Maryland Pastel Society newsletter


by: Lisa Sheppard

by Lisa Sheppard
There's nothing like leaving your comfort zone to encourage creative growth and challenge. The special opportunity of attending a four-day Richard McKinley Plein Air workshop in the gorgeous countryside of Leesburg, Va. provided just that impetus.
Far from the creature comforts and resource materials of our overstocked studios, our talented band of MPS pastelists enjoyed and endured much of what 'painting on location' can offer. The forty-mile an hour wind, gusting up the steep incline of the Hillsborough Vineyard and the persistent, surprise showers kept us vigilant. Richard imparted more artistic wisdom, expert guidance and comic relief than we could absorb; all to the beat of the approaching huntsmen's bugle and braying dogs! Even though we witnessed each sweep of the watercolor underpainting and every pastel 'penne mento' stroke, the resulting demo painting was an intangible wonder. When attempting to conjure a tidbit of that same magic at our own easels, I for one, was sorely inept.

As if in anticipation of our anxiety and determination, our gracious instructor shared practical exercises and techniques with us to peruse (in the comfort of our studios!), all in addition to his on site suggestions and positive reinforcement. We were constantly and continuously encouraged by Richard's appraisal of our strengths and rewarded with his insightful impression of where we might want to direct our energy in order to transition to the next level. And although at this point in time, I may not be able to incorporate or apply much of what I heard and witnessed during the workshop, I am confident that my experiences and knowledge gained will be applicable to future paintings and my artistic development.

Plein Air painting can be cold, windy, wet and frustrating, but when guided, encouraged and amused by an expert instructor and in the company of friends, I reflect on the week's workshop experience with gratitude and excitement. I am now tantalized by the possibilities and challenges of 'painting on location'. Let me out there!