Richard McKinley’s connection to Cape Cod began long before he ever picked up a paint brush. As a child, one of his mother’s favorite songs to sing was “Old Cape Cod.” So began what he calls a “magical connection” with this famous spit of land.
Now a renowned pastel painter around the country, McKinley was born and raised far away from the coastal beauty of Cape Cod, in the Rogue Valley, in a small lumber town in Oregon. The fairly remote area, with spectacular scenery and in close proximity to Crater Lake National Park, is a haven for artists. His early art instruction came from several talented artists in the area who took him under their wing. Describing their methods as very academic and traditional, McKinley learned about drawing, craftsmanship, and portraiture.
Yet, the allure of the landscape drew him outdoors—and that’s where McKinley developed his own brand of artistry, capturing the fleeting beauty of nature, especially the evanescent qualities of light, water, and sky. “When you paint outside, you have that personal tactile relationship with the light. There’s a three-way connection between yourself, the light, and the object you’re painting,” McKinley says, describing painting en plein air as “a dance with nature.”
“I hope my pieces are like a glance when we see something that makes us linger for a moment,” he says.
The en plein air painter often returns to the same spot over and over to set up his easel and paint the surroundings. “You are different,” he says. “It’s different.” And the result is always different. “My goal is to capture a piece of the spontaneous dance of light across the palette of nature,” McKinley says.
McKinley finally made it to old Cape Cod about 30 years ago and was attracted to the same type of artistic community spirit he has always enjoyed in Oregon. He became a sought-after teacher as well as a highly regarded pastel painter known for his exquisite dreamy landscapes, rendered with an appreciation for nature’s ever-changing, intricate tonalities. His work reflects a Corot-like fineness of touch. The master painter taught a series of workshops for the Cape Cod Pastel Society about five years ago. It was there that he connected with Gallery 31 owner Sherry Rhyno. He returned again this spring to teach a workshop at Gallery 31.
McKinley, who was inducted into the Pastel Society of America’s Hall of Fame in 2010, shares his expertise on a weekly blog, “Pastel Pointers” on the artistnetwork.com, as well as in his books Pastel Pointers, Top Secrets for Beautiful Pastel Paintings. His work can also be seen in The Landscape Paintings of Richard McKinley.
Despite a busy schedule that takes him all over the country, McKinley is most at ease in front of a canvas. “Art at every level is self-exploration. When I’m painting, everything gets washed away.”