Development and Improvement techniques




Gold Membership gives you the freedom to work with advice and guidance from Heather to follow your personal plan.




In the Gold Membership you will be encouraged to develop a plan of work – which might fit  in with the current Academy theme at the time. As a tutor I know that having a scheme of work – a number of pieces which follow a theme, is the best way to develop because it enables you to dive a little deeper into a subject, rather than just dabble into an idea on the surface.   Artists often take this approach when preparing for an exhibition.

The Gold membership includes all the Silver level features including the Core Training, which means at this level you can decide to incorporate some Core training alongside your themed projects and ideas.    In effect the Core Training is the fundamentally important Foundation Course and Gold Level allows you to dip into areas in Core Training which you might have missed, or want to refresh your knowledge of.

Having a plan also helps to keep you on track!  So the Gold Membership is designed to allow you to develop your own plan of learning, with the support of other Gold Members and myself.

Above all your Gold Membership will open you up to a variety of ideas and techniques/methods using pastel.   Some of those ideas are listed below.


The first thing to do is download your PDF Workbook below and complete the questions at the back which will help you to focus you thoughts on your personal plan.





As the Gold membership grows – scheduled regular Q & A sessions will be planned.    The sessions are specifically to answer your pastel related questions and you will be invited to submit questions prior to the session.  Within Gold Training I am hoping to set up at least two mastermind groups.  One for Landscape and One for Portrait.   As a gold member you are perfectly welcome to join both but you might prefer to concentrate fully on one subject at a time.     In the event that you can’t attend the Q & A sessions,  they will be recorded and added to the Academy Mastermind sessions library, so you wont miss it.  Information of how we run and how you access these Q&A sessions will be sent to you nearer the time.

The Live Training schedule is beginning with Landscape by popular demand, and it is a good one to start with simply because so many major pastel techniques are used in a breadth of landscape work.      Live training modules will be added on a monthly basis as far as is possible and of course following the training youhave a forum thread to discuss the training and to address any of your questions.

There is no limit as to how far you want to take your learning.   The Academy is planned to be around a long time!
If you have any questions about live training please contact me.







If you are not sure if you have a good knowledge of the Core Training Subjects take the:

‘10 questions to assess whether you should take Core Training.’  In the Members Roadmap.  Click on the link below:



Complete a series of work on a Theme

Working on a series is recognised to be one of the most productive processes in learning and developing as an artist.  It also keeps you focused.

Some Themes:

Still life on a Colour Theme

Still Life on a Subject Theme

Different approaches to the same scene

Snow series – fabulous for learning about colour and tonal harmany.

Water in all it’s forms


Sky series   – Studying clouds using pastel layering.


There are so many variations on themes like these to explore, which will bring diversity and variety into your work.




You wouldn’t be expected to want to do all of these themes, but at some point in your learning and development some of the ideas below will be useful for you. Feel free to suggest other ideas for addition to the list as inspiration for our Gold members! There are many more ways to push your work to the next level by thinking more methodically.   By having a plan of work – you also avoid the ‘What shall I paint next?’   syndrome.   Many artists find that not being focused causes an inertia and can be getting in the way of your creativity and causing a creative block.


A Pastel Mini Series

  • A Pastel Mini Series – a great way to explore a lot of techniques and subjects.   Pastel Minis are a fantastic way to learn big lessons whilst working small and , of course, more economically.
  • Completing the same painting on a selection of pastel surfaces – comparison study.

All three of these ideas can work together well.    Many artists like to keep oddments of different expensive pastel surfaces to practice on and with a mini series.   A good idea for this is to follow a subject themes such as fruits, skies. water etc.

 Lessons from the Masters


  • Copying the Great Masters.
  • Even Royal Academy Students do this – although they often have the privilege of working in the National Galleries in front of the original painting!     Identify which of the Great masters works you are attracted to and plan a few pieces for your own learning pleasure .  I have found that these also are popular as and when you decide to exhibit.  The painting of Rosalba Carriera on the right was completed after I finished my dissertations at university into the History of Pastel.


