As pastellists, many of us revere artist Richard McKinley. When Richard speaks, we listen. When he writes, we read. So when I came across this article by Richard in our sister publication, Outdoor Painter, I knew I wanted you to see it. Why? It’s all about increasing our creative expression and I know many of us want to do just that!

In the article, Richard gives us 7 tips for ways to express ourselves more creatively. They are practical and doable. 


Creative Expression: Richard McKinley, "Tennessee Trees," 2015, pastel over watercolour, 12 x 9 in - Detail. Private collection. Done en plein air
Richard McKinley, “Tennessee Trees,” 2015, pastel over watercolour, 12 x 9 in – Detail. Private collection. Done en plein air.


So without further ado, here are the first four tips in his article.


From “7 Tips for Greater Creative Expression”

By Richard McKinley 


  1. Learn the rules and then forget them. The rules in the traditional painting are there to stop us from mak­ing innocent mistakes (never put anything in the center, never use pure black, never lead the viewer out of the painting). If artists didn’t break them, we would all paint alike. The key is to break the rules on purpose and make the painting work.


2. Experiment with techniques. As an early mentor of mine said, “As long as you are not breaking any archival procedure, put together whatever mediums you need for the effect you desire: Be a bit of the educated mad scientist when it comes to painting.


3. When painting en plein air, first and foremost, make yourself comfortable. Inspiration will come if you can relax and paint, without fighting the elements. Far too much time is lost in the pursuit of the perfect subject matter.


4. Remember that you’re making a painting, not a picture. Getting it right doesn’t always produce an artistic statement. No one receives an award for getting it right, and we shouldn’t need to title our paintings That Is the Way It Was.


Don’t miss the other three fab tips on our sister site, Outdoor Painter. Continue reading HERE.


Meet Michael Chesley Johnson, Pastel Live 2022 faculty member


Michael Chesley Johnson paints primarily outdoors in pastel, oil, or gouache, choosing locations from the American Southwest, Downeast Maine, and the Canadian Maritimes. He’s frequently invited to participate in national plein air events. In May 2022, he was on the faculty of the annual Plein Air Convention & Expo in Santa Fe.


Creative expression: Michael Chesley Johnson, Barrier Beach Grasses, pastel.
Michael Chesley Johnson, Barrier Beach Grasses, pastel.


“My purpose in painting has changed over the years. In the beginning, it was all about the how. I worked hard at learning the craft. Even as a child, I loved looking at paintings and felt a thrill when I saw a particularly beautiful landscape. I wanted to create something like that myself.

Then it became about trying to understand the why. I realized I was a sort of steward of the land, preserving on canvas places likely to disappear under the heavy foot of civilization and, hopefully, raising awareness. 

Finally, it became all about the experience. For me, the experience is everything. I now know enough about “how” that I don’t have to think about it much. I now understand “why” so I don’t have to think about that much, either. Instead, today is no longer about the product—not the picture in a frame hung on the wall—but about the experience, the act of responding to the landscape in a personal way.”


Michael Chesley Johnson, Autumn Splendour, pastel.
Michael Chesley Johnson, Autumn Splendour, pastel.


Michael was awarded Master Pastellist status by Pastel Artists Canada in 2008. He’s a Signature Member of the American Impressionist Society and the Pastel Society of America. Michael is a nationally-known teacher, giving workshops across the U.S.  

A frequent writer for The Artist’s Magazine, Pastel Journal, Watercolor Artist, and PleinAir Magazine, he is the author of several books, including Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air.

Michael maintains a summer studio on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, and a winter studio in northern New Mexico.  


And that’s it for this time 😁


PS. Why not join Michael and me on Beginner’s Day at Pastel Live? To learn more and register, click here!

It’s going to be awwweeeeesome!!!



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