From the Archives: The Power of Art

After a month of news that has inlcuded tragic events in Paris and Beirut, and most recently in Colorado Springs, as well as ongoing stories of struggle and suffering around the world, I was reminded of a Pastel Pointers post that Richard McKinley wrote in December of 2012, just days after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. I think his powerful words are worth sharing again as a reminder of the importance of art as a means not just for coping on a personal level but also for sharing the power of the creative imagination to restore hope and to imagine new possibilites for humanity.  — Anne Hevener

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The Journey (pastel, 12×19) by Richard McKinley

 

 

Why We Paint: Since prehistoric times, humans have manifested the desire to express emotion and thought through artistic forms. Often this is done solely for personal enjoyment, but frequently it serves a bigger purpose by communicating personal feelings to other human beings. This desire to be heard, and hopefully understood, has led to the formation of language, the invention of a written alphabet, the arrangement of sound into music, and the placement of pigment upon a painting surface.

When we seek to display our artistic efforts publicly, it requires a level of craftsmanship and technical mastery of the chosen medium: Otherwise, gibberish and nonsense will be the outcome, resulting in a failure to communicate. Since all of us are the sum total of our experiences and no two of us see and hear things in quite the same way, our artistic expressions will either be cheered or jeered depending upon the audience. This leads most artists to pursue study and practice throughout their artistic lifetimes. As important as this educational focus may be, it’s imperative that we be reminded of the reason why we paint.

The Therapeutic Power of Art: Many years ago, I was fortunate to be part of a professional group of artists who were having a discussion, after a long day of en plein air painting, on why we painted. As the discussion traveled around the table, many practical and philosophical reasons were shared. One comment, though, has always stood out and had a profound effect on my own personal perspective. The artist stated: “The day I realized that no matter if I never sold another painting, never got into another exhibition, or never won another prize, I would still paint. That is the day I really started painting.” This simple statement pointed out that as much as the physical body requires certain nutrients to survive, so does the human soul. Painting, just like many of the arts, is therapeutic. It provides a conduit to emotional release. This is well demonstrated in how painting is being utilized today as a means of therapy and rehabilitation for traumatized individuals, such as soldiers returning from war.

As the United States mourns the tragic events of the past week, I am again reminded of the therapeutic qualities the arts provide. Orators will speak, authors will write, musicians will play, and artists will paint. Personally, I have no answers. There are no words I can find that are capable of communicating the profound grief I feel for the loved ones of those lost. All I can do is add a voice to the chorus by allowing my emotions to flow through my painting. I encourage all of you to do the same. It feeds our collective soul.

 

 

MORE RESOURCES FOR PASTEL ARTISTS

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