Friday, 26 September 2014

First purchases

I started off using the most horrible hard pastels that I had bought from the art department in my local Easons store and quickly gave up on them. Memo peeps – avoid the 'Simply' brand of art materials if you're serious about your art. I took to the internet. Sennelier, Rembrandt and Schmincke were all advertised as being among the best soft pastels on the WetCanvas website I visited. In truth there are so many brands out there it's confusing and you don't want to be spending a lot of money on something you are not happy with.

On a September trip to Manchester to see my friend Caroline I found an art shop near Piccadilly Gardens that allowed me to roadtest several of these brands so in a grand butter v margarine type showdown, and with no blindfold, I pitched them against each other in a most unscientific fashion. As this was the first time I had handled these fragile sticks of pigment I judged them basically on how they felt between my fingers and on the marks they made on the paper. With more gut feeling than anything else I decided on Unison! Imagine my surprise that they were the cheapest too!

That started me off on a Unison Soft Pastels spending spree – the Landscape and Portrait boxed versions bought from online retailer Jacksons Art because Ken Bromley Art Supplies, my first point of call didn't stock them and Jacksons were doing better prices than Amazon.  at the time.


The question of paper vexed me. Fed up with using cheap textured paper I went to Art & Home in Holywood and got a trial pack of different pastel paper, trialled them all, read a lot of reviews on Google and watched umpteen YouTube videos. I finally plumped for Clairefontaine Pastelmat as I simply just didn't get on with Velour. There was something about its furry feel that made my skin crawl and the flimsy nature did nothing for me. Yes, I know that my fellow Dungannon-ite Emma Colbert uses it but hey I am a completely different artist and I don't really like animals that much. Quite by accident I met Emma selling her wares in Victoria Square before Christmas and she gave me a small sample of Velour to try out. I found out the pigment spread and wasn't very conducive to my idea of detailed work.


I read on a website recently of a self-esteemed female pastellist that you should never do pastels on white card/paper. Blimey! That was as dumb as saying you should never paint oils on a white canvas. I have always used white because when I was at school I was told to draw on white paper and when at Art College studying Graphic Design all the pads I bought for mocking up advertising ideas with magic markers were white. So I am kinda used to drawing on a white background and while I am always experimenting with pastels I am probably forever wed to my 360gsm white Clairefontaine Pastelmat. Let no person break us asunder.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Two Apples and a Pear

I had to start somewhere so my first painting was a simple still life of two apples and a pear and I was reasonably pleased with how it turned out for a first attempt. Even had two friends who wanted to buy it though thankfully we never talked how many noughts would be on the cheque. Yeah, you're thinking the same as me – one!

Working on that pastel gave me confidence that I could maybe be a painter - even on crappy paper (it wasn't pastelmat in those days) so it didn't lend itself to my overworked style. It did get very muddy towards the end and I lost interest in finishing it.

The painting still lies around my house probably feeling a bit unloved as it's my only unframed work and a reminder to stop while I'm out in front!