Richard McKinley’s Pastel Pointers Blog

Richard McKinley offers weekly advice for pastel artists, covering plein air painting tips, art design ideas, information on landscape painting and must-know pastel techniques.

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Reaching the End | When is a Painting Finished?

It seems that most of us—even when we have mapped out a destination for a painting—still find it hard to know when to put down the pastel stick and stop working. In fact, one of the most commonly asked question in one of my workshops is "How do you know when you are done?"

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Artistic Driver’s Education

When we first attempt to paint, the bulk of our energy is focused on learning how to handle the medium we've chosen. In many ways, it's similar to learning to drive an automobile. At first, we are not as concerned with where we are driving but how we are driving. As technical ability improves,...

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From the Archives | Shades of Green, Part 2

Last week, I discussed how perplexing green can be for pastel landscape painting. I mentioned how a warm complementary-color underpainting is a popular technique many artists use as a setup in advance of applying green. This week, I want to share a few more tips that may prove useful for the pastel landscape painter.

pastel pointers with Richard McKinley May 13, 2013

From the Archives | Shades of Green, Part 1

Put two or more landscape painters together and inevitably, the topic of how to handle green arises. Skillfully finessing green requires an understanding of its relationship to and interaction with the other colors of the spectrum and ultimately a degree of theatrics. These skills are even more pertinent during the season of Spring when...

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The Butler Institute of American Art | A Friend to the Pastelist

I recently had the opportunity to visit a gem of an art museum housed in Youngstown, Ohio. The Butler Institute of American Art is internationally known as “America’s Museum.” Built by Youngstown industrialist Joseph G. Butler, it opened to the public in 1919 as the first structure dedicated solely for the purpose of displaying...

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The Quality of Color | A Tonalist Approach

Many painters are drawn to color like bees to honey. The kaleidoscopic array of intense color choices available today is due in large part to the introduction of new organic pigments, such as Anthraquinone, Dioxazine, Hansa, Napthol, Phthalo and Quinacridone. These pigments are capable of retaining a high chromatic intensity across a range of...

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The Contrast Effect | Important Rules for Landscape Painting

The term “simultaneous contrast” was first used by French physicist Michel Eugene Chevreul to explain a phenomenon plaguing the dye works at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris. The colors of various yarns were appearing to change from project to project for no apparent reason. Chevreul was able to ascertain that the yarn colors themselves...

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Grumbacher and Rembrandt | Two Historic Pastel Brands

There was a very limited selection of pastel brands available to many of us who began working in the medium in the 1970s. This was an era before mail-order, let alone online retailers. Most of us had to rely on what was available at the local art supply store, an—if you happened to reside...

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Plein Air Minded Pastelists | A Report From the 2014 Plein Air Convention

The act of painting en plein air, or “in the open air,” has its modern origins in the Barbizon school of painting established by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and further advanced by the French Impressionist painters. As art materials became more portable, more artists began to work directly from nature, creating paintings that better represented the...

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Pastel Impasto Impersonation

One of the great advantages of oil paint, beyond its inherent richness of value and color depth due the pigment's suspension in oil, is the ability to apply it thickly--to create an impasto surface effect. The term impasto originates from the Italian word pasta, which means "paste." When associated to painting, it signifies a...

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Painting Blue Skies | Applying the Theory of Light, Part 2

Last week, I started a discussion on how best to deal with an extremely intense blue sky in an otherwise warm landscape scene. I emphasized the importance of representing light by indicating a full spectrum of color and talked about a method of selecting analogous hues of blue and painting them with fragmented strokes...