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Interview with Rachel Solani - Winner of Young Pastellist Award at The Mall Galleries, London

17 March 2017



When did you start painting/drawing?

I started drawing when I was very young, around the age of four. This was when I was still in Zimbabwe, I still have vague memories of it now – sitting in the sun outside our house with the sun shining, colour pencils next to me and trying to understand how I could draw certain shapes and make them look like what I was seeing around me.

What led you to use pastels?

I was doing my GCSE Art exam back at school, preparing to do a portrait of a man I had photographed; and realising the time limitations of the exam, I needed to use a medium which allowed me to work quickly but achieve a good result. Which led me to choose Pastel, and I haven’t turned back since- I think my love for the medium started then.

Which brands do you prefer to use?

I like using a variety, but; Conté a Paris and Rembrandt soft pastels and Faber castell, Derwent Pastel Pencils are probably top of the list.

Have you heard about Unison Colour pastels?

I have heard about Unison Colour Pastels but it was very recently, I was looking at different Pastel painting techniques online (I like to do this whenever starting a new project, background research) and found an Artists WIP video of a portrait made using Unison colours. The blending ability of the pastels and colour pigmentation was beautiful.

What is it about using pastel that you like?

Pastels for me are like paint without the drying time, soft pastels especially have high colour pigmentation, I have found, and blend with ease. That for me in a medium is amazing! Pastels are also very easy to use, I love using the larger soft pastels in my work for the background and to cover larger areas, and pencil pastels to do the finer details.

What is your favourite subject to paint?

Portraits, Eyes and Big cats (Lions, Tigers). There’s something satisfying about capturing a moment, each individual you meet has their own story, their own particular expressions they use to convey emotion; that to me is what I love.

Eyes are notoriously hard to draw and I think that’s why I like testing myself with them, they’re also very interesting.

Big cats are also a keen favourite, much the same as portraits; their expressions are striking, the way their eyes stare with intent and they wear certain expressions on their faces. They’re beautiful majestic creatures, and it’s always a welcome challenge drawing the fur and really capturing the animal in all its glory.

Who inspires you? (not necessarily an artist!)

I’m inspired a lot by emotion, the feelings I get from certain things can set me into a creative mood. I also love cultures and new experiences so these all seem to influence greatly on what I am inclined to draw or create next. 

What are your plans for the future?

In a few months, I’m taking a trip to Zimbabwe, I plan on seeing Lions and Cheetahs in the wild and appreciating them in their natural habitat; alongside this I am planning on visiting some of the villages in Zimbabwe, and taking some reference pictures for portraits – this will be my first project of 2017, but this will no doubt be the first trip of many – I plan on visiting more countries with different cultures and people and creating portraits from each place I visit.

I plan on using different mediums in my Artwork, and I see this as a continuous journey- there are an array of skills I have yet to acquire so as a challenge to myself that is what I will be doing, alongside refining the skills I already have and improving them more.  

Finally, how does it make you feel to have won an award at The Pastel Society Exhibition.

I was so humbled and grateful to receive an award, it meant a lot to know my work was being appreciated and receiving such positive responses. I never know how my work will be received, because, as I mentioned earlier, I create pieces because of an inward inclination – based much on emotion; so, to see that people are responding so positively because of it is very humbling. Winning the award has also shown me that hard work and passion are recognised, and it gave me a confidence in my work which is priceless.

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