A Season of Introspection | Painting the Winter Season in Pastel

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” —Andrew Wyeth

Having easy access to the irrigation canals that still honeycomb the valley in southern Oregon where I live allows me to visit them throughout the year. Even when there is no time for a quick drawing or field sketch painting, I will take a drive past them for inspiration and often stop for a little walk along their banks or just quietly stand in observation.

Every season of the year provides a degree of inspiration. Spring has its enthusiastic touches of chartreuse; summer its contented fullness of flora; and fall its melancholy golden touches. But the quietness of winter, with the bare bones of the trees and tones of exposed earth, has become one of my favorites.

Pastel is a perfect medium for the portrayal of these scenes. The earthen tones so often associated with winter are easily accessible within any pastel palette and the ability of pastel, due to its dry stick like formation, to expressively indicate texture, affords the pastelist a freedom of expression not easily obtained with other wet media.

Winter Introspection (16x12) by Richard McKinley

Winter Introspection (16×12) by Richard McKinley


As someone who typically seeks the intensity of a brightly lit summer day and its rewards of long hours of daylight, it has always been somewhat of a mystery as to why I prefer the local irrigation canals in winter. When I venture out for a day of plein air work, I hope for the exuberance of summer. The warmth of the day frees my hand to express the sensitive tactile swipes of pastel or paint that it desires. My energy is boosted and it grants me the fortitude to wage the battle that location painting can often be. But when I work in the studio during winter, a lot of the work manifests a melancholy tone. Maybe it is my Scottish heritage, an ancestry rooted in gray wetlands and moors, or just an introspective nature that pushes me in this direction when cloistered away in my studio. Whatever it is, the inclination is there and I have learned not to resist it. Having access to the winter-themed canals of the Rogue River Valley has become my muse during this season of renewal.

I personally want to wish everyone the best of the holiday season no matter how you choose to celebrate it. As you surround yourselves with loved ones and partake in the cheer often associated with this festive time of year, I want to extend my thanks for the many benefits I have received from the pastel community. I hope in my meager way I have given back in kind and look forward to what 2015 has to offer all of us that love the dry medium. Collectively, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to editor Anne Hevener of Pastel Journal magazine and all of the F+W Media team that continue to support and believe in the merits of pastel. Best of the Season and Happy New Year!




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