25 November, 2009

Master Copies

Mary Cassatt, After Degas - detail
@ 32" x 26"
Casey Klahn

At the Easel

I like studying the master works of artists like Edgar Degas. This work is a copy of his well known Portrait of Mary Cassatt.

19 November, 2009


Umber River, Upside Down

The River Series is a collection of pastels that I painted specifically for the Sausalito Art Festival in September, and is currently exhibited in Kirkland, Washington through January 4th., 2010. These paintings adhere to a few simple ideas that are concerned with formal qualities. If you were to describe them as representational, you would be less than right. On the other hand, if they remind you of a specific place, you would be right on track. This "instability" is fully intended - they are meant to toe the line between abstraction and description.

"A song is anything that can walk by itself." Bob Dylan

Light River Reflections, Upside Down

Below, I lay out the formal concepts that I used in the River paintings, but I would say that almost any set of ideas would have worked as long as they were recognizable as a thread throughout the series. That's why it is so important for the artist to get a one person venue. The viewer needs to connect the ideas of the whole.

Here are the threads I wanted:

  1. Dark areas (dark secrets) that I used as eye magnets.

  2. A fairly even value spread - which means that a range of values are used from very dark to somewhat light.

  3. A drawing approach - line and value compositions; bare process versus resolution.

  4. Intense color passages, because that is a signature aspect of my work.

River Aine, Upside Down

The process I followed in the River Series did involve an actual place as the starting point. I stood on the bank of the Little Hoquiam River and absorbed what impressions I could, and took some photos. I worked up several drawings, in graphite, charcoal or pastel. A few were taped up on my studio window and viewed with light passing through them. I looked at them on my computer screen as well. Finally, I spun the images from memories, and worked from the specific to the general - I wanted your river, not mine, to be foremost.

"If the picture has a countenance, I keep it." deKooning

Here are some more observations about the series:

  1. I used landscape formats, which is an easy formal way to portray realism.

  2. Low points of view were favored, which makes the river scene easier to apprehend.

  3. I didn't want direct light sources - no blue skies.

  4. Some classic compositional tools were employed, in order to create easier access into the picture.

  5. The water became a place for abstract play.

Readers of The Colorist have noticed that I explained the River Series posts with music videos rather than with words. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, it was an oblique and not-wordy way to expand on the pictures, and two, I could link the river theme to river songs and suggest a unity to the series. Incidentally, there was a list of qualifications to the music videos, too. Live venues and sincere performances were the main themes.

12 November, 2009

What Are Your Ideas?

We are considering How to Paint for the Prize - my advice to artist who wish to do their best work. Improvement happens with practice and over time, but what else can you do to "bring up your game?"

The outline for this series is as follows:

Content (have ideas)
Narrow the time frame

The most important area to consider is content. It goes to the aesthetic ideas that you have, and the particular thoughts you want to communicate through your work.

While I focused my recent series on one subject, the river, I
was also compelled to clearly present a set of ideas. Why? Because I felt that if I adhered to certain clearly thought out ideas, my audience would treat the series as a whole and travel farther into my work. In short, they could understand it better, and also feel connected to the artist's ideas.

Philosophies of art distinguish between form and content. Form considers the marks and material parts of a painting, and includes the formal aspects such as shape, line and value. Consider abstract aspects of a painting as formal qualities. Content, simply put, is the artist's meaning - the ideas that he has.

What kinds of ideas are we talking about, here? Is it enough to represent one's subject as well as possible? I think in this day and age, most can see the thinness of this as a basic idea. More complete ideas are required.

What about quality, or technical skill? It is important, and rigor in art is foundational. But, artists who have been at their work for some time admit that technique is a small part of their presentation. And, I think, technique can help in the presentation of
one's ideas, but it can sometimes stand in the way, too. A great resolve may be just what your painting doesn't need, especially if it paves over the first emotions you brought to the work.

Here are some of my thoughts on painting:
  • A painting must become more than the sum of its parts.
  • A painting is a history of what happened to the artist.
  • An artist should communicate his ethos through his art.
  • I believe that a painting should affirm the personal.

What are my ideas in the River Series? I'll tell you in the next post. I notice here that my decision to occupy the space that straddles traditional and modern ideas convinces about 9% of the audience of interested viewers. Y-A-W-N...

11 November, 2009

Quotes On Content

o/c, 1874
Edgar Degas

The post on content is finally written, but I have split it in two. While researching, I dug up some fascinating quotes by artists on content. Reference: artquotes.net.

"I'm painting an idea not an ideal. Basically I'm trying to paint a structured painting full of controlled, and therefore potent, emotion." Euan Uglow.

"The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it." Banksy.

"It doesn't matter how the paint is put on, as long as something is said." Pollock.

"A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people." Degas.

"In art, one idea is as good as another. If one takes the idea of trembling, for instance, all of a sudden most art starts to tremble. Michelangelo starts to tremble. El Greco starts to tremble. All the Impressionists start to tremble." de Kooning.

Tomorrow: my thoughts on content.

04 November, 2009

Clear River

Clear River
7.5" x 9"
Casey Klahn

The River Series is an award winning exhibit of landscapes that fixes your eye on the picture plane, and has you wondering what's around that next bend.

You are invited to view River Passages at Northwest University, my alma mater, in Kirkland, Washington, from November 6th., 2009, through January 4th., 2010. Meet me there, Friday, November 6th., between 12 and 2 PM, for the opening.

River Passages, Currents in Landscape Art.

02 November, 2009

Kirkland Art Exhibit

If you want to meet me, I will be at Northwest University, in Kirkland, WA, from 12 til 2 pm on Friday, November 6th. The exhibit, which is the award winning River Series, will be on display from the 6th., through early January, 2010.

01 November, 2009

Paper Work

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How do I reload elements on here?

There is nothing like finding all of those paper work projects of yours need to be done all of a sudden! Having PS Elements quit working provides some extra challenges, too. I blame my old PC. Thanks for checking back on me, and I'll be out of the administrative hole I'm in soon enough, with more news and studio stories.

Hint: I'm hanging an exhibit in the Seattle area next weekend! Stay tuned.

I haven't forgotten about my Paint for the Prize series, either. You will see the post on Content here very soon.

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism