18 months open –  Academy Update/ News on our new Module for the New Year

18 months open – Academy Update/ News on our new Module for the New Year

Welcome to the Pastel Academy Blog

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The Academy Journey – December 2018

The upcoming Academy Module – Early in the New Year:

Drawing & Perspective



But first an Update:  18 months ago the Pastel Academy Online opened its doors.     It was a big moment because it had been over 2 years in the planning and setting up the infrastructure, the Website and and all the technical problems that had to be dealt with and overcome.  It has not been easy – but it has been fun!

No matter how much planning of the actual tuition element, I was really working without a template, or another similar model of an online Academy to inspire or guide me.


The BIG question I asked myself:

 Could I do online what I had a great reputation for doing live?

What did I want the Academy to do? 


I wanted it to do what a live course could do but better. So what does a live course do well?    Well that all depends on who is teaching it.  Some of the best artists have no idea how to pass their knowledge on and some dont like to give away all their secrets!     A well designed live course should have been planned to take the student from the beginning to the end and result in improvement and increased understanding.   I put out a questionaire to a group of learners and the result was,  it was hit and miss as to how much was learnt from live workshops and courses.

The benefits of Live Courses:   Well the main benefit seemed to be in meeting and seeing the work live of an artists whose work interested them.  The Downside to live courses:   Well some are difficult to travel too and that is an additional cost.    Not getting what you want from the teacher is also a big downside.

Without that experience – the Academy would not be live and well now.   As to whether it has all worked well?  Check out these two new testimonials:   (more on pastelacademyonline.com)

”My progress is all due to Heather’s great teaching and the encouragement of everyone here at the Academy.  I had never used charcoal, graphite sticks or pen until I joined so the academy has been a real game changer for me.You’ll soon have a tonal values gallery filled to the brim with gorgeous images, even if you sometimes think they are beyond you to create right now. (I feel like that at the start of every picture I try lol!).  But I learnt that trusting Heather as she leads me out of my comfort zone means everything I need to learn falls into place.  I love how Heather guides in such an intuitive and personalised way and, I wholeheartedly believe the academy is the best online art resource available. We are lucky to have found her ‘

Kerri Anne

I am very new to The Pastel Academy. I joined on 12th August 2018.  Not knowing what to expect, I am astounded at the quality of the academy and Heather’s teaching. In a matter of a few weeks I have done two graphite stick and one charcoal piece of work. I used to be very slow. Finding the charcoal work slightly challenging, I was guided and supported by Heather and the wonderful members of the academy. I have been advised  on the best choice of paper and materials, on the best kind of easel to buy for my needs and how to enhance it. The quality of the demonstration videos is excellent and you can go back to them as you need too. It in not a case of you see it then it disappears. All of the work of the academy remains in place for you to refresh as you feel the need. The teaching is done in a very user friendly way. It is clear and easy to follow. Heather personally assesses your work, providing helpful and instructive feedback and you can see yourself improving, even after a very short period of time. Thank you so much Heather and everyone involved in the wonderful Pastel Academy.”


So the Academy succeeded!  I wanted it to do what a live course could do but better. I also wanted to give more people access to quality tuition.


I must admit there were those students who attended my live classes who looked at me strangely when I told them what my aim was. They told me straight out that I would never be able to teach online the way I do live.

I asked them also how many art books had they purchased over the years?   Loads!   How often do you refer to them?  Not too often was the reply.  Why?  Because you cant really learn from books they replied.   And you cant see the processes live.  You can on a course.  But you can’t re run a live course whenever you want to!   You can at the Academy.  PLUS – you get personal feedback from me and other group members.   Its a win win.


There is little doubt that experience over 30 years of teaching courses and workshops – including painting holidays – has given me the experience and working knowledge of how to teach my subject.  I didn’t think it would be possible to improve the learners experience by teaching online, but I was wrong.    The learning is more ‘in depth’ in the Pastel Academy;  and the feedback is deeper and more intense.

Drawing and Perspective starts early New Year


Some have asked my why the Drawing and Perspective Module did not come first int he Academy syllabus?

Well it was a decision I took when planning the curriculum.    The ability to draw is within everyone but it is the subject of mental creative blocks; there are many who believe that they cant draw and perspective even moreso.  So we are dealing with confidence issues.   I decided to start with a subject which most artists had trouble with but was not the cause of confidence issues.   Now the members will be able to approach formal drawing and perspective with a great deal more knowledge under their belts and with confidence.   (Below are simple expamples of eliptical perspective – used for accurate drawing of round objects)


One of the things I truly believe is this;  the ability to draw well or even just adequately, is important to any serious artist.   It is one of those skills which will be with you all of your life and improves with use.  In other words the more you do it the better you understand it and how valuable it is.   It is the one thing that frees your imagination because you are not confined to drawing badly or using a tracing method.   Tracing methods are fine in some circumstances but without the ability to draw you can make changes which you know you want to make but you are not sure if you can draw what changes you want to make.     So some artists stay with tracing not because they want to , but because they don’t have the drawing knowledge.

