Pastel Pointers | Forever a Student


Students watching a demonstration. Photo courtesy of Sherry Rhyno, Cape Cod, Mass., 2010.

Recently I ran across a famous quote from author George Iles: “Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.”

This got me to thinking: What does it mean to be a student? The dictionary definition states that a student is “a person involved in study at a school or college, usually in pursuit of a particular profession.” It also denotes “a person who takes a passionate interest in a particular subject.” The “student” then is “one who applies oneself to study, often with painstaking application.”

As students of pastel painting, or painting in general, we are fortunate to be living during a time when information is so readily available. Art-related books and magazines are expanding their offerings continually. Thirty years ago, many of us would never have dreamed that there would be a magazine devoted to pastel. Thankfully, after more than 10 years of publication, The Pastel Journal, is still going strong under the current leadership of F+W Media. And now, many art books and magazines are being offered in digital formats as well, making it convenient to search for specific content and to carry complete libraries of information on a digital media reader.

Websites, blogs and social networking sites make it easy to stay connected with other painters. Sites like ArtistsNetwork.comWetcanvas and Facebook are places where we can often go to find answers to technical as well as philosophical questions, and a continual flow of inspiration.

The relative ease of modern travel has opened up doors of opportunity to experience workshops in exotic locations with many of today’s most popular instructors. These workshops often unite both subject matter exploration and technical study from artists we admire (the workshop listing section of The Pastel Journal magazine is a great resource as to what is being offered). Pastel societies frequently offer their membership free opportunities to see live demonstrations. Every two years, the International Association of Pastel Societies has its international convention bringing all the member societies together in one location for days of events. Numerous workshops and demonstrations, as well as a trade show, highlight the event. It is a continual learning experience and much-anticipated event for the pastelist. For more information, visit their website:

When we embrace the mantel of student, we embrace the never-ending humility that there is always something more to learn, whether it is in the craft of physically applying pigment to a surface, or in the pursuit of a heightened sensitivity to our surrounding world and what we want to communicate with our artwork. No matter how successful we might become, a sensitive painter will always be the inquisitive student in pursuit of more. Instead of feeling isolated, go ahead and partake from the smorgasbord of offerings being afforded today. Remember though, there will be no graduation ceremony!


Richard McKinley on DVD

Watch art workshops on demand at ArtistsNetwork.TV

Online seminars for fine artists

Get a copy of Pastel Pointers, the book!


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2 thoughts on “Pastel Pointers | Forever a Student

  1. Robert Sloan

    Great post! Thank you for posting this. When people tell me they love my art or think of me as an expert that can do everything, that’s what I tell them. I’m still learning. I paint better than I used to and not as well as I will.

    It’s inspiring. Every now and then something comes along that completely changes how I look at the world and how I paint. Everything I did before it seems flawed, but the joy of that discovery is a high nothing else can match. A couple of years ago it was a class on Still Life the Colourful Way on, with Charlotte Herczfeld – I finally understood how to get the intense spectrum colors to work together in a painting and look true, how to get the saturated, joyous light that my favorite impressionists did.

    Today it’s the wonderful online classes from Johannes Vloothuis that I’ll be attending starting January 29th. He did some free classes in December and some weekend videos that already gave me that sudden change in perception and understanding, so I’m looking forward to the class like I’m about to start grad school.

    You’re right. There’s no graduation ceremony. There’s only the joy of learning and applying what you learned, deeper and richer at every round.