New Year, New Thoughts


As we begin a fresh new year, a year of tremendous change, I would like to share some thoughts and observations. It seems that the shortest days of the year here in the States make me introspective. This is a time of year when I like to review the previous year’s artistic endeavors. What went well and what could use some attention? What are my goals for the future? Glancing in the rearview mirror allows us to see what we have passed without taking our eyes off of what lies ahead.

As I ponder these questions, I’m reminded of some thoughts culled from an old art book I frequently review, The Painter in Oil, by Daniel Parkhurst, published in 1898. Even though, as the title indicates, it was intended for the oil painter, this book is filled with great information that pertains to anyone who paints. Here are a couple favorites: “There is a theoretical and a practical side to art. The business of the student is with the practical. The ideals of art are for the artist—not for the student. Talent is only another name for love of a thing.” When I read this again, I was reminded that to express myself well artistically I need to be able to see things accurately and to be capable of conveying them so they can be recognizable to others. Fancy techniques won’t be enough to produce a good painting. I have to keep the eye and hand practiced, to be the constant student, keeping myself in artistic shape. Only then can technique express the ideas I wish to express. Talent is not a gift but a desire.

As the worries of the global economic problems unfold, it’s good to remind ourselves of why we paint. As a dear art friend once stated, “If I never sell another painting, win another award, or get accepted into another exhibit, I will paint.” When we internally embrace that statement is when the real work of painting begins, reminding us that something much deeper motivates us to make marks for others to see. It becomes more than decoration, there is a purpose to it that fills our life. None of us wish for rejection. We want to sell; we want to experience the gratification of someone opening their wallet and parting with hard-earned currency. We revel in the exhilaration of being acknowledged when excellence is obtained, and we feel validated when our peers accept us into their circle. But, if these never happened again, we would still paint.

Historically, in times of crisis, art has been of great benefit. Whether as a form of escapism to help in dealing with everyday stresses or the realization of what an important aspect it plays in our common humanity, art serves a purpose. Even if it’s a few hours a week spend enjoying the pleasures of raking a pastel stick across a surface, reading the new issue of The Pastel Journal, or
visiting an art museum, we all feel better having art in our lives.

With this in mind, I offer this New Year’s wish: May you continue on your journey to your artistic goals, enjoying the process as much as the end result.

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3 thoughts on “New Year, New Thoughts

  1. Jeanne Guerin-Daley

    I, too, want to thank you Richard, for your writing. Ever since I found your blog, I have been reading it regularly, thanks to that cool RSS feature! There is so much to learn in the world of the artist; I hope I never stop learning and with your help that will never happen. I especially agree with the phrase about keeping "in artistic shape." Just as with physical exercise, regular artistic activity does seems to help keep the artistic juices flowing.

  2. Carol Preston

    Aw life goes on and so does the sage wisdom of Richard McKinley. Richard, please keep us going with your ideals. I know they have helped me tremendosly
    Carol Preston

  3. Leilani Watt

    Thank you, Richard. You helped me take stock again of why I paint and never offer any for sale. It seems to me these paintings of mine are the Lord’s intercession over me and when they are moved from my inner person to the paper, it is enough. There is great pleasure in perusing the Pastel Journal, the mentoring books of renown authors, observing closely the values and temperatures of this against that in my daily surroundings, and reading your entries. Best of all though, there is sometimes that meeting place of spirit and Spirit when the pastel gives voice to a message heard within. That’s the best part. Focused again on what matters to me. Thanks. Leilani