What I would say to all reading this,  you owe it to yourself to be the best artist you can be.  Many of the artists I deal with came into pastel via animal portraiture.    Animal portraiture is notoriously completed from pretty bad photography and often posthumous work so ‘available’ photos are your only resource.     Some of you might even realise now that with a bit of help you could be so much better, and you really want to make a good living out of your art.   The drawing and perspective module could be a game changer for you – but in all subjects not just animal portraiture.   (below are examples of Linear perspective used for accurate drawing of buildings)



Then there is the really difficult issue of perspective.   This again I see mainly in portraiture but of course in buildings too.   SO much work which is displaying good technique – which has perspective issues, all too often caused by the focal point issues with the photography.  Hey I didn’t realise this at first.  But I had to learn the hard way.

Needless to say, If you wish to be a teacher of art , you need to know how to draw.   Whichever you might be, the fact remains,  YOU are worth investing in.   Investing in your creative development as an artist, for whatever you reason, is to invest in ‘you’.    And you are worth it.   And that time spent should be precious to you.

The Academy membership fees will rise in February.   Join before then and you will have access at the current lower price.

This is the direct link to join:


Don’t forget the comments box at the bottom of the page – tell me what you think about your experience of live workshops and working online.

Check out the Sneak Peak video below:


The Pastel Academy – The Importance of getting Composition RIGHT in our work

The Pastel Academy – The Importance of getting Composition RIGHT in our work

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The Pastel Academy – Update Spring 2018

Getting COMPOSITION/DESIGN Right!  How Important is it?

The main tools in an artists kit bag


And No I don’t mean our painting materials!

The painting at the head of the page is called ‘Heading For the Lake – Spring – Andalucia’.     It is a painting that could not have been done without my knowledge of Composition and how to bring together elements from my sketchbook, from some scenic photos and some addition sketches and photos of horses and people.    It was not simply a matter of waiting for that scene to happen in reality!  I would probaby have been waiting for ever!


Learning – whether online or in workshops is usually down to learning a technique or two in a specific subject;  usually within an hour or two.  But without the background knowledge of where those techniques fit into the big scheme of things  you have perhaps at best just learnt one trick. 
There is just no avoiding the fact that without a solid foundation in the construction of a painting, the tonal values and the advantages of understanding colour theory, success in you work is a  hit and miss affair.  The Core Foundation Subjects apply to all painting subjects and mediums.

So what is composition and why is it important?     Well put it this way, without it your painting can easily miss the target you have set for it.      Composition leads the viewer’s eye to see what we want them to see.  And how we want them to see it.  What composition does is puts you in control of the message you are wishing to give in your work.    Even for a portrait,  there are ways to keep your viewer engaged in the area you want them to.

Knowing how to compose a painting puts the artist in charge of how to make the best of the elements and how to NOT make simple compositional errors which detract from the work and often ruin it.

In short it is a massive tool in the artists tool box.  It is vitally important to good landscape and portrait work and equally so for those in still life subjects, and florals which heavily depend on how to compost the subjects.


It is a Lightbulb moment for many artists


Composition in drawing and painting are a little like learning the grammer when learning how to write.  Just stringing words together won’t work.  You need to know how to construct a sentence and how to use punctuation, as well as have a good vocabulary.    Without an understanding of how to use the basics in art, you are just stringing together an ad hoc list of techniques.   More than that:  you are missing some major tricks.    

Taking all that into account, I was very slow to learn.   I knew what I wanted to know, but art college was not an option for me, so I had no guidance, or means of learning other than books which can only give you information; not guide you how to apply it.   So I learnt the long hard way, experience.  I had to.

Why?   Because I was a portrait painter and using a lot of really poor photographs!   Often tonally very poor and often very old photos:  snapshots of often deceased family members, that customers wanted turning into portraits.  So I would try to compensate for the poor photos by being as creative as I could, and this wasn’t nearly enough to compensate for my lack of knowledge.

Does that ring a bell with anyone?

Soft Pastel ‘Old Andalucia’  14 x 19 inches

Greyscale version of ‘Old Andalucia’ (colour removed)

Heather if you had to choose;   Which are the two most important ‘Core Foundation subjects’:


To complete a good original painting depends on two in particular: 

Tonal Values – how the painting is designed tonally – light and dark .

Composition – how it is designed.    

Without those two elements in particular, the painting will suffer.    Colour theory is very important, but a painting can have average colour and still work to a degree.    Drawing and perspective are massively important and both are on the Academy curiculum,  but good pieces can be achieved using gridding to transfer an image initially.  It is not  ideal but it can keep artists working while they improve their drawing knowledge over time.  But the two major guns in the armoury are Tonal values and Composition; without either one of which,  a painting will be substantially weakened and much less than it could be, or fail totally.

Failed paintings are frustrating (and expensive) and even moreso if you have no idea WHY it has failed   I’m sure that rings a bell with many of you.    But you can more or less guarantee that a high proportion of the major critical faults I see in work which has been otherwise beautifullly rendered, are faults in values and composition.     You can avoid that happening – easily.

