HEATHER GAIL HARMAN’S
“PASTEL ACADEMY ONLINE”
BRAND NEW BLOG
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, another was working increasingly in the USA and the net result was large gaps in the pastel tuition market. Of course in the south of Spain – I run a regular local group – and within 3/4 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 was a sickly child and drawing was my diversion along with music. There is nothing wrong with being self-taught, but having no tuition whatsoever can be an issue. Having learned very early on in my life to manage without tuition, I muddled through and used whatever books were available. I imagine you have done that too when needed. But when you are of retirement age that can be difficult and frustrating. If you want a teaching career in addition to your painting work – time can be important; do you want to take years to learn? No, of course not. So yes tuition has a great deal of advantages – not least of all learning trusted and tested methods and techniques, and not wasting money and time making costly mistakes. And there is so much to be said as well for knowing that you are on the right track.
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. There is even a lack of good beginner drawing classes which is really an issue for those who want to progress in their work in any medium? 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.
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