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Pastel – the easiest medium in the world to use – Right?


I’ve heard that a few times.   Well as we know - Pastel isn’t easy.  In fact it is as complicated and challenging as it is exciting to use.   It is without doubt the most versatile and diverse medium I have ever used, and I also paint in oil and watercolour.

All the more reason why there is a need - a demand even for tuition from pastel specialists.

For all my pastel friends who have known for some time that I have been working towards a goal – well guys this is part of that goal.    After much planning the Pastel Academy Blog is born and as with all new born babies it has a long way to go before we can see its full potential, but what is interesting is how it will develop and how it began.

When I moved to Spain some 10 years ago, I left behind most my teaching work.  I had been working for Cumbrian and Lancashire County Councils in the Adult Residential colleges Alston Hall and Higham Hall)   for around 20 years, where I taught Pastel residential courses alongside portraiture; totaling around 12-14 weeks a year.    

In addition, I was organising and running painting holidays in wonderful hot places,  running a couple of local groups, tutoring privately, and writing articles for the British Art Press.  

I wasn’t the only Pastel tutor with a pretty full calendar of teaching commitments; there were a few of us nationwide.    The courses sold well and I had many students from different parts of the world enrolling.

Where were all the Local Authority Classes?


A few years ago I began getting messages from students back in the UK that they were finding it difficult finding courses and pastel tuition generally, depending on where they lived basically.   Local authority evening and day classes were closing and of course they were usually the starting point when starting to draw and paint. I took a look at the situation and found that 2 or 3 of my contemporaries had also effectively retired, and the net result was large gaps in the pastel tuition market.     In the south of Spain – I run a regular local group – and within a few years having started from scratch (learning how to draw ) they held their first exhibition last December.   Many of my local group could compete with many of the artists I see throughout the European societies; I know not just because I trained them, but because having been involved with the French and Spanish societies for a few years now – very few pastel artists have been ‘taught’ by a pro teacher and pastel specialists, and sometimes this shows in lack of basic painting lore and drawing skills.

The Self Taught Route – I bet this resonates with some of you.

I am a Self-Taught artist out of necessity; I started as a young child.   There is nothing wrong with being self-taught, but having no tuition whatsoever can be an issue;   it can be frustrating and lonely, and can hold an artist with ambition back. If you want a teaching career in addition to your art – time can be important; do you want to take years to learn?  No, of course not.  Equally so if you are picking up your pastels for the first time in retirement. For some, of course – tuition might be a luxury, and for others it might be the preferred way of learning.   Being self taught does mean though, never being sure if you are ‘on the right track’, and maybe not learning trusted and tested methods and techniques.   Of course not wasting money and time making costly  mistakes is also a factor.

Pastel Artists UK and why I started it.

Set up in the early New Year 2014 Pastel Artists UK is now an extremely successful Facebook group and for me, it is both gratifying and frustrating.  Gratifying because they are a great group.  Why frustrating?  Because I am a tutor and there is only so much guidance you can give on a Facebook group. The group has consolidated what I already suspected; overall pastel tuition, by a professional pastelist/tutor, is poor to non-existent, with notable exceptions obviously.       Ironic that this should be the case at a time when the popularity of pastel is on the rise, with new Chinese and Japanese Societies joining the ranks of the European, American and Australasian societies. The group have been a fantastic market research resource and readily responded to my frequent questions for facts on this or that aspect of their work, and they have guided me well.  Other pastel groups to which I belong have also, and their needs have proved to be similar, no matter what country they live.

Demonstrating in Oviedo 2013


in the

beautiful city of

Oviedo in northern Spain,

for the Spanish Pastel

Society’ ASPAS’ in 2013

So the Plan Took Shape

Although ‘IT’  had no name – in my mind the mission was clear.  What ‘IT’ needed to do was work towards a few solid goals:

  • Provide Tuition and to that end I start filming my long planned online courses later this month – more about these in the next blog – there is a lot to talk about.


  • Build and develop a Pastel Resource Hub – to house articles relating to pastel and related materials resources. Suppliers etc.     Not just in the UK, but hopefully worldwide.
  • Build the beating heart of ‘IT’ – the blog.    I shall be blogging on a regular basis, and also inviting guest Bloggers on pastel and related subjects.


  • Related Subjects?’ The other function I want ‘IT’ to do is offer advice and guidance on the business end of being an artist;   encouraging and guiding (mentoring) those who can and want to teach,  advice on art marketing (I was admitted to Lancaster University in 1990 on an Arts/Marketing ticket – and although I diversified, the marketing side remains a passion.)    There will be guest bloggers on that issue too.


  • Advice for setting up artists websites.

Meanwhile there is still much to do.   I am still working on my website to make the right adjustments and future integrations, and other features that I will eventually get round to.

‘IT’ – finally has a name – The Pastel Academy Online.

PAO for short.    In the short term, my goal is to establish this blog, keep you all informed as to what is happening in my regular Update Newsletters, and film courses.

No Painting Time for me at the Moment  

No, but it will be very worthwhile, and this is the real busy stage.   Other stuff as it arises will be in the Newsletters and hear of course, but at the moment I hope I have given you enough to mull over and please feel free to open up a discussion on our group, and add any comments in the section below.

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