Tonal Values  Many artists work in black and white mediums – graphite, ink, charcoal (all covered in the Academy).  Work in these mediums depends on a good arrangement of values; light, mid tones and dark tones.   The difficulty is in seeing poor tonal values when colour comes into the mix.   Which is why in the academy I use a method of teaching members how to assess their own work for tonal values issues. One thing to always look for;  your painting should work equally as well in it’s greyscale version (with the colour removed) as it does in colour.   Does yours?   (Check out the two images above)

Composition – Good design in a painting, no matter what the medium you use (it is the same for all mediums)  is something which is simple enough to learn.  It is always good to have guidance when applying the theory into practice though, as Academy members constantly tell me.      But it isn’t difficult and there is a logic behind it:

What to include and what not to include in a painting is a major issue.

What simple traps which are often found in snapshots, do we need to ignore when we use them as references for paintings is another issue.

How to keep the viewers eye on the most important part of your painting is massively important.

How to recognise when there are perspective and distortion issues in photos of humans and pets is one that crops up regularly on work I see on my Pastel Facebook sites.

What to do with paintings which are ‘just not right’ often need to be re-designed,  which is something the Academy members are going to be doing next month.    It is going to be interesting!

The Challenge I gave to the readers of a UK Artists magazine was to assess the original photograph and produce a painting after having decided  whether it could be improved compositionally.

I wanted to encourage the readers of the magazine this exercise was in, to question the photograph?  Could it be improved?

‘I use photographs to complete my portraits – why do I need to know about Composition?’



My first landscape was pretty Dire.  I copied it from a photograph.     But what was on the photo,   went into my painting.  No question; if the lamp  post was on that photo, I added it, if it needed it or not.   If the tree was too big, it never occurred to me to make is slightly smaller.   If a house was not facing the right direction, I didn’t realise I could move it around.    If a horizon was too low, I never thought of raising it a little.       But I wasn’t happy with the results.   No amount of technique in pastel was helping me out here!
And I learned along the way that the stuff I didn’t know in landscape, was the stuff I didn’t know in portraiture either!    And as a portrait artist, I wanted to do the best for my clients.  
Photographs are a blessing and a curse to artists in equal measure. They are a blessing because without them many artists would have no reference material to work from; but they are a curse because so many fall into the trap of just copying them, warts and all!  There are also some artists who strongly believe that a photo is an accurate record and so you cannot ‘move’ any of the elements to make a better composition.
Wrong – you can and you should . You are an artist – not a photocopyer.
The worst of it is without a good knowledge of Composition you can easily be copying massive mistakes in composition made by the photographer.

Can you Turn an Average Photo into a Good Painting?


But did you know you might have a load of you own ORIGINAL source reference material in all of those old photos which you are hoarding?  Once you understand what composition knowledge will do for you,  you will see those photos with different eyes.
How many of us have masses of old photos that we have taken on holidays and days out which are disappointing and never seem to capture the moment?   With a limited amount of compositional knowledge – (plus an understanding of Tonal Values) it is amazing what you can do with those old photographs! In fact one of my favourite classes in workshops over the years was the photo editing day. Students would bring a selection of their photos (many which they had thought impossible to use) and managed to design new paintings by cropping and editing, and often re-formatting.
Not only that, with compositional knowledge they are able to take elements from different photos into one painting!

Changing the portrait image into a landscape one, opened out the focal point and gave it more ‘importance’.   Some detail was omitted from the focal point (the bridge).  I then decided to turn it into a sunset scene for added drama and to support the focal point even more. The painting now has more depth and perspective.

(I cant tell you what happened next because the Academy members are doing this exercise soon! )


Composition is a Win Win!

I like being in charge of my work.  I enjoy having choices, and having had my eyes opened to what was possible, for me, it was the road to development or nothing.   Being in charge of my choices is true artistic freedom.      Some years down the tuition line, I learnt from my students too.   Now I always start a new artist off in simple landscape and with the core principles of painting.    I go on to teach them portraiture too. Anyone with the slightest training in art will see when a painting has just been copied from a photo; warts and all.   It is often heart breaking to see such great use in techniques of a medium like pastel which is not the easiest to master, but some or all of the basic fundamental principles of painting have not been understood by the artist.    It is a shame;  I cannot stand to see talent wasting itself.

Knowledge is power – not least of all for artists.

It makes my day when an artist joins the Academy and states up front; 

‘ I havent had any trainging.  I want to know the stuff I dont know about good paintings’

That is music to my ears. That means I have a new member who wants to really improve and grow as an artist.   For other members joining the Academy was indeed a lighbulb moment when they looked around and realised that what they didn’t know was massively important.  They saw the work of those going through Tonal Values and Colour Theory and they wanted to produce work like that. It took me a few years to learn how to ‘use’ photography (and to take better photographs) to the greater benefit of my work.  It was vital that I did learn and it is equally as vital to you if you wish to take your art seriously.

And I know that many of you do. The Pastel Academy Online is a resource for all artists who have gaping holes in their knowledge.   (Yes people join to learn the basics because it applies to all mediums).      The structured exercises in the Training area address all the issues that would trip us up.


The Pastel Academy Online


In late April we start our Composition Module.    The current members are looking forward to it and it is an ideal time to join – as the module begins.     So click here to check out how to join the Academy.     Meanwhile please do leave me a comment, and answer this one question;   Did this blog resonate with you?     Have you found that just copying to produce a portrait can often be frustrating because knowing how to compose it properly FROM the photo eludes you?    Have you got files full of old photos and new, taken at some point which you hoped to turn into a good painting? In the new Composition module I am asking members to post a few of those, then we discuss the options and learn.   Join us!

