05 June, 2008

Olive Tree Grove

Italian Olive Grove
22" x 28"
Pastel on Diane Townsend Paper
Casey Klahn

Adam asked how one uses a photo reference and yet spins the artwork freely away from representation. I had to think about that. I won't post the photo, since it isn't mine and I use it by permission. And, besides, I make it a habit to not post photos of my subjects.

The departure point for a painting like this must be mostly in one's imagination. I am picturing specific artworks by artists that I admire, and in this case they are the numerous orchards that van Gogh painted, and a particularly intriguing Italian olive grove that Wolf Kahn painted where the scene is mostly obscured by thin layers of gray paint, as if in a fog.

I want to have my outcome be much more about the artist's works I remember, than about the photograph that I see. These artist's images reside in my soul and look for a way to find expression in my art. But, the photo inspired me by offering a basic composition of a group of trees with one in the foreground. And, for giving me some foliage to portray.

The recent Wolf Kahn Project here at The Colorist has had me doing some reductive type works, where I erase and rub pastels as a technique. And, it had me doing something I don't often do, which is portraying deciduous trees. You know I live in a state so overwhelmingly grown over with conifers that they are engraved on my brain.

An amazing amount of rule breaking and ignoring went along with doing this olive grove image. In fact, my mind was delivering these, "must do" messages at a rapid-fire rate, and I was deflecting them with my shield of abstraction every time!

"Justify that edge!" the voice would demand. "P-tchoo-wee," the shield deflects this comment with a ricochet.

"Balance the image! Heeeyy! Balance!"
"The horizon, man! Where is the horizon line?"
And, the granddaddy of them all: "Either get that focal point to the side or, or, for heaven's sake put something in the middle!!!"
So, of course, I left the middle entirely free of anything. No pigment, no elements - just paper.

That's how one processes a free form, abstracted landscape. I guess.

And also, I am pleased to be the BOSHart Blog Art Blog of the Day.


Brian McGurgan said...

Great reply to the question on using photo references, Casey. A helpful approach for me when using a reference photo is to study it at length to understand what it is that attracts me to the subject. Then once I begin working I find that I refer to it less and less as the drawing develops. I frequently take photos outdoors with the idea that I'll be using them as references so I'm already scheming up compositions while shooting the photos.

I like to think of art - whether drawn directly from life or from a photo or other source - as a personal response in almost a conversational sense to the things that appeal to the artist in a subject. A hundred artists working from the same subject would come back with a hundred individual, different responses as each discovers what they want to say about the subject. A photo can serve as a starting point and then expression, abstraction, and inspiration kick in. The pleasure of the work and materials takes over, and frequently the aspect of the subject that provided the initial appeal is eclipsed by some greater interest uncovered along the way.

This work is beautiful, Casey - I love the rich color and the lyrical forms and lines of the trees. It was the strong greens that attracted me initially but now I find myself drawn to the subtle, intriguing purple and whites. Very nice!

Casey Klahn said...

I appreciate it, David.

An interesting thing @ the greens is that they are the jumbo Senneliers. I'm very glad they provide a doorway to the rest of the drawing.

Adam Cope said...


thanks casey

something to meditate on.

& who knows, maybe one day we'll go painting together in the Alpilles, in vincent's footsteps?

nice pastel... this thing called 'artistic liberty'...

Casey Klahn said...

Vincent was the master of liberties!

How far are you from Arles?

colorspeaker said...

Hello Casey. I LOVE this "version" (interpretation) of your freinds photograph. It is really beautiful. I haven't seen you use these particular colors and hues before-and it is big!
22"x30"-i am falling in love with paper, and some recent discoveries, no longer limited in size.
This particular painting is, in a word, Purrr-fect!
Happy Painting, and thoughtful blogging (seems like your a natural)
Be well- from NY to the pacific -
your fellow artist/blogger/fan,
Julianne aka "Colorspeaker"

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks for the good report on this artwork, Julianne. I'm considering entering it for the PSA exhibition jury - so when I do I'll ask you to send out the same good vibes just across Manhattan.

Casey Klahn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
colorspeaker said...

Just say when. This is a definite "Contender!"
Enter it, enter it!
See? I am already vibing you like a mad woman, ha...
Seriously, this is probably the most unique abstract landscape that I have seen from you-it really stands out.
But I do love all your work, and your turning me on to WK has been a big plus in my own search-i loves his words, particularly his artistic philosophies...
okay, now i am inspired, grabbing my new brushes...
heading to the back (my studio within my studio-"ahh, nyc living..." we all live in boxes, within boxes...Somehow, Some way, creativity manages to flourish....)
So, until I emerge-it's your "East coast-vibe-sending-artlovin'-blogger,"signing off from the cyber realm, but not the "tele-kinetic energy transference source-so grab it and paint something in that spirit- that has me supa-dupa inspired!
Look what you did!!
Just kidding.
Me go paint now.


daviddrawsandpaints said...

A brilliant painting Casey, I like it very much - but I can't claim the appreciation that Brian deserves!

Casey Klahn said...

Sorry to Brian! Thanks for setting that straight, David.

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