Resolutions for a New Year in Pastel

125-New-Year-resolutions.jpgThe end of the year is a time for reflection. Resolutions have been made to loose weight, exercise more and save money. Usually they will be forgotten in time. As artists, the beginning of the new year is also a perfect time to re-evaluate artistic goals. These aspirations provide a purpose to our painting endeavors. Without them, we often find ourselves aimlessly drifting from one painting to the next. By setting goals and resolving to accomplish them, we push ourselves to greater artistic levels.

When setting goals, be realistic but don’t underestimate yourself. It is to the tenacious that the rewards eventually come. In artist Birge Harrison’s 1909 book, Landscape Painting, he devotes chapters 17 and 18 to the subjects of temperament and character. I am often reminded, and bolstered, by his words, “If I were myself asked to supply a formula for the making of an artist, my receipt would be, one part genius and nine parts hard work. I sometimes glance back to my student days and wonder what has become of all those clever and brilliant chaps over whose easels the rest of us used to hang in awe and admiration. One by one they have all dropped out. Things came too easy to them. They were not obliged to plug and grind, and so they never learned their trade. Their places have been taken by others—the plodders who stuck to their studies throughout the whole week with grim determination, dropping their brushes only on the stroke of twelve on Saturday.”

Look back over the last year and see how you did with your previous year’s goals. Feel good about the ones you accomplished and remind yourself of where you fell short. Re-evaluate your priorities for the coming year and make note of what is required to accomplish your goals. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be practical; you understand your skill level and aspirations better than anyone else. Even a couple hours of painting every week will add up to growth. You don’t have to be a full-time professional artist to find artistic fulfillment. Dreams and aspirations are wonderful but, if they are unrealistic, it is easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Stay truthful with yourself and resolve to be disciplined in pursuing your goals. Like most things in life, it is more about the journey. Be sure to enjoy it and stay tenacious.

My New Year artistic resolutions:

  • To worry less about finishing and honor the stages of a painting.
  • To work more in series around a theme to better explore the poetic nature of certain subjects.
  • To paint larger in the studio and smaller on location.
  • To sketch more on location.
  • To reread old favorite art books.
  • After watching Ken Burns PBS series on the National Parks, to visit them all.

Please post a comment sharing your personal artistic resolutions.

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11 thoughts on “Resolutions for a New Year in Pastel

  1. Lynn DeJong

    Thanks for all of your great tips on this blog Richard. I will be your student in Hope Valley in September, and I can hardly wait!!

    My goals:

    Trying to carve out the mental space for painting, while caring for an elderly parent.

    Taking some great workshops for inspiration and learning.

    To actually paint in the great studio I have – and to follow Richard’s advice and get rid of the "non-finito" work that is clogging up my shelves!!!

    Work through some of the instructional DVD’s I have.

    Lynn DeJong

  2. Betty Lehnus

    I want to buy and try more kinds of pastels — super soft, mixed colors, hard . . .and experiment with more kinds of papers – – as someone says above, "out of the comfort zone’

  3. Sylvia Tucker

    Your plan for working larger in the studio and smaller outdoors is intriguing. Especially, how small outdoors?
    I am headed larger and smaller in the studio, and more outdoors.
    The old art books are beckoning me too, now that I have started unboxing them after 15 years of moving.

  4. Mary Boeh

    My resolutions this year:
    1. make studio space in my house
    2. when time seems hard to find, work on small tasks (thumbnails, planning compositions, small color sketches). Make that a daily habit.
    3. experiment with new surfaces
    4. follow the advice from last fall’s workshop, "Embrace it!"

  5. Linda Curtis

    Richard, thanks for taking the time to write this blog. I learn a lot and enjoy reading it. Enjoy your journey!

    My artistic resolutions for 2010 are:

    1. paint on location as much as possible
    2. spend more time observing the subject matter and planning the painting
    3. paint for my personal enjoyment
    4. continue to discover artists I like through art history books,artists’ biographies,museums and galleries

    Linda Curtis

  6. Carole Buschmann

    I like this article because it is realistic without being harsh. Sometimes people crash and burn when their goals are too lofty. On the other hand it is valuable to reassess and challenge yourself. I think the internet has brought great aide to the artist as you can feel and get to know the larger community out their struggling with many of the same issues.

  7. Willo Balfrey

    My artistic goals this year are to take myself out of my comfort (safe) zone by:
    *Practice more rather than work towards the "finished painting".
    *Challenge myself on subject matter – more intimate scenes rather than
    grand vistas.
    *Paint larger or smaller.

  8. Linda Barnicott

    Mr. Mc Kinley, My New Years artistic resolution happens to be to go to your workshop in New York City in May. I was so honored to be the first on the waiting list and was told the good news recently that I am in! The last professional workshop was in 1983 with Daniel Greene. This year, I am an empty-nester and have wanted to take a workshop for years. Though I am nervous about it, I can not express how excited I am to learn with you.
    Though I have spent the last 20 years painting Pittsburgh in pastels, there is so much I have to learn.
    I also want to paint more pieces this year, since the last 2 years have been transitional for me. Happy New Year. I have seen several parks and Yellowstone has been my favorite so far. Our family loved the wildlife.

  9. Patricia Romeo

    Richard, your guidance is always so inspiring and this entry in particular as goals can be of any nature. I must adopt one, or two…to work in a series and also one in reverse, to stop rereading old art books and just paint! Thank you and Happy New Year!