Oh and if you want to know what happened next with the Windermere exercise, remind me in the comments below.    XXH Happy Painting!

6 Months In – A look Inside the Pastel Academy!

6 Months In – A look Inside the Pastel Academy!

Pastel Academy Online

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The Pastel Academy Online Blog

News, Views & Pastel Perspectives

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The Pastel Academy is 6 months old!!!

See what is INSIDE the Pastel academy!!!


Well it has been quite a year!        Exciting, productive and really rewarding.

We launched in May and the first month or two I worked with our Charter Members, who as Beta Testers did a fabulous job testing the site and its functionality;  making sure all the videos worked and all the links went to the right places, as well as being the first to test the admissions procedures, and the enrollemnt processes.   So we had a lot to do and of course,  there were a few gliches to iron out which is exactly why we have a period of Beta Testing.      The Charter members of the Academy are an extremely important  asset to the Academy;  they are also now becoming experts  on the Academy!     One of them is now my highly valued Forum Moderator.

The video below is the first one that new members see as they are admitted to the Academy and is due to be updated in the new year, so I am letting you have a look at it here, because so many people have asked for more information on how the Academy works:


The role of our Fabulous Forum/Gallery]


The Forum is out point of contact.   Not just between members – which it is of course,  but I have also planned the Forum to be the place where I am able to set exercises, and advise and assess your work in progress and on completion.


So it is the beating heart of the Academy!
It is the one aspect of the Academy without which the one to one communication could not exist.   On enrolling all new members are invited to go straight to the Forum and say Hi and see what is happening.   If you miss out on the Forum you are missing out on so much of the benefits of the Academy.

The Forum also boasts a wonderful Gallery feature.     The gallery not only provided us the means for me to post your exercises it is also where you post your results and ask for advice along the way.    The video below is one that members see when they arrive in the Forum – and it will give you an idea of how it works.   (It was made not long after the Academy opened  and refers to the Tonal Value Module which was the Academys first theme.     There are now other themes in the gallery.)

Members were encouraged to post their pre Academy work, which you can see below.

The Members Work

The training pages are the main focus for all new members alongside checking out the Resources section and other information.      Each Core Training Module includes a number of videos dealing with the theme – eg Tonal Values – in Landscape, Aerial Perspective,  portrait, townscape, still life and the ever popular Pastel Swatch exercise which explains how tonal values relate to pastel as a medium.   Included in this module is all the information needed for Graphite (pencil) , charcoal and ink.     These videos are accompanied by PDF’s where applicable.

Gold members take part in SIlver member modules when needed, and can also explore the Gold members Studio,    and check out the Gold Training as it is published.     The Gold training is about artistic development and progression and is an opportunity for Gold members to work within a series of projects in pastel,  some of which will be supplied by me and some which they need to source themselves.

Essentially the Gold training studio is where all serious Silver members will progress too.

Spanish pueblo

Estuary scene – charcoal

Kettle refletion – charcoal

Campo scene – charcoal

white flowers in complimentary colour balance

colours of white

colours of white

colours of white

Cottage in field

Sky -Andalucia

Spanish Archway

Blue pots complimenatray colour

Estuary scene – pastel

Coffee pot still life

Coffee pot still life

Campo scene -pastel

How has the Academy worked for our members?


‘Every thing I hoped for…and more! Heather is a great instructor!’ (Member Cindy Kohler)


It is one thing reading about Tonal Values and Composition,   but it is entirely another when learning through specific exercises!      Once you have assimilated these lessons – you dont look back.

(I have had many email me and say ‘ I dont need the basics – I know all that’,  and I have asked them to send a few pieces they are happy with to me via email.     Not once have I seen a portfolio that would not have benefitted massively by spending some time getting some of the fundamental training under their belt.)

The Basics – use them or ignore them.     They will be the reason your work progresses or the means to trip you up.

Most of the members had never worked in Black and white before – maybe a little sketching but that is all.      The charcoal method I teach was new to them in the main.    Working in graphite sticks and pen was also new to most.       The members loved working through the Tonal values exercises,  and many will continue to work in black and white in future; along with pastel of course.   Some are well up to exhibitable standard in their tonal work.     You can see for youself from the work on this blog.

What the Academy is doing for their painting knowledge and their confidence is wonderful to see.     The Forum has evolved into a fabulously supportive Art Group.  The best part of it?     The way the group have bonded and helped each other – and the wonderful comeraderie that has resulted is something I have never seen in real life class/workshops, because people dont get chance to get to know one another in the same way in real workshops.     The online route is indeed providing the valuable leaning tool I hoped it would be.     Go to the website to see some more testimonials.

‘If you are serious about learning to use pastels correctly and about bettering yourself as an artist, and are willing to learn about the basics which is fundamental to the whole process, then let Heather and the Pastel Academy Online guide you on a roller-coaster of a journey as you discover your “Inner Monet”. We put both the Fun and the Mental into fundamental’.

