Over the past few weeks I have been out and about and had a few really interesting days…..
A few weeks ago I spotted a sales offer on Unison pastels at Jackson’s Art. I use pastels a lot in my art but tend to favour Sennelier oil pastels. I use these as I’m building up layers. The oily textures gives an unpredictability to the paint and you get some interesting colours showing through in the final painting.
I have played around with soft pastels previously but with pretty limited success. Other than pages in my sketchbook. I love the chalkiness of pastels but have a tendency to over blend. For this reason I avoid using them on finished paintings. However, everyone raves about Unison pastels. So I thought I should check them out. This itch only intensified when I spotted a story on Instagram from an artist I love who had just received a delivery of these little colour sticks.
As Unison are based in Northumberland I dropped them an email. I thought they might have an onsite shop. Sadly, they don’t but they did invite me up to see where the pastels are made. An offer I couldn’t refuse! I had invited my nephews who clearly didn’t think it compared with a day in their bedroom playing computer games. So, my dad decided he’d come along.
They are based in a really remote area of Northumberland. My assumption that they just outside of Hexham and therefore only 45minutes away didn’t quite pan out. An hour and 15minutes, driving through glorious countryside we finally pulled in to a very narrow lane where we found an extremely old rectory. The buildings are a bit ramshackled. Rustic would be the polite descriptor. With a range of stone outbuildings, presumably previous stables and outhouses, the structure melts perfectly into the rural landscape.
The team were so welcoming! We were shown the whole process of making the pastels which surprisingly is all done by hand. It’s such an artisan process, so much skill and passed down knowledge. The standards they have to ensure the colours perfectly match their own colour charts was incredible. I loved the whole visit! I can’t imagine a better place to work – being surrounded by jars and jars of gloriously coloured pigments. Its great to see how such a small business, crafted with love and care has taken off right around the world.
I left the visit with an arm full of collage papers and some beautiful pastels.
Having experimented with them on some old paintings I have to say they are unlike any pastels I’ve used previously. They have such a creamy consistency and the colours are amazing, so rich in pigment! Since then I have purchased another mini set of blues and have to say they are now a regular tool in my art making.
Discovery New Artists
Another first – a visit to the Hatton Gallery to see the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Exhibition. I’m ashamed to say I have never been to the Hatton Gallery, despite growing up in the North East so when a friend recommended the current exhibition I thought it was worth a day out.
Her name sounded vaguely familiar but it was only when I spotted her painting Pilgrimage, that I realised I had seen this at the Laing’s Lindisfarne Gospel exhibition last year. Other than that I knew nothing about the artist. Born in St. Andrews she was an important member of the St Ives School and like many female artists of her generation, has been overlooked.
It’s a great exhibition showcasing her journey through to abstraction. I was struck by her glacier paintings and her bold abstract compositions. And wonderful to discover such an inspiring female artist!
A Trip Close to Home
The third little trip was even closer to home. It started out as a short walk along the fish quay with the aim of gathering inspiration for paintings. Lots of re photos of fishing nets and bits and bobs.
As a mid-morning Sunday walk we decided to stop at the Salt Market Social for a spot of brunch and then caught the pedestrian ferry across the Tyne to South Shields. Is definitely not a glamorous trip, despite my husband’s comparison with the Amalfi boat trip last year but fun none the less and another first!