Follow-Up Q&A

Shortly after the “Keeping Records of Your Paintings” blog was posted a few weeks ago, questions starting arriving concerning information on the back of the painting pictured there. The inquiries concerned: how my coding system worked; what tape I used to seal the back edges; and what my artist statement had to say.

My coding system is divided into three sections separated by a dash. The first number designates the paintings sequence in the year, the second letter or letters denotes the medium (“P” for pastel, “O” for oil, and “WC” for watercolor), and the third set of numbers signifies the year it was completed in. Example, 23-P-07 signifies that it was the 23rd pastel of 2007. This code is simple yet telling, often providing enough information to jolt my memory. When a client refers to this code, I can easily reference it in my logbook and review its history.

When finishing the back of our pastel paintings, it’s wise to seal the edge between the frame and backing. This helps to protect the artwork from moisture, dust, and insects. Traditionally, a paper dust cover is glued to the frame and trimmed to the edge, providing a clean professional surface. If your paintings are frequently transported, you may find an alternative product like framer’s tape provides more stability when compared to the traditional dust cover, which can be easily damaged. I use an extra backing board of acid-free Fome-Core and seal it to the frame with “Intertape Brand” 2-inch framer’s tape purchased from my local art supply store. This can be removed easily, yet seals the back and provides a clean appearance.

The artist’s statement I attach to the back of every painting is not formal but provides insight into my artistic goals. It begins with a brief biography covering professional interests, organizational affiliations, and publications. The “Personal Statement” which follows explains my artistic motivation. This is a copy of my current statement.

Richard McKinley, PSA, PSWC-DP, NPS

Richard McKinley has been a professional working artist for 35 years and has over 30 years of teaching experience. He is a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America and Northwest Pastel Society, Signature Distinguished Pastelist with the Pastel Society of the West Coast, Signature Master Pastelist Pastel Society of Oregon, and a member of the Oil Painters of America. His work is represented in several national galleries and is a frequent contributing editor for the Pastel Journal Magazine. His work has been included in several books including: A Painters Guide to Design and Composition by Margot Schulzke; Painting With Pastels by Maggie Price; and Pure Color: the Best of Pastel edited by Maureen Bloomfield and James A. Markle (all are North Light publications). An avid plein air painter, Richard divides his time between painting the locations he is passionate about and reinterpreting those paintings back in the studio. For more information about Richard, visit his website

Trying to capture a piece of the world around me in paint is something that has consumed my life since I was 13. It led me to study the techniques of master painters—from the Renaissance to the Modern. Oil and pastel are the mediums I use to convey this personal vision. Working very closely with nature “en plein air” (on location), has led to a much greater appreciation of the natural world. Photography (a useful tool) is not a substitute for being there and becoming a part of the exchange of nature, eye, and mind. Light is the motivating factor; without it there would be nothing. Rembrandt was once quoted as saying, “You have but one master and that is Nature.”
My goal is to capture a piece of the spontaneous dance of light across the palette of nature. Working on location forces me to get in touch with the moment, allowing no time for detailed studies of things. I hope my pieces are like a glance—when we see something that makes us linger for a moment.        —Richard McKinley

The code, use of tape, and artist’s statement are merely means of providing a tracking system, an efficient way to protect the reverse side of the framed painting, and a little information about myself for the purchaser. If some of you have tips or would like to share what’s on the back of your paintings, please post a comment. I appreciate the questions; keep them coming!

Richard McKinley is a regular columnist for The Pastel Journal. See his latest article in the current February issue of the magazine.

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