Fiona Shaw

‘Are you ready to stop playing with pastels and keen to learn how to use them properly? Try the Pastel Academy online. Expect a bit of work, focused firm but fair criticism and a lot of fun.’


‘As a beginner who had fallen in love with pastels, I had been getting frustrated about how little I knew and where to get good instruction. In the Pastel Academy we have been learning foundational principles of art as well as how to apply them to pastels as a medium. It’s fun, it’s hard work and it’s very rewarding.’


“I have been a member for a few months now and have learnt so much, different techniques, tonal values, different mediums and papers, now learning colour theory.

Heather has a wonderful way of teaching that everyone can understand, easy instructions, wonderful constructive feedback and advice. Fantastic reference material and most of all no pressure and lots of fun.”



Plans for the Academy in the New Year!




The Next Academy Theme is COMPOSITION




Learning  Composition through set exercises will give you the tools to turn many or those photos you are not quite happy with into a good and well designed painting.    Composition is the one subject that will develop the amateur artist into the professional.    A little like composing your own music – it makes the singer who sings their own songs be original and inovative.    The same applies in painting.


More to the point – knowing about Compostion will leave you less likely to make massive compositional errors!   And they are easy to avoid if you are taught correctly what they are.   


We will be looking specifically at Landscape, Portrait and Still Life composition .


Gold Level is about Pastel techniques, and is video and project based.  It goes far deeper into the pastel medium but equally works alongside the Core training – the Gold Level training based on project work and demonstrations from me will include training in Portraiture, Still Life and Landscape techniques.   We also have a Gold Level Group thread on the Forum.


There are plans also for an Affiliate scheme for members only to bring other good members into the Academy and in doing so earning a commission.     It is an excellent way to attract the right members and also to earn a good fee.    In some instances members can earn their monthly fees in commission!


So there are many plans for the Academy in 2018, which I will let you know as they arise.

The Academy Pricing will increase in the New Year


At the end of January 2018 the Academy prices will increase, in line with the end of the Beta period.    Of course current members and members who join prior to the increase will pay the current prices.

Also at the moment the Gold Level training will never be cheaper.    Even if you spend some time completing Silver training first as some members have,   it could be a good saving to go for Gold Training at current prices.     (Those members who wish to Upgrade to the Gold level – which is a natural progression – will be able to do that at a discount – prior to the price rise – so if you join now you will doubly benefit.)

So if being a member of the Academy is something you really want to do,  this is the best time to gain access at current prices!    You can even encourage your loved ones to treet you to an Academy Gift Certificate!   (see below)  To go to the Join Up page Click here.

Our Academy Gift Certificates


Have you got someone you would love to gift a Year’s membership to the Academy?  Or do you want to receive a Year’s membership for a very special Christmas or Birthday Gift??       Of course you would!!     I wish someone had done that for me so many years ago!

Your certificate is sent to you by email in high resolution Jpeg format for you to print off.   They can be actioned at any point the recipient wishes to begin within 6 months.

For prices and how to order click here

One way or another 2018 is going to be a busy year for the Academy – and could be a really artistically productive year for you too!

Beta Testing is on the way!  We launch on 31st May!!!

Beta Testing is on the way! We launch on 31st May!!!

The Pastel Academy Launches on 29th May!!

Special EARLY BIRD Launch Announcement especially for people on this list – you guys have been with me since this journey began.

The Early Bird discount is for 10% discount off any of the membership levels – Silver or Gold, monthly or annual.    It is an offer in recognition for your support and encouragement over the past 20 months, and is my way of saying thank you for that support!


I know from  your mails and comments on the blogs that many of you are keen to join and to learn.  Some of you want to learn or refresh the all important basics.    Some are keen to learn more techniques and/or a new subject area.    One thing we all agree,   what you want more than anything is to be the very best artist you can be.

This is a recent testimonial from Beta member :    

Having been a beta tester on the academy and have helped work out some of the clinches that you get with every new website.  I have found it to be a well thought out and precise working site, I am a fairly knowledgeable using pastels however, I learnt a lot more from watching the videos and following the instructional worksheets, they are easy to follow and explained in everyday terms.

This is going to be a wonderful learning website for beginners and pastelists that are further advanced, I do believe anyone investing their time and affect will benefit tremendously and finish with a worthwhile smile on their face.

I do recommend anyone to join and enjoy the teaching lessons of Heather Harman BA Hons and to tap into her knowledge and experience as a pastelist artist.’

Les Gaston-Johnston

(other testimonials can be found on the Home page of the Academy.)

Check out the Sneak Peak video below:

So what makes the Academy so special?


Well for one thing it is a one stop tuition environment.   Everything is here.  Not just pastel expertese from a pastel professional, but also the fundamental basic principles of painting; not often to be found outside a college course.   So in that respect alone it is a ‘one off’ opportunity.

In addition there is a resource library, a pastels manufacturers directory and a mail order directory!   There will also be a direct link through to Jacksons Mail Order where I have negotiated a 10% discount for all academy members on your purchases!    That plus special items from manufacturers for our Academy Prizes!

But that is not all.   Inevitably what will make this Academy special is the artists that join us, and how much they will learn in the process.   As a dedicated tutor that is my motivation.

