Secrets to Making a Masterpiece | Know Your Purpose

With the anticipation of the Pastel 100 competition winners being unveiled in the latest issue of Pastel Journal, I decided to write about how artists can work toward creating a masterwork in the Pastel Pointers column in the same issue. Here’s an excerpt:


April 2013 PAstel JournalKnow Your Purpose: Being reminded of the purpose, or concept, that motivated us to paint a specific subject, or scene, is key to evolving as an artist, once technical mastery is achieved. Without purpose, it is easy to fall prey to technical perfection devoid of feeling. It may look exactly like the scene but says very little. Practice may get an artist to Carnegie Hall but it is passion that produces rave reviews. To help with this, I like to employ the three W’s: Why, What and When. If we know the “Why,” the emotional connection to a subject/scene, it can answer the “What,” what to put in and what to leave out, ultimately creating an air of mystery that engages the viewer. This helps with the “When,” when is a painting done? The painting is done when the main purpose/concept behind the painting is achieved. It is a full circle. Ask yourself, what attracted me in the first place?  What did I love about the subject/scene? Then dig deep as a technically well-trained painter to go beyond the literal surface content and communicate intent. It is paramount to elevating a painting from merely being well rendered to being considered a masterpiece. As the writer and art critique John Ruskin said, “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.


To read the whole story—and see a showcase of the masterful pastels that make up this year’s Pastel 100—check out the April issue of Pastel Journal on sale here.


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One thought on “Secrets to Making a Masterpiece | Know Your Purpose

  1. jwditri

    I may have this article carved into my pastel palette. Richard, you put everything together so well! I especially love the “how to tell WHEN you are done”. How simply, but beautifully, stated. The purpose and the passion must rule the painting. This one
    is a keeper, but then, I keep them all.