Sanguine – The Queen of Pastel Drawing


Sanguine Drawing techniques, – a beautiful medium in its own right – one of the pastel big guns. Ideal for teaching portrait drawing from beginners upwards. In your development plan – one very wonderful aspect of pastel is that has its own wonderful drawing heritage.  The Sanguine ‘Trois Crayon’ approach is the best.   I taught Sanguine portraiture summer schools in Colleges for many years and know how powerful a teaching tool it is.    The results I achieved with newbie portraitists was the talk of the Educational authority and I had enrollees worldwide.

Sanguine is also the greatest soft tonal tool you can work with.  Intrigued?

Learn a New Subject


  • Work on a totally new subject area and be amazed at what you will learn about Pastel and painting. Probably one of the most important paths to explore.     So if you have started in portraiture and want to get into landscape so as to make you a more rounded artist, or just because you like the idea of working Plein Air or treating yourself to a painting holiday,   it is also worth remembering that landscape techniques will massively aid your portraiture.     It certainly improved mine.    Now I love working between the two subjects to keep me fresh and inspired.
  • For pastel pencils artists – a series of landscape work in soft pastel only – great developmental strategy.


Investigate Under Painting Techniques


  • Many wonderful under painting products for Pastel already exist and that is a great place to start.   And you can use watercolour, pastel itself, and some other mediums to under paint with.

Underpainting is one route to new techniques in your work.    It can very much add your own signature to your work and help in          developing your own distinctive style.  One of the benefits is that it can keep your pastel layers cleaner.

Under painting also means that you don’t need to purchase papers in different colours – because you basically need only one            fairly light tint to start with.   The painting on the right was under painted on Fisher 400 in pastel and spirits.

Making your own Pastel surfaces


         Start to make your own pastel surface from the range of products available.    A very economic way to make your own                  surface specific to the needs of your own work.

         Completing the same painting on a selection of pastel surfaces – comparison study.    This is the best way to test your                surfaces and then make any adjustments to the amount of tooth.

         A series of work planned which uses as many different surfaces as you can find. (Could be a mini pastel series).




Using Charcoal with Pastel


       Working with Charcoal in Pastel; not too often used but a great method to learn more about.   (A favourite of  mine).

Charcoal is a wonderful friend of pastel.   It blends with it perfectly and makes a fabulous ‘under painting’ to give a tonal notan             which you can either choose to ‘fix’ so as not to effect the colour laid on top or not fix so that any colour on top with blend with it.

Check out the Charcoal module int he basic Core Training Page and have fun!

The painting on the top right was under painted with Charcoal and not fixed.  Capesthorne Hall 24 x 19″


Adopt a favourite Black & White medium


  • Adopt a favourite black and white medium to run alongside your pastel painting. Another very important developmental technique which keeps your tonal values strong.

Working in Black and white will also keep your sense of colour fresh.

One great suggestion would be to use charcoal relief (see Core Training pages)   which is also very close to pastel methods.

The charcoal scene of on the right is completed in charcoal relief.  It took and half an hour to do.


Get the Sketching Habit!


  • For those who haven’t yet – start sketching!
  • Sketching is probably the greatest developmental technique when learning to be a great painter.  All great painters I can name are passionate sketchers.

Sketching gives you ultimate freedom.   Eventually it will give you freedom from photography.   I can produce paintings from              any of the hundreds of sketches in my collections of sketch pads, which are far more valuable to me than any of my photos.

Sketching also saves you time and money.   It saves you time if you plan you painting – in small scale an take the sketch to             the tonal level to identify your lightest lights and darkest darks.


 Develop the Plein Air Habit!


Make time for working Plein Air – there really is nothing to beat it.

  • Until you have had the chance to experience working plein air – whether working with a group of on your own – you just don’t know what you are missing!
  • It is of course a multi sensory experience.   Not just your sight engaged but your sense of smell and hearing -all working together to give the artist the all the benefits of Natures input.   Monet knew – all the Impressionists did.As a tutor of countless painting holidays I can attest to the fact that plein air work takes an artists work to a new level.    It is one great reason for taking up landscape painting – because it is definitely true that artists learn more from nature than from anything.
  • So promise to treat yourself to the Plein Air experience as a treat when you can!



Pin It on Pinterest