There are even Gift Subscriptions you might talk a loved one into buying for you!!

Future Plans for the Academy



It is in its infancy, and is growing both in content and members – which are performing the beta function at the moment; testing all areas!    It has been fun.

With regards to the membership; one question I am often asked is how many members do I want to attract?     The answer simply is,  I do not  have a true idea.   I prefer the idea of the Academy growing steadily rather than a heavy influx of members all at once!   But I dont know and I am prepared for whatever happens.     What I want is to attract the right members – those who will benefit from the Academy and will be a benefit to the Academy.    It is like a private club.  You have to be a member to take part, but members take part in different ways, but that is the true benefit of such a membership;  like minded individuals who are also supporting each other.    Like any educational ‘system’,  people, especially creative people, learn in different ways..    But luckily I have over 25 years art tuition experience.

One aspect that many of you have noticed and mentioned to me already is the Platinum membership.   It isn’t up and running yet, for good reason;  I shall be mentoring many new and experienced pastelists, and a proportion of them are gong to want to ‘go professional’ and the Platinum level is for those who want to know more of the business end of being an artist.  There will also be a proportion who want to become the future noted pastel teachers – and that is my reason for planning the Platinum level training.

Also there will be competitions and challenges planned regularly, for which I am curretly working on an online gallery function.

So there is a lot happening – but the main take away for me is the opportunity to pass on my skills to a truely motivated audience.

So is your artistic future and Pastel’s future sharing the same destiny?



And so now – with the opening of the Academy just around the next corner,  I am asking you;   Are you going to join me on this journey into a new artistic life?

This is the thing.   I can pass on everything I know and you can have your part to play in the ongoing history of this fabulous medium.      If you go on to do that, all the years I have spent dedicated to the pastel medium will have been all the more worthwhile.  And pastel will have a bunch of artists who will take it into the future – with a good education!

Are you with me on this?   If yes, I will see you in the Academy!

The next time I write an Academy Blog – it will in fact be open!


Make use of your Early Bird discount!!


Click here to join the Pastel Academy Online

Meanwhile – check out this Academy Launch competition.






6 Months In – A look Inside the Pastel Academy!

The Pastel Academy -It’s Greatest Responsibility

Pastel Academy Online


The Pastel Academy Blog



The Pastel Academy Online Blog

News, Views & Pastel Perspectives

Manufacturers Updates

The Pastel Academy –

Its Greatest Responsibility


I received two emails in the last few weeks (one from the UK and one from Capetown , South Africa)  which touched  on the same subject;

Is the Academy for someone who uses photographs for their work (in portraiture)?  

The thing is I can understand the question.  Why? Because how many art courses in a college or university can you name that works from photos?  The Royal Academy sure didn’t last time I looked.

So let me explain something now:    

The Pastel Academy is specifically for those who use photography for whatever reason, first and foremost!

But – But I wish I knew then what I know now!

Let me tell you why:

As an artist I ‘use’ photography.  Over the years as a portrait painter, much of the work being posthumous,  photography was crucial to my earning a living.  It was also crucial to my growth and development as an artist.     Another part of my portrait work was for various PR and recording companies in the UK and USA , and my subjects were famous to say the least (as were many of my personal portrait clients).   Musicians, actors, comedians, TV personalities – I painted very many.      Photography was crucial; and some of it was old creased , tiny black and white shots, of treasured loved ones departed.   Others were amazing publicity shots of major stars. The difference between chalk and cheese in quality.    I was in at the deep end with photography.

I did realise early on that the results I got from good photos were better than that the results I got from poor photos.     I eventually learned how to produce equally good work from poor and good photography.

So how did I handle it?   How did I manage to produce consistent results, that have always pleased my clients?

The light bulb moment – I was asked to teach


Well with hindsight I know when the turning point came in my art career – and it stepped up many notches in one leap.     I was approached to teach local educational authority classes.   But not in portraiture – in landscape.   The reasoning was simple they told me; it is easier to learn for beginners.        Well in fact that is perhaps true, but my experience in landscape was not as strong as in portraiture for sure.   So I was determined to get down to business and learn.    That was back in 1988.   Today I thank heavens for that moment.

It is learning about how to paint landscape that boosted my portraiture work to another level altogether.   And what I didn’t expect as a respected and passionate portrait painter was to find I was not only enjoying it, I was getting my eyes opened to a lot of things for the first time.    The world of nature, and the miracle of ‘light’.

It was some time afterwards I was able to look back and say – I was developing my Artist’s Eye.

Now why is that?  How does that work?   Well like I said at the time I didn’t even realise or even question it.  But I knew I was on a ‘journey’.

Portraiture can lead you along a very narrow path – it’s amazing the stuff it doesn’t teach you.


When you, as an artist, look at a photo of a face you are not usually faced with issues like tonal values,  colour theory, and perspective; especially if you don’t know, what they mean, or could mean, to that photo you are holding in your hand.  Some would say composition is not normally an issue either.    When producing a portrait, the photo tends to dictate the rules.   The photo is where the details come from too.  And you need a photo that is good enough to see those details.   And of course not too many artists do what I did and take life classes and work from the live model too.     For one thing, live classes are not often available outside the major cities.

