Struggling to start your next artwork? You are not alone.

I’ve found the best advice is to keep it simple. I am lucky enough to live in Dorset which is full of inspirational views. There are so many views and places that it can often be overwhelming. 

You may ask yourself, what will make a beautiful view or subject? Most recently, I’ve tried to simplify my process, so that I avoid wasting time. If I am out for a walk and the light is just right, I challenge myself to take a few notes, make a quick sketch and capture more information using my camera phone. Later, I use this as the inspiration for a colour study. It might work or it might not but I know I always learn from the experience, either way.

Struggling to start your next artwork? You are not alone. 2

My latest study provided the perfect opportunity to create a demo for Unison Colour. River walks are some of my favourite views. I love a peaceful meandering river and the wildlife it attracts. I am lucky enough to see kingfishers, otters and egrets as part of my walks along the River Stour, Dorset. It’s a peaceful time away from screens and a chance to reconnect with nature and allow my thoughts to wander creatively. I find my best ideas come from my favourite walks. 

Struggling to start your next artwork? You are not alone. 3

I hope that my workshops encourage you to look for inspiration locally, giving you opportunity to see your local views with fresh eyes and making the ordinary extraordinary.

My students often find they struggle for time. Juggling life and art can be a tricky balance. “Little and often” is a very good approach to your art practice. Working in a small sketchbook keeps your eye in and can be inspiration for larger works of art. Keeping your art kit in order means that when you have time, you will be able take advantage easily.

Struggling to start your next artwork? You are not alone. 4

Getting your art kit ready is as important as doing the artwork. I recommend selecting your colours ahead of starting my workshops, selecting your colours ahead of starting and keeping them stored in a pot. I have a little back pack that is always packed with my art kit, ready for a creative day out with my flask of tea. That way you are always ready to grab some time for happy pastelling.



I emphasise developing a working practice to my students. I help them develop a process that they can follow to enable them to find their own artistic voice. The secret to success is planning. The work that goes in before the pastel hits the paper. Most important, is your choice of subject. I think it’s important to develop your unique themes. What makes you happy? Is it a favourite place, walk or view. Are you a sea person or a mountain person, animals or townscapes? Start to create your own reference images using your own photos and sketches. You’ll find that your artwork develops to new levels from this authentic approach. Your minds eye will have captured so much more information you will imagine it has. All of that and more will be in your artworks which you will use alongside sketches and photos.


A smaller scale and using a scrap of paper means I can be freer with my marks and explore colour too. I think of it like a, ‘getting to know you’ sketch, a chance to explore the image a little before starting the final artwork.

This preparation is essential, choose your colours carefully. If the colours look good together ahead of starting, they’ll make a gorgeous artwork. This process means I keep my colours clean and luminous rather than grabbing too many colours and creating a muddy mess. For my river walks colour study, I emphasised the warm colour of golden hour and played with the light on the water. The colour study inspired me to work it through to a larger size. I knew it would be the ideal scene to demonstrate some of my favourite soft pastel painting techniques. I hope that by sharing these views, I inspire my students to see their own views with new enthusiasm.


It’s so important to take a break and come back to your artwork with fresh eyes. Boil that kettle and savour your artwork over a favourite brew or even tipple. Especially after the initial drawing out stage. You’ll be able to spot areas in your artwork that need a tweak or something that’s distracting or just in the wrong place with ‘fresh eyes’ when you return. It’s also helpful to turn artworks and reference images upside down, and then compare. This new way of seeing your artwork will help you compare angles, shapes and proportions much more effectively. It’s also important to remember, taking regular breaks avoids eye strain and neck and arm aches and pains that are all too often forgotten.

If you take away one tip, “Little and often” is a good approach to your art practice. Oh and the reassurance that if life does get busy, your pastels will be ready when you are for more happy pastelling.

Nina Squire

River Walks with Nina Squire 1

River Walks with Nina Squire

Nina inspires you to capture moments from local walks and bring them to your paintings over 50 minutes of high quality video.

An in-depth pastel tutorial where Nina inspires you to capture moments from local walks and bring them to your paintings.

#thepastel8 Visit to Thorneyburn

A fabulous day was spent at Thorneyburn last Friday in the company of Fiona Carvell, Michelle Lucking, Nina Squire, Cathy Pierce, Lynn Howarth, Meral Altilar, Lucy Brangwin and Rebecca de Mendonça.

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Lifelong Learner

For most of my life I assumed art was not for me, obviously I tried it at school, but I was never that good.

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8 Responses

  1. Very good article from Nina… I teach and talk about all the same things. It is always good to read another artist’s words. Thank you… and I do subscribe to your newsletter and enjoy your pastels. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you. Soft pastels give you so much flexibility to dip in and out, without worrying about a drying brush or wasted paint. I love using them in my sketchbook too. It’s such a versatile media.

  2. Interesting ideas here that artists can try to kick start their creative muse.
    I have been using Instagram and looking at pastels, watercolors, various artists and their work. I would definitely agree with Nina that my morning walks are a great source of inspiration for me too.

  3. Really enjoyed your Blog, Nina, it got me fired up to get my plein air kit organised! Loving the look of your River Walk tutorial – thinking I might apply it to a canal view as I don’t have any rivers nearby!

    1. Thanks Jill, looking forward to seeing it, a pastel sort out is the perfect way to get your mojo all fired up. A canal view would be a perfect way to explore the skills you’ll learn, do share your artwork in the community, we love to see them. Nina

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