29 September, 2008

Be Brave

Lead Climber
11" x 6.75"
Graphite on Paper
Casey Klahn

"If you're looking for something to be brave about, consider fine arts," Robert Frost

More next time on how to be brave in art. I'll be out of pocket somewhat for the next two weeks with my annual recreation time.

22 September, 2008

Moral Courage & Art

Photo: Robert Capa

Clear-cut courage has few detractors, if any. It is above reproach. It is a trait of few words.

Courage can be defined as doing the right thing in a "What are you going to do now?" kind of circumstance. Courage requires things of you; actions, and precious few words, if any.

Once you say you have courage, you have just kicked the ball away. Courage deep down has less to do with yourself, and more to do with an ideal. Courage builds up others, and our culture and civilization depend upon it.

Courage costs you dearly, and it forever adds value to the rest of humanity. There is an intertwining of the moral and the physical sides of courage. In other words, if I act bravely in an immoral cause, what is the benefit? Less than none, in my opinion.

Clear-cut courage has few detractors, if any. It is above reproach. It is a trait of few words.

My searches for artistic courage via Google were less than dismal. The query results are underwhelming in the extreme. Logically, there either is little understanding of artistic courage among visual art, few examples of artistic courage (available to see on Internet text), or else the trait is pedestrian and unremarkable.

How to explain it?

Artistic courage is a more abstract kind of thing than the military or physical trait. How to explain it? It generally is a lot slower kind of courage than the type personified by the soldiers at the "hedgehog" obstacles in the famous Capa photo above. But courage does involve obstacle defeating, no matter where you apply it.

My first thoughts of artistic courage go to Vincent van Gogh. See my posts on van Gogh. The founding member of Modern Art, our Vincent may have been feeble in his physical self, but in pushing the boundaries of artistic possibilities, a hero.

...courage with the brush! Courage with color!

But, courage with the brush! Courage with color! That's what we know our man van Gogh for. He was in the van of making pure color say expressive things on the canvas.

Another artist that comes immediately to mind is Francis Picabia (1879-1953). Picabia cared more for artistic exploration than for his reputation or profit.

Via Pollocks the Bollocks,

With his brilliant reputation firmly established after the exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1909, Picabia abandons the past and his place as its famous protagonist to embark on the adventure of modern art....

A young artist of thirty, he is banished from the company of established galeries, their clientèle and critics. The coup de grace is administered by Danthon, March 1909, at the Hotel Drouot where he auctions off over one hundred of Picabia’s lmpressionist paintings.

Order of Courage:

Van Gogh, 1886
John Peter Russel


If your culture demands that you make your art this way or that, what must you then do? Next: How To Have Artistic Courage!

19 September, 2008

Courage Denied

"You Want My What?"

"The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner."

The satirist Mark Twain uttered that line. In my search for copy on the subject of courage, I have found the truth of Twain's words. Here at The Colorist, I have been studying the traits of a fine artist. Interest and support for the trait of courage is at an all time low. Try another quote:

"Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men," General George S. Patton.

Here is a watershed moment: artist takes the army to school regarding courage.

Here is the story:

Army castrates heraldic lion

Published: 13 Dec 07 12:34 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/9398/20071213/

Protests from female soldiers have led to the Swedish military removing the penis of a heraldic lion depicted on the Nordic Battlegroup's coat of arms.

The armed forces agreed to emasculate the lion after a group of women from the rapid reaction force lodged a complaint to the European Court of Justice, Göteborgs-Posten reports.

But although the army was eventually happy to make the changes in the interests of gender equality, the artist who designed the insignia was less than pleased.

"A heraldic lion is a powerful and stately figure with its genitalia intact and I cannot approve an edited image," Vladimir A Sagerlund from the National Archives told Göteborgs-Posten.

Sagerlund blasted the army for making changes to the coat of arms without his permission.

"The army lacks knowledge about heraldry. Once upon a time coats of arms containing lions without genitalia were given to those who betrayed the Crown," said Sagerlund.

"We were given the task of making sure the willy disappeared," Christian Braunstein from the army's 'tradition commission' told Göteborgs-Posten.

But the castrated lion has already won the day and is now worn on the arms of all soldiers in the battle group's Swedish battalions.

"We were given the task of making sure the willy disappeared," Christian Braunstein from the army's 'tradition commission' told Göteborgs-Posten.

"We were forced to cut the lion's willy off with the aid of a computer," he added.

The Nordic Battlegroup is one of eighteen such military groups in the European Union. Some 2,000 of its 2,400 soldiers come from Sweden, with the rest coming from Finland, Norway, Ireland and Estonia.

Perhaps interest in courage is at an all time low. For the love of God, how does taking away the pride of someone else benefit these faultfinders?

Just to get it straight, courage is defined basically in two categories: physical and moral. We are interested here in the moral courage sub-category of "artistic courage". What is it, and is there any to be had? Is there anywhere to turn to discover the trait of artistic courage?

Stay tuned.

18 September, 2008

Matisse Trail

Self Portrait, 1900
Ink on Paper
Henri Matisse

Via Adam Cope, of Dordogne Painting Days, is this gallery website: Le Domaine Purdu. The gallery is connected to (run by?) the last student of Matisse. I particularly enjoyed the Fauve works found in the Modern Art section.

17 September, 2008


Photo Credit: Lorie Klahn

Finger Crack,
Leavenworth, Washington

Commitment, in the world of mountain climbing...