Did I realise this as a portrait painter?   Not at first no.

However, there did come a time when I wished I could alter this or that about the photo;  extend this or change the colour of some things, and I would experiment.  The results were sometimes good and sometimes not so good!

Why is this so Important to ……..

This?    The lessons of Tonal Values are crucial.

And lets not forget drawing


And also let us address the elephant in the room right now – many portraits are now traced in some form or another and you don’t get to learn to draw well by tracing.   It is a convenient tool though for many to get on with the stuff many artists ‘think’ are more important – techniques.

For some time I thought ‘techniques’ were what it was all about.   Why?  Because they made my work look sleeker?   Something along those lines?  They made it look ‘professional’?   So  I studied various artists (Great masters) techniques,  but  I never did ‘ trace’ in any form,  so my drawing was always on point when needed.      I had been drawing since early childhood.  And when I started in portraiture my work was fairly large!   (Tracing paper didn’t come in those sizes I’m sure back in the 60’s!)        Drawing was something I loved, and still do, which is why I love pastel more than any other medium.

In fact, the first portrait I ever did was taken straight from a TV screen in the 60’s.   There were no videos back then and I had no way of ever knowing if I would ever see the face again in photos (which I eventually did – he became very famous).   A quick impression from the TV screen was my beginning. (I am currently writing about this for a book).

My first landscape – Oh Dear.


It was OK.   Just.  I copied it from a photograph.     But what was on the photo,   went into my painting.  No question; if the lamp     post was on that photo, I added it, if I needed it or not.      It wasn’t long before I saw a couple of other problems.        Where as my portraiture was full of life, my landscapes were dull and ‘dead’.     I wasn’t happy.   No amount of technique in pastel was helping me out here!

I was going to be teaching landscape, and I had to learn and quickly.   I was largely house bound with a young family and I turned to the Great Masters,  and studied.   I had a lot of books.   Those I didn’t have I got from the library.   I eventually took a History of Art, G.C.E.  ‘A’ level at my local college and I learnt.  To be honest I enjoyed it because of my practical experience to that date, it was a bit like joining the missing dots in my knowledge and understanding.

And I learned along the way that the stuff I didn’t know in landscape, was the stuff I didn’t know in portraiture either! 

Wow that was a big learning moment.     And then I learnt that artists I admired all seemed to know and/ or were taught (and that is the biggie) how to plan their work.

How to Plan my Work?    Really?


So it came down to two choices; continue to copy photos and paint portraits, or to learn what artists are taught and have been taught in apprentice programmes throughout the ages, the core principles of painting:    composition, tonal values, colour theory and perspective (the main ones).

One way or another, having had my eyes opened to what was possible, I could never go back.  It was the road to development or nothing.

Some years down the tuition line, I learnt from my students too.    Now I always start a new artist off in simple landscape and with the core principles of painting.    I have taught them portraiture too.     When the public attend an exhibition of my students’ work they see a whole different type of show to that of many local society or even national society shows in the UK.      Anyone with the slightest training in art will see when a painting has just been copied from a photo; warts and all.   It is often heart breaking to see such great use in techniques of a medium like pastel, but some or all of the basic fundamental principles of painting have not been understood by the artist.

Yes, I have been known to approach the artist and ask them to consider coming on one of my courses.    And many have and thanked me for it.     But I cannot stand to see talent wasting itself.

Do you know the value of one of these?

And why is this so Important?

My mission in the Academy

My mission is to do what I wanted someone to do for me back when I was a slave to photography.    I wanted someone to:

Show me how to do it better; do it properly; not waste time.

Teach me how to ‘use’ the photo, but make massive improvements to the portrait.

Teach me about composition in landscape and portraiture.

Teach me how to bring life into my paintings.

Teach me about colour, and how to design my paintings around a colour theme.

Teach me what I need to know to produce great backgrounds to my portraits.

Teach me how to understand simple perspective – to put people in my landscapes and get my roof lines right.

Teach me how to work outside in a meadow full of wild flowers, and produce something great.

Teach me everything and show me how to be good enough to teach others.

But above all how to ‘conquer’ photography, and make it work better for me.  Because so many artists reading this right now are also at home or struggling to fit art into their busy lives and need what I needed back then.  And many are women bringing up young  families just like I was back then.

(By the way how many more things can you add to that list?)

On to the Big Plan

It took me many years to learn how to ‘use’ photography to the greater benefit of my work.  It was vital that I did learn and it is equally as vital to you if you wish to take your art seriously.    And I know that many of you do.    What I have learned I will pass on to you because my mission is to make sure that the future of pastel goes forward in a healthier state and with a great deal more respect than when I started in the medium as a teenager.   And now I have the ideal vehicle to do it:

Which is of course – The Pastel Academy Online.

It has been a mission for me.    But make no mistake it is worthwhile because there is nothing else online, quite like it in ANY medium, let alone pastel.   And I can tell you now that I have had enquiries from artists in other mediums , and artists who have never even used pastel, who are interested in joining the Academy so as to be able to access the Core training in the Basic fundamental principles of painting.

In the next blog I send out at the end  of the month, I shall outline in more detail how the Academy works and its pricing structure.   So watch out for the next blog!

