Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Secret to Painting a Masterpiece

With the release of the new April 2016 issue of Pastel Journal, which celebrates the winners of the 17th Annual Pastel 100 Competition, it seemed a perfect opportunity to revisit a Pastel Pointers post by Richard McKinley in which he discusses the secret to painting a masterpiece—and your next award-winner: Know your purpose.


Alan Larkin’s masterful pastel, Time Piece (37×14) took top honors in the 17th Annual Pastel 100 Competition.


“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’s easy to fall prey to technical perfection that’s devoid of feeling. It may look exactly like the scene, but it says very little. Practice may get an artist to Carnegie Hall but it is passion that produces rave reviews.

The Three Ws: To help with this, I like to employ the three Ws: Why, What and When. If we know the “why,” the emotional connection to a subject/scene, it can answer the “what.” That is, 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.

[Click here to learn pastel painting techniques with Richard McKinley.]

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.”

Click here to read a PDF of Richard’s full article, “The Making of a Masterpiece,” originally published in the April 2013 issue of Pastel Journal. To see a showcase of the masterful pastels that make up this year’s Pastel 100—check out the latest issue of the magazine on sale here.












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