at the same time with colour gives the medium tremendous scope for flexibity & chosen subjects. On reflection pastels have never really been out of fashion - more a case that other media such as watercolour have been more widely advertised. However, with an increased awareness of how versatile pastels really are, its no surprise to see how lots of different artists incorporate them into their reportoire of techniques.

Cloudburst over the moor - Black, White & Grey Unison Colour Pastels on black Canson Mi-Tientes 'Touch' 350gsm pastel paper.

Why do you use Unison Colour?

Without exception Unison Colour pastels are amongst the very best of pastels for todays artists to use. The innovation, high standards of excellent workmanship & particular the extensive colour range are perfect for so many of my subjects - particularly my UK expressive landscape paintings. This I believe has a lot to do with the fact Unison Colour have taken much of their inspiration for their colour range from the immediate Northumberland landscape where they are based. Unison Colour is a company that is always looking for new solutions to extend their products so I feel very fortunate to be working alongside the Unison Colour team to create new & innovative colours & sets......look out for those in the future.

Sunlight & Shade - Rydal Woods, Rydall Hall, The Lake District. Unison Colour pastels on Canson Mi-tientes 'Touch' 350gsm pastel paper

How long have you been using Unison Colour Pastels?

I've been using Unison Colour pastels as far back as I can remember. My first box started as an 18 landscape. I soon used all of these as I couldn't put them down! Now I have a full set of all the colours, including duplicates so I don't run out of any! I use them whenever & wherever I can - they are compelling to use due to their immense versatility. I am always discovering new ways to use them expressively & I can categorically say without them I would not have developed my plethora of creativity without them.

You have been painting for a number of years, do you have a painting that remains special to you?

All paintings I've created are important in some way or another. Each piece marks a particular stage in my development as an artist. Those which are most difficult to do are often the break-through pieces. However, several paintings I have created so far have been landmark pieces for me due to their recognised successess. For example, in 2003 I won 'The Artists Purchasing Prize' for the painting 'Last Light on the Grand Canal - Venice'. This atmospheric & impressionistic pastel painting (created entirely with Unison Pastels) was featured on the front cover of the magazine & helped me become a regular contributor to this great publication.

Evening Vaparetto - The Grand Canal, Venice. Unison Colour pastels on 'Sait P500' paper. 'The Artist' magazine Purchasing prize 2003.

Another impressionistic pastel painting named 'Majorelle Garden Reflections, Marrakech, Morocco', was accepted by 'The Pastel Society' in London at The Mall Galleries in their open arts competition in 2005. The same painting was also successful in being featured again in 'International Artist' (The American publication) in the same year.

'Majorelle Garden Reflections, Marrakech, Morocco' Unison Colour Pastels on 'Sait P500' paper.

The International Artist acceptance establised me as a major contender on the international fine art scene as a professional pastel artist.

Do you have any tips for upcoming artists?

Focus & stick to what you know & are passionate about as this will always come across in your work. There will be achievements & set backs all along the way as you progress, so learn early on to accept this but most of all never give up. You will have to make many sacrifices as well as in art there are no easy route to the top & no short cuts. Play the long game as it is worth it in the end when the recgnition for your unique skills & style of expression comes thick & fast.

Finally, what are you currently working on?

As a professional artist I am always working towards one deadline or another, especially for my galleries. Presently, I'm working towards a three man show called 'Yorkshire Dales - Three Perspectives' for a superb & supportive leading gallery in Leeds. The Headrow Gallery, Alwoodley, Leeds is where the exhibition will take place from 15-29 September

As a professional fine art tutor its an absolute joy to help other artists throughout all walks of life, styles & levels of ability. To develop their own unique vision with new ways of looking & painting when working with me. As such I have created lots of different & unique pastel & mixed media art holidays throughout the year in the UK & abroad for artists to join me in places such as Spain, The Lake District & The Yorkshire Dales.

'Evening light - Buttermere, Cumbria. Mixed media with Unison Pastels on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gsm 'not' 100% Rag content watercolour paper

I also organise lots of different short breaks, full day workshops & teaching classes in North Leeds near my studio throughout the year. The busy teaching programme continues with offers to demonstrate & teach full day workshops with lots of national art groups up & down the country which is great as it helps spread the word & physically show just how good Unison Colour pastels really are to use at home & abroad whatever the time of year or whatever the weather! Recently & independently I worked with a very gifted professional northern photographer & film maker (Richard Littlewood) to record a short film showing how & why painting outdoors is so important to me as an artist. The inspirational wild & rugged upland moors of the South Pennines was the focus for the film & Unison Colour pastels came with me.....every step of the way!

Robert, pastel painting in the South Pennines using Unison Colour pastels.

For more details about Robert's work, teaching & art films visit

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