Meanwhile please do leave me a comment, and answer this one question;   Did this blog resonate with you?  In other words, do you see yourself in the story about my artistic growth?

The Pastel Academy  – and How it will Benefit you.

The Pastel Academy – and How it will Benefit you.

Pastel Academy Online



The Pastel Academy Blog




The Pastel Academy Online Blog



News, Views & Pastel Perspectives

Manufacturers Updates

The Academy Journey.  

It has been a little like writing 5 books and producing dozens of mini movies and slide shows all at the same time!


I hadn’t looked at it that way until an artist/author friend visited recently and asked what it was that was taking all my time!   We both added it all up and it came as no surprise to me that it had been a lot of work.  Now if I had thought about that before starting on this journey I might never have started!.

The biggest challenge was conquering the computer based learning, the filming and editing and above all learning the skills needed to build the Academy website, and I needed to develop those skills because I live up a Spanish Mountain and web developers are pretty unheard of up here. In short, I compare this journey to having a baby!   And it is due to be born pretty soon. I have been grateful for your feedback to keep me on track and focused, because I know the benefits of the Academy will be many.

The first one will be the content and the sheer amount of fundamental painting knowledge that I am putting in the Academy.   I have done some research into what is available out there and what I am packing into the Academy is not out there

So here is a list:

Pastel the Basics,   Composition, Tonal Values, Perspective, Colour theory, Sketching, Beginners drawing (in planning stages),  and (Portrait Drawing in planning stages).

In addition there is a resource library, a pastels manufacturers directory and a mail order directory!

There will also be a direct link through to Jacksons Mail Order where I have negotiated a 10% discount for all academy members on your purchases!    That plus special items from manufacturers for our Academy Prizes!

Check out the Sneak Peak video below:


Art Education is becoming more expensive; sad but true


But – thanks to the internet I am able to offer you a great learning experience for a fraction of the price!  

The cost of being on a BA painting course however is not just the main obstacle for many.  It does run into thousands of pounds and is a luxury for many unless you are going to be working as an artist or int he ‘arts’.  Even then it rarely speaks to the artists who wants to be a representational painter, and most of you do.

The Academy Is taking me time; the past 20 months in fact to date to get it off the ground (online!)  and yes it has cost because I have had to dedicate time to it – massively, and I have had to turn down work to continue.  But I don’t do anything by halves!

It will take you time.   But not as much as it took me to learn it.   I will be passing on years of learning here, in the most effective way I possibly can, and finding the right way to do that has kept me awake many a night.

But the main value for many will be in it’s convenience!      You are learning from home!   No additional costs.    Workshops with professional and reputable artists are few and far between – depending on where you live.  But it is amazing how much the cost of those mount up – for the course or workshop fees, travelling expenses and often accommodation too.  Not too many people can afford the time to travel either.     But what I love is the fact that the academy will offer those of you who are home bound a fair chance of learning.


Is the Academy a Quick Fix?


It will cost you time – time which I hope you will be happy to spend, and it has its cost of fees too.  But it will be fun and profitable!

All worthwhile education costs in one way or another.  We can learn so much on our own but there does come a time when you realise that your art is, or is not, a fundamental part of ‘you’.   For many of you it might be a pastime, that you enjoy, but for others it is your creativity which is massively important to you.   Do you  feel unfulfilled without it?     Well you need to put some time and resources to one side for YOU.    YOUR time and YOUR space.   Invest in YOURSELF and it will pay dividends.

Some of you might even realise now that with a bit of help you could be so much better, and you really want to make a good living out of your art.   (In which case be careful the teacher you choose.   SO many just teach you to copy from photographs and little if anything  else .    You can do that yourself. )   Maybe they will teach you the techniques of just one painting.    Then you feel upset and frustrated when trying to apply them to another painting.

Some of you might wish to be a great (not just a good) art teacher.   Whichever you might be, the fact remains,  YOU are worth investing in.   Investing in your creative development as an artist, for whatever you reason, is to invest in ‘you’.    And you are worth it.   And that time spent should be precious to you.

My Facebook group, and a starting point


So when I opened the Pastel Artists UK Facebook group, I knew the people I was trying to reach.  The group runs as a support and advice group for pastelists and is out there as one group which is different for that reason.

The thing is of course a Facebook group can only do so much.   In many cases as I see questions asked , and responses given from the wonderful community we have built, we are only papering over the cracks of the knowledge needed to truly progress and grow.

Meanwhile I was in a position of being able to run a couple of live courses, or painting holidays a year, and write a few articles for the art press, and maybe add a couple of commissions into the mix and I had a really good living.   Along with a growing degree of professional respect and reputation.  A lucky place to be you might say?    But I wasn’t happy about the state of pastel tuition.

And so now – with the opening of the Academy just around the next corner,  I am asking you;   Are you going to join me on this journey into a new artistic life?

The Reputation of Pastel – will be in your hands.


This is the thing.   I can pass on everything I know and you can have you part to play in the ongoing history of this fabulous medium.      If you go on to do that, all the years I have spent dedicated to the pastel medium will have been all the more worthwhile.  And pastel will have a bunch of artists which will take it into the future – with a good education!

Are you with me on this?


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