Pastel Pointers by Richard McKinley, a book review


Artist Richard McKinley is a fabulous (soft-dust pastel artist.  When I came across a book he had written I knew it would be a source that had to be checked out.  What intrigued me was a note on the outside of the book cover, “Top Secrets for Beautiful Pastel Paintings” – if he had secrets to creating a better painting I wanted to know what they were.  Even though my painting medium is oil pastels, most of what I read is for other mediums – it’s a matter of applying the information to oil pastels.

One word describes Richard’s paintings, “gorgeous.”  The reason is his skill in using light, shadows through a combination of colors that create dazzling pieces.  I’m most attracted to his use of pinks, purples and grays.

This book was my first introduction to color and it inspired me to learn more about colors, combinations and techniques to create artistic illusions.  So I decided that Pastel Pointers would be the first book to introduce to address color, more book reviews on this topic are coming in the future.

Pastel Pointers has many relevant and useful topics (all well written), but too many to go through in this post.  Three standouts for me are:

  1. Creating Luminosity by “fracturing local color while retaining value consistency.”  Wow this one page opened my eyes in ways that has allowed me to see the effects I often look to produce in my paintings.  Below is one of my oil pastel paintings, “Up the Hill” where I used this technique to illuminate the clouds and create a vibration of light – as Richard refers to it.  (BTW, his section on value is very good.)
  2. The Limits of Green and Harmonizing Green Pigments that explains why Richard uses a fair amount of purple within his paintings.  He explains that the secondary colors:  orange, violet and green “share a common thread – any combination of them completes a color wheel, creating natural harmony.”   Most artists have attained this knowledge through their studies, for me being self-taught this information woke up my curiosity to learn more about the effects painters can achieved through the combination and use of color.  You’ll see my use of color to harmonize the green throughout the painting below.
  3. The book introduced me to my favorite tool in painting with oil pastels, Foam Pipe Insulation.  Oil pastels aren’t the easiest to move, spread and blend – the softest (Sennelier are the exception) that finds me using a number of tools:  clay shapers, paper tortiliums, and my fingers.  But when I read Richard’s section on the concept of using foam pipe insulation – I thought why not try it with OPs.  And, lo’ behold the foam works unbelievably good and the more I use it the more techniques I continue to discover.  I’ll be doing a whole post on using foam pipe insulation at a later date, few believe that I use this material with oil pastels – the effect is perfect for creating a halcyon effect.

Pastel Pointers is 124 pages filled with some great information, not too in-depth, but enough so you get the point and can think through the process as you apply the concepts.  I also like that Richard used all his own paintings to illustrate each concept.

This book was a great teacher of technique, but also woke up my thirst to continue learning about color.

Up the Hill

Up the Hill

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About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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4 Responses to Pastel Pointers by Richard McKinley, a book review

  1. Ok, I really admire you now. The fact that you can read something that to me is so abstract is amazing. I read luminosity and my eyes glazed over. You are a true master in your craft.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Bella – appreciate your comments. When I first starting reading about painting techniques my eyes glazed over too – which is why I go back and read good art backs many times over! I’ve come to slowly understand the concepts and now am working to practice and produce the effects that appeal to the subjects I paint. Sometimes it works and other times, well . . .

  2. Great tips-You’ve certainly made them work for you in this piece!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Elena, thanks so much. I loved doing this piece. The real scene was actually a cold and gray day – the painting looked like it wanted a lighter feel. So I went with my gut – thanks for your nice comment! Mary

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