This year Unison Colour awarded two prizes at the Pastel Society's Annual Exhibition in the Mall Galleries in London. The winner of our new prize of £1500 for a ‘Young Artist working Soft Pastel’ is Janine Baldwin, whose striking landscape drawings really caught our eye. Below you can read all about her exhibits. Our award of a '72' set went to Charlie Shaffer for his vibrant portrait. He is also another young artist. Read about his crayon portrait below, and how he can now use pastels! Congratulations to both our winners.
We also had the good fortune to view many interesting works, and a rare chance to interview some iconic British artists, whose interviews will be in our next few newsletters. If you are not already receiving these, then it’s very simple, just press the submit button at the bottom of every page of our website. Among the artists we interviewed were Moira Huntly, Anthony Eyton, Roger Dellar, Diana Armfield, and her husband Bernard Dunstan, both aged 96 and still painting every day. Also Victor and Glenys Ambrus. . Lastly was Angela A'Court whose fresh approach to still life is a real joy to see. Photographs are below.
I first exhibited with the Pastel Society in 2013 and my work has been selected each year since then. It's a privilege to be chosen as the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition is an inspiring and important show - it showcases such diverse work in dry media from so many brilliant artists. During the last two years in the studio I've worked almost exclusively in pastel, charcoal and graphite, and I've enjoyed being able to show this work to a larger audience at the Mall Galleries.
My three paintings in this year's exhibition all use a combination of pastel, charcoal and graphite, and are based on the landscape surrounding Scarborough in North Yorkshire and across into the Yorkshire Wolds. There are so many beautiful landscapes in this area I consider myself very lucky to have them on my doorstep. For these works I made preliminary sketches out in the landscape which were then further developed back in the studio.
'Midwinter Fire' is the largest of the works and I used the method of erasure quite prominently in this piece. Erasing the pastel allows me to clear spaces on the paper whilst also leaving traces of colours and line. Over many reworkings I built up subtle layers, and I feel these layers to some degree reflect the sheer depth of detail in any given landscape - from the tiniest plants across to vast forests on the horizon line. I knew 'Midwinter Fire' was finished when I was happy with the balance of these layers and the final touch was to add the brightly coloured stems of the Midwinter Fire shrub, from which the painting takes it's name.
'Stormy Skies' and 'Hedgerow' are both an unusual format for me - ironically although I am a landscape artist I very rarely work in a landscape format. However I felt the need to use this for 'Stormy Skies' as I wanted to try and capture the energy of the stormy weather as it swept across the land. Anyone who has been out walking away from shelter will recognise the feeling of seeing ominous clouds looming and knowing a downpour is on it's way!
In 'Hedgerow' I wanted that sweeping vista again but this time to focus on fields and the borders which run alongside them. The hedgerow along the bottom of the painting creates a contrast to the lines of the fields above. Colour balance was also important to take the viewer's eye around the piece. The colour palette in all three works is similar as they were developed simultaneously. I tend to have several pieces in progress at any time in the studio, that way I can reflect on one piece while working on another.
It is such a huge honour to win the award, and even more so to be the first artist to receive it. To be given an award from the makers of pastels I have used in the paintings themselves is wonderful. I would not be able to create the depth of layering in my paintings without the exceptional quality of Unison pastels. The award itself will allow me to travel further afield to explore new landscapes to paint and it's exciting to consider possible locations both in the UK and abroad.
This was my first time exhibiting with the Pastel Society. I have been lucky enough to have exhibited quite a few times now at the Mall Galleries within the past few years, as it is a great place for open call competitions and exhibitions, and the Pastel Society was another of these exhibitions. Being an artist, and especially one at an early stage in their career, it is paramount to try and exhibit as much as possible and have one’s work seen in order to help raise one’s profile. Being an artist who depicts specific people, it tends to be relatively rare to sell work I have already done for myself as people tend not to want to buy pictures of people they do not know. By entering competitions like these and letting people seeing the work, they can then get in touch and commission me to paint or draw someone they have an affinity with.
The picture in the exhibition was of my housemate Thomas. I had just moved in to a new place, and didn’t know the people I was living with. For me, the entire point of painting or drawing someone is that you get to spend time one on one with them over a prolonged period, with no other distractions. The act of making the picture almost seems to be a by-product of the situation, which can only exist through doing it; rarely these days do people have the chance to just sit and talk to one another, especially in our technologically driven society, without phones or other devices stealing our attention. Although the picture will inevitably end up bearing a likeness to the sitter, it is intended more to facilitate the forming of a relationship, being a subconsciously driven record of the lived experience.
The drawing was done in crayon, something I had not used since I were about 7, but saw being sold in a shop and decided to buy due to it being very cheap and having seen a Hockney drawing recently before that which had also been done in crayon. The great thing about wax crayons is that they always have a vibrancy, no matter the colour underneath, and don’t really smudge or blend with each other. The downside is that once they are on, you can’t really remove them. This can be exciting, as it encourages the drawing to alter and grow past the initial idea, whilst obviously being simultaneously quite annoying as it can spiral out of your control. The drawing took around 4 or 5 sittings to complete, and I knew it was finished when I found myself putting down some colour just for the sake of it, without having any real intention or purpose behind it. Creating a picture the way that I do means that I can never really see my work objectively: I look back on a painting or drawing and remember the experience of painting or drawing them, and spending time with them, rather than being able to judge the work for its aesthetic or sentimental merits, as one can do with others’ work.
Winning the award of the ’72’ set means a lot for me. Apart from the practical side of now being able to use high quality pastels (something I have been unable to afford previously) to achieve a greater range of colours, whilst also being able to alter it much easier than with crayons, it also allows me the confidence in my work to know that others appreciate the work that I do, outside of my immediate circle and those involved in the process.
The main overall prize winner at the show was Hungarian artist, Peter Matyasi, whom we were delighted to see exhibiting. We had met him, and awarded him a small prize at the Brody House Exhbition in Budapest a few years ago. It is wonderful to see his continuing success.
We are looking forward to sharing our interviews with these artists over the next few months.
Moira Huntly, whose magical landscapes are a mixture of places she has seen and a vivid imagination.
Roger Dellar's warmly lit interiors captivate us with the feeling that someone has just left the room.
Anthony Eyton captures the energy and tension of the people and places he draws.
Victor Ambrus told us of his many adventures drawing animals, his career in book illustration, and why he always paints from life.
Glenys Ambrus also is a strong avocate of painting from life, and we hear of her and Victor's supportive relationship.
Travelling has been one of Diana Armfield's chief inspirations, particularily to Venice.
Bernard Dunstan told us he would never retire, and paints daily at the age of 96.
Angela A'Court tells us how she wishes her paintings to convey positive feelings and a sense of peace.
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