A review of my online Art Workshops from Unison Helen

I’ve been working with Unison Colour for since Lockdown 2020. Becoming a Unison Colour Associate Artist was a huge honour and I’ve been lucky enough to work with Unison on several projects. My 5 Day Challenge saw nearly 1000 people from all over the world create Old Harry Rocks!

Helen Bullock, or Unison Helen, as we fondly refer to her, is our lead contact at Unison Colour. She has nurtured and developed individual projects with all of the Associate Artists at Unison Colour. I look forward to our regular chats, she’s always encouraging and gives great feedback on my ideas for future workshops or artworks themes. They recently encouraged me to develop a 16 Half Stick Seascape Set for my new students.

I’ve created a series of workshops for beginners or experienced artists who want to learn to paint with pastels. Helen confessed that whilst she has worked with Unison Colour for many years, she has never picked up a pastels. Well, that seemed to be the perfect excuse to invite her to sample one of my online soft pastel painting classes for beginners! Lockdown meant that Olivia, Helen’s daughter was at home missing her regular classes, so I invited them both to an online art session.

Here’s Helen’s review.

The Pretender by Helen Bullock.

I feel like I am making a confession……….

I have worked for Unison Colour since 2015 & I absolutely love my job. It mainly involves being an Account Manager for our many Associate Artists. However, I do not draw or paint! (the shock/horror as you read that statement) 

The reason why I do not draw/paint is because I was informed at school that I was no good at it – I wasn’t the teachers favourite for a start. 

As a runner who spends a lot of time in the hills, fells & forests, I am often taking photographs & I would look at the different colours, tones, shades & think to myself ‘that could be a BE6 or a green from our range’. I may be able to think like an artist, but I am not one. 

During Lockdown 1 I began to doodle eventually purchased a sketch pad & some Faber Castell pencils. These pictures I created were not for anyone to see, they were for my own eyes. 

The months dwindled past and one day I was having a catch up with one of our Associate Artists, Nina Squire. She challenged me to complete one of her seascape demos.  With enthusiasm I bought the materials she advised on her website, my desk easel, sample pastel paper pack from Jackson’s Art Supplies (great value for money for when you do not know which surface to use), pastel pencils and the mighty Unison Colour pastels. I was ready or I thought I was! 

Work was increasingly busy & with an 8-year-old as well as adding a Cocker Spaniel puppy to the mix, my attention was elsewhere. The art materials were lying in their boxes, waiting for their time to shine (or not!)

Then came Lockdown number 3, back to juggling homeschooling & work! This time my daughter was extremely upset that she couldn’t go back to school so Nina kindly offered to hold a Live Zoom art class for both me & Olivia. She thought it would benefit us both. 

One Thursday (my day off) I banished my other half from the kitchen & we set up our makeshift ‘art studio’ I must admit I was incredibly nervous! Olivia was enthusiastic & could not wait to get stuck in. 

The start

With Nina’s guidance we drew the outline of the image & then it was time to add the pastel to paper. I was scared! I am exposed to so many talented artists & here was me the ‘pretender’ having a go. As the buttery soft pastel was added to the sky, I was starting to feel less nervous. Olivia was in her element & was going full throttle! I was panicking as she was putting the pastels back ‘willy nilly’ into the box & I was becoming slightly frustrated as I couldn’t find the colours I needed. 


As we progressed, I could see an image beginning to take shape, whilst it wouldn’t win any awards, I had completed my first EVER pastel painting but best of all I had Olivia for company & she completed her first EVER pastel Seascape at the age of 8! 

Helen’s image
Olivia’s image

I must admit that it was one of the most nerve-wracking things I have attempted & I have run ultra-marathons. I do not like the image I created because I am a worrier & too much of a perfectionist. Nonetheless it has not dampened my will to learn more. So, when schools return again & I have some precious time to myself, I will have another go & who knows I could be posting in our Unison Colour Pastelling Community Facebook Group! 

Written by Unison Helen

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