Pastel Artist in Residence

by Paul Gibbins


Visual Arts Plymouth

Sarah Honywill photo credit Paul Gibbins

Following the recent Art Weekender in Plymouth, Made in Plymouth contributor, Paul Gibbins, caught up with one of latest residents at Ocean Studios in Royal William Yard.

Sarah Honywill is a pastel artist whose work seeks to draw our attention to the things we encounter everyday. Colour and light are the essential elements of her subjects – the light caught in a glass bottle, the drama of a fisherman’s catch, the beauty to be seen in the food we eat.
Sarah found her way into pastels after discovering a box of Swiss Carb Othello pastels bought by her husband’s aunt in the 1950’s. Still in very good condition, she thought she’d experiment and produced her first work, ‘Tomatoes’, currently on sale at Ocean Studios.

“The pastel set was absolutely immaculate and had not been touched – I was immediately drawn to it. I am not that keen on oil paint, don’t even like the feel of canvas – it’s a textural thing – that’s why pastel appeals! I like the colour and depth, the immediacy, I don’t have to wait for things to dry, and it’s very malleable.”

Pastels date back to the 16th Century when dry chalk was mixed with pigment and gum and came in only red, black and white. There are now over 1600 hues & shades of colour available. Degas is credited for taking it beyond a mere sketching tool and the 18th Century saw Gaugin, Matisse, Monet and later Picasso adopting it with notable success.

“It’s essentially applying the pigment, mixing the colours on the paper and scraping them back to form layers. It’s important to fix at certain points to maintain a clean line. It’s a very good medium as it’s very stable and lasts longer than other media. Pastels can have either an oil or chalk base; I prefer the latter – It’s what I am comfortable with.”

Sarah’s pictures are sizable, for her, the larger the better, perhaps that’s why she moved into a studio in Ocean Studios. They are mounted and framed by a supplier to the customer’s requirements. Choosing only subjects to paint that appeal to her, her work is mostly still life and reflects aspects and elements of Plymouth and the South West. “It has to excite me, I can’t just look at something and think ok, I’ll paint that, it has to have the right colour, light, a point of interest.”

Sarah Honywill photo credit Paul Gibbins

Sarah Honywill photo credit Paul Gibbins

Sarah Honywill photo credit Paul Gibbins

Sarah Honywill photo credit Paul Gibbins

The Studio has proven a good move for Sarah, providing more space and less distraction than her home studio. “It was a leap, but I love it. It took some time for the application to come through and only after I moved in did I realise how having a dedicated work space can influence what I do and the way I do it!”


She’s now looking for somewhere to exhibit, but like many local artists, this is a challenge, where relative unknowns don’t necessarily attract the footfall required to support an exhibition. Her next challenge is to establish an online presence and marketing her work locally. But she remains optimistic, “I’d encourage anyone to give it a go, it’s just a case of being brave and getting out there and I’m still learning; just do it!”

Sarah’s work can be viewed here