Taking an Online Soft Pastel Workshop

Like most of us, these last few months have meant lots of changes to the way I work. One of my unexpected confessions is that I am now a big fan of Online Art Teaching!

Of course, I love the bustle of a traditional art class and you can’t beat a natter over lunch but here’s some of the advantages that I have found which might inspire you to have a go.

  • When people are accessing my pre-recorded art sessions, they are doing so from the comfort of their own homes. They are relaxed and in surroundings they know and that feeling of ‘relaxed-ness’ is so important in creating a good learning experience. I know how nervous a new attendee is and settling in takes time. There is no time pressure, you can take it at your pace.
  • Watching me work in pastels, step by step, allows you to see how I apply soft pastels in detail, real time allows me to chat though tips as I work and it’s as close to a one to one workshop as you can get.
  • You’ll hear my pastel tips and as I have created a soft pastel real time video especially for beginners, you’ll have an experience which I’ve designed especially, and I know you’ll enjoy.
Nina's Bournemouth beach painting.
My favourite beach walks are my inspiration for workshops, meaning you can have a virtual holiday whilst learning your new skill.

The feedback has been enthusiastic, from admitting that they found an art class daunting to saying it helped to be able to stop and repeat sections. Accessing my Soft Pastel Drawing and Painting Online Videos and especially, ‘Soft Pastel, An Introduction for Beginners’, has created opportunities for people who couldn’t usually access an art class to enjoy a new way of learning. My newly created Facebook Community, Art Online, has been growing and that has been where we have shown support for people’s newfound skills and I know how important they have found that encouragement too.

It’s helped my teaching too, watching my demos back, I can see how many times I am able to know intuitively what colour needs to go where and how the finest sparkles can make all the difference. I have taken more time to add those details into workshops, important soft pastel drawing tips and exciting techniques to paint in soft pastel. Those tiny tips to create small areas of interest within a painting are so subtle but take years to master, watching these happen in real time is a real accelerator for a student’s learning. I know this because I am constantly so amazed with the results of my new students and so encouraged by their positive feedback.

Beach painting by Nina Squire.
Seascapes are forgiving subjects, waves and clouds take many forms, unlike buildings with unforgiving straight lines and perspective.

Investing in your new soft pastel hobby as an absolute beginner

What are the best pastels for a beginner?

Art is a brilliant escape and I have loved watching people flourish through learning a new skill and enjoy exploring soft pastels. As an Art Tutor I want people to have the best possible experience, I know that previously by providing my own good quality art materials for my new attendees meant that they have a positive experience. This means that they enjoy and progress quickly rather than struggling with poor quality materials.

Accessing art remotely means I cannot do that, so how do I ensure that you have a good experience? It is so hard to justify spending money on yourself, especially when we all need to stretch pennies so far. Here are my best efforts to explain why it is always worth buying the materials an art tutor advises.

I have spent most of my life working with soft pastels, I know the characteristics of different brands and don’t hesitate when buying good quality materials because I know it’s worth it. I have drawers full of them.

Nina's chest of wooden drawers in which she stores her Unison Colour pastels.
I love to buy aesthetically pleasing storage.

To a beginner, it feels like a huge financial commitment but poor-quality materials are frustrating and a limited pallet of colours or unknowingly buying pastels that have less pigment in will lead to disappointments. I know this through experience and it’s why I only buy good quality materials. Investing in a good base set of colours will help your skills progress because you are going to find that they behave in a rewarding way. Your colour pallet will grow with you, you will want to extend colours in the subjects you want to paint as you progress you can add to that base set.  Colours will mix together on the pastel papers you are working on. They will be more vibrant because the colours have quality pigments in them.

I find it easier to make this comparison: if I wanted to walk to the top of a mountain to enjoy the view. Investing in the right footwear to make it the most comfortable experience would be obvious and your first investment. Art materials are similar, if you want to enjoy your experience and enjoy the views, then spending money on the materials is the best investment you can make. If you are interested enough to try a session, I think you’re going to find that you want to do more, so these first steps are just part of a longer creative journey and that way, the investment seems less daunting.

Nina's Studland Beach pastel painting.
Studland Beach makes the perfect view for a beach walk.

My next piece of advice would be to try sanded pastel cards; they are a revelation! Firstly, the pastel stays on it and then you can build and mix layers of colour. The traditional papers are a great start but additionally on one of my face to face taster days, I supply sanded card because I know it gives a better experience for a beginner.

I send out a ‘top tips’ document alongside a workshop and I recommend getting a desktop easel, that way the pastel dust falls down the page meaning that you do not get in such a mess. Having the right equipment will mean that your dabble in art becomes a blissful escape rather than a fleeting one off.

I am proud to be a Unison Colour Associate Artist because I know that we share a passion for quality pastels and sharing that with other people. I have found soft pastels to be a fabulous escape, I can transport myself to a view through creating it on my easel. My online workshops are inspired by ‘views I’d like to be in’. I hope that you will enjoy one of my online workshops like a virtual holiday. Your resulting artwork is then like a window into that view for you to enjoy wherever you are.

Happy ‘Pastelling’.


#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.

Associate Artist Recruitment

Are you a pastel artist? Do you use Unison Colour pastels? Would you like to be part of our Associate Artist family?

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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10 responses

  1. Глубочайшие знания, великолепная техника, талант, -все это даёт превосходный результат. Нина замечательный художник! Юнисон отличная пастель! Жаль, что я пока не дома, моя сестра заболела. Надеюсь, скоро добавятся новые работы по моим фотографиям!

    1. Так скажите, чтобы услышать, что ваша сестра больна. Желаю вам всего наилучшего в ее выздоровлении. С нетерпением жду ваших работ, когда у вас будет больше времени. Я очень признателен за ваши добрые комментарии о моей работе, спасибо. Счастливой пастели. Нина

  2. I agree with all your points and would add that your workshops have something for beginners, experienced and like myself, returning artist’s after many years being caught up in other things. Finding Unison Colour was a revelation to me. I used to work in oils and pastels, but after taking one of your workshops I realised that underpainting and the colour saturation of Unison pastels, meant I could combine what, (for me), had been two very different methods of painting. At the moment I love the medium so much I am not working in oils anymore. I worked along in real time with you and it gave me the confidence to begin showing and selling my art again.

    1. Thank you for your lovely feedback, I am so happy you enjoyed my art workshops and they have encouraged you to do more. The fact that the workshops are recorded mean that anyone can work at a pace that suits them. I agree, pastels are so versatile and Unisons are just so luscious, they do compare to working in oils. Happy Pastelling. Nina

  3. I am an artist who has benefited hugely from you workshops Nina – your manner and knowledge means that artists of all levels learn something to add to their artistic armoury. xxx

    1. Thank you, I have enjoyed our Unison community and meeting new artists from all corners of the world. It been lovely to have you on my workshops, I always enjoy seeing your artworks, I’m so happy you are enjoying them. Happy Pastelling x

  4. Hi Nina,

    I was just wondering if you did ‘one off’ on line classes that can be accessed – would like to consider buying a lesson for a friend on seascapes. If it is impossible to do a one off lesson, or access a pre-filmed one how ,how much would this be?

    Thank you

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. Yes, I do sell gift vouchers for my online workshops.


      I can send you a digital voucher so that you have something to gift on the day.
      Your recipient can then choose the online workshop that they would like to join.
      There are a collection of recorded workshops from this year.
      I have a new spring series starting in January.


      With very Best wishes.

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