Commitment, in the world of mountain climbing, is a word used to represent the point in a climbing route where turning back is a worse option than continuing. In other words, going back down the way you came up is either more dangerous, or more arduous than continuing to the summit and then down the originally planned way. The finding of oneself at the point of commitment in a difficult climb, and with just enough energy, food, and (worse yet) protection equipment to go on is a test of one's will that is truly challenging. Rubber meets road. Do or die. That kind of commitment.

Commitment: interaction characterized by obligation.

Parents know all about commitment, too. Getting up at night to feed the little squawker. Putting on those boy scout trousers and heading to the meeting. Commitment is defined as an interaction characterized by obligation.

What are an artist's obligations to himself? Does he have any obligations to society?

Rothko. Let's Talk Inimitable.

Rothko was obliged to his art

Mark Rothko seemed to feel an obligation to his art to the degree that he backed out of his commitment to hang his paintings at the Seagram Building. He didn't wish his art to be the decoration for a restaurant. Rothko became so invested in the "life" of his paintings that he created demands upon the methods for hanging his paintings. The lighting, the position, and so on. Rothko was obliged to his art.

I suppose, in the light of this kind of story, one may ask the question: does society have any obligations to art?

But, enough about "society". This is supposed to be my goal setting task. Stay tuned for the next character trait that an artist wants: Courage.

15 September, 2008

Characteristics & Goals

Blue Trees in the Middle Distance
7 - 3/8ths" x 5.75"
Casey Klahn

Since my children are starting school, and my summer art fair season has ended, my goal review and new goal setting exercises happen now. One of the things that I learned from Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach, has been to think about and state your desired character traits along with your goals. In other words, what are the traits you aspire to along with your career progress?

The artist that I aspire to be has:

Creative Integrity
Self Understanding

These are loaded words and "heavy" language, but they have deeper meanings for me. I'll be posting on each one, to expand on what these attributes mean to me.

Need Motivation? Try this renowned article (soon to be a book?) by Gaping Void. Hugh MacLeod is the Gaping Void cartoonist, and a Marketing Strategist. Excerpt:

Ignore everybody.

The idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours.

Merit can be bought. Passion can't.

Thanks, Katherine Tyrrell, for this link.

11 September, 2008

Hillary Spurling and the Biography That Slept Late

The Unknown Matisse
Matisse The Master
both by Hilary Spurling

Eminent biographer Hilary Spurling, who wrote the two volume major biography of our Henri Matisse, was presented with what, for a writer, must have seemed a suicide mission. Matisse' life story is perhaps the last biography about a major figure of the Twentieth Century to be written. Why? Look at how dead boring he seems to be!

The paintings are superlative, but the artist - oy! He makes Sigmund Freud seem like a rock star, if you go by the staid personage that photographs of Matisse present.

I got word that there was a filmed interview of Matisse, and I searched for it on You Tube and on Google. Nothing turned up (let me know if you find it), except I did come across this Charlie Rose interview of author Hillary Spurling on the biographies of Matisse. The first half is the director of the Guggenheim foundation (skip this if you must) and then the die-hard fan of the great Henri Matisse will be delighted to hear Spurling's account of her books and the man Matisse.

With apologies about the length, here is the video.
Tip: I open the video, and then place it on pause while it loads. Later, I skip the cursor to the half way mark and then enjoy.

08 September, 2008

The King of the Fauves - Henri Matisse

The Goldfish, 1912
o/c, 146x97 cm

Since the proto-colorists were called "Fauvists," it has been my long time goal to study that most-noted Fauve, Henri Matisse (1800-1950). Matisse persisted in his ultra colorful style even after the era of the short-lived Fauvist movement (1905-7), which featured stylized realism and assigned non-local color to objects.

The giant Pablo Picasso overshadowed Matisse as they both worked simultaneously to create Modern Art in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Picasso, the great Cubist, and Matisse, the father of Fauvism, were friendly rivals. The one brought us the line, the other brought us color in the Modern Art sense.

As I bring this study along, I will be writing reviews of the books and articles that I am reading, and I will generate a link list and a "Quick Key" button for this blog page that will lead you to the best Matisse info on the web.


Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse: the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954
By Hilary Spurling

The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse: the Early Years, 1869-1908
By Hilary Spurling

By Volkmar Essers

Matisse Factoids:

Rude patrons at a salon displaying Matisse paintings would openly revile his work, and
to amuse themselves would smear the still-wet paint with their fingers.

The Red Studio was voted the number 5 most influential Modern Artwork of all time by a panel of 500 art experts.

Like our hero, Mark Rothko, Matisse has a chapel. Don't you? Maybe I'll have to start a post about great artists and their chapels.

Part of Matisse's legacy has been his active progeny. One of his sons, Pierre Matisse, and his daughter, Marguerite, were influential in interpreting their father's works and life. Also, Pierre ran The Pierre Matisse Gallery, in New York City, which gave first-time exposure to a lexicon of notable Twentieth Century artists. His grandson, Paul, and his great granddaughter Sophie are active artists working in the US today.

02 September, 2008

T.A.D. - Top Artist's Directory

The Top 101 Artist's Blogs list has morphed into a new creation: the Top Artist's Directory, and it has gotten its own blog address.

Part of the motivation for Kim Barker's new list has been the instability at Technorati. Reading there is nowhere near as fun as it used to be, with the metrics swinging wildly around. Kim, of the Laketrees blog, exemplifies artistic generosity by freely linking many, many artist's blogs. Her own profile bears the fruit of this, giving her a large and loyal blog following. Way to go, Kim!

From international things to things local: my art will be up at the Karlson/Gray Gallery in Langley, Washington through the month of September. If you visit anytime, and don't see my work hanging, then ask to see it, and the gallery will be more than glad to bring out my pastels for your viewing.
Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism