31 March, 2011

How Do You Like My Hat?

La femme au chapeau
o/c, 79.4 x 59.7 cm
Henri Matisse

In the next few days I'll be posting about my trip to the SFMOMA this week.  Matisse, Rothko and Joan Mitchell were the standouts.

Audio Commentary.

27 March, 2011

Captain America Couldn't Get In The Tenth Division


Since I have a happy large bumpsworth of readers coming in from the military veteran site, Blackfive, I want to write a little about some drawings I did, WWII, my father's service and also share some gratuitous climbing stories.  Pull up a chair.

Personal story.

One time I was rock climbing in the Cascade Mountains with another fellow, and I mentioned my father's having been in the 10th Mountain Division.  He said that his own father wanted very badly to get in the Tenth, but was underage.  That guy's father went on to become one of the most esteemed mountain climbers of all time, which was probably some consolation to him.  Anyway, we did some gnarly climbs, and started singing climbing and Tenth Mountain songs at the top of our voices.  It was fun.

Captain America Couldn't Get In The Tenth Division.

My father had similar experiences.  He'd be at the VFW and some guy would be at the bar asking where he served.  When dad told, the answer invariably went something like, "no kiddin'?  I tried to get in that unit!"

Service in the World War II 10th Mountain Division was a rare and unique privilege.  Some men volunteered for special units, and then had to qualify for their billet, and we think of paratroopers, fliers, and Marine Raiders when we think of elite troops in the war.  But, in the Tenth, an applicant had to present qualifications as a mountaineer, skier or some type of rugged outdoorsman, such as a wrangler, cowboy or mule skinner.  As proof, you had to carry three letters of recommendation from some authority on the matter.  Then, after being successfully boarded, you were privileged to train with the nation's only ski troops and mountain infantry, and to say it was rugged is comically understated.

Anyway, the short version is that my dad's unit was the hardest trained unit of Americans in the Second World War.  This explains some of the reason for their outstanding performance in combat on the Italian Front.  I visited the battlefields in 2006, and the reception the veterans received there from the Italians was remarkable.

I had the privilege of drawing some designs and images for a war monument, and the story is told in the following re-post.

Climber Sketch.

Sketch WW II Climber
11" x 9"
Charcoal, Pastel and Compressed White Charcoal on Rives BFK
Casey Klahn

Yesterday's post on the Medal of Honor.

I am proposing an illustration for a memorial to my late father's World War Two army division. I will post the roughs and sketches here as I get them completed.

This guy has a ways to go as a sketch, but he's on the path. I want to re-render the hand, and maybe add some more grace of movement. That used to be a big deal for me in the days when I drew the figure lots, and it has extra meaning when rock climbing is involved. I did enjoy taking the extra effort to model the figure, especially since it will stick out (if this becomes the final image) from a marble flat as an etching.

Next, I want to render a ski trooper as another proposal for the etching.

For you oldsters out there: remember Tom Lea? I certainly thought of his seminal on-sight drawings from WW II. Must have rubbed off on my psyche.

This book, The Two Thousand Yard Stare, covers Lea's WW II art and writings about his work. I once asked my late father, who saw heavy combat in North Italy, about this phenomenon of the "two thousand yard stare," which is the look a shell-shocked infantryman "gets" when he comes off the line. His story was a keeper. He said that he recalled one guy in particular who had that look coming off the front in the North Apennines (revered as one of the worst places to be in WW II) and he was also rather tall. Maybe 6' 6" or something like that.  Years after the war, my dad picked him out of a crowd back in the states - quite an unusual circumstance, but he certainly remembered that guy's face.

I spent a number of years in the infantry, and later as a mountain climber. All subjects deeply held, and good content for my illustrations.

They Drew Fire. PBS documentary on war artists of WW II.
Tenth Mountain Division Association. My father's army unit. I am working up illustrations for a 
memorial plaque in their honor.

Photo credit: Lorie Klahn

Finger Crack,
Leavenworth, Washington

25 March, 2011


Barn Tangle
Pastel & Charcoal
7" x 9.2"
Casey Klahn

This is right about the time I'd like to get out in the back yard and paint some more of these scenes around the house.  If the weather would just offer something other than the rain and snow mix it's giving today, I could make good on that goal. Anytime, now, Mr. Weatherman...

This barn image is from last year.

24 March, 2011

What Degas Said

Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas weighed in on the artist's ambiguity.  The irony is that he is a consummate realist, and on the short list of historic master draftsmen.  Yet, here is the great man's admission that art is too big for him to define in simple terms.  

"I have spent all my life trying to figure out what art is all about.  If I knew, I should have done something about it long ago."  Degas.

21 March, 2011

Quotes About Ambiguity In Art

The Red Madras Headress
1907, O/C
99.4 x 80.5 cm
Henri Matisse
Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA 

Looking for an anchor to tie your art to?  You won't find it here, partner.  Instead, I bring you ambiguity. 

Artist's Quotes

"There is in every artist’s studio a scrap heap of discarded works in which the artist’s discipline prevailed against his imagination." Robert Brault.

"To sum up, I work without a theory. I am conscious above all of the forces involved, and find myself driven forward by an idea that I can really only grasp bit by bit as it grows with the picture." Henri Matisse.

"I paint in order not to cry." Paul Klee.

"But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: 'It's clever, but is it Art?'" Rudyard Kipling.

"No great art has ever been made without the artist having known danger." Rainer Maria Rilke.

"Whoever wishes to devote himself to painting should begin by cutting out his own tongue." Henri Matisse.

"Not only do I not know what's going on, I wouldn't know what to do about it if I did."  George Carlin.

"What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art." Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

"An artist's career always begins tomorrow."  James McNeill Whistler.

"One must beware of a formula good for everything, that will serve to interpret the other arts as well as reality, and that instead of creating will only produce a style, or rather a stylization." George Braque.

"If I knew what I was doing, I'd be doing it right now." Keith Urban.

"Truth and reality in art do not arise until you no longer understand what you are doing and are capable of, but nevertheless sense a power that grows in proportion to your resistance." Henri Matisse.


Please accept the following document, which is a copy of these quotes on ambiguity, as a gift from me.  Right click to open the image in a new folder, and then save and print.

17 March, 2011

Matisse and Respect

Sometimes Weather
9" x 7"
Casey Klahn

"Matisse respected nobody and nothing,"  Maurice Boudot-Lamotte.

More at The Colorist on Matisse.

14 March, 2011

Why Write?

"Artspeak" is a bewildering mess of verbiage and mental calisthenics.  Kathy Cartwright asks: why write essays about art at all?   It's good to think about why we write. Someone once said that if you don't state your artistic direction then others will do it for you.  That's why I like to write about art and my own direction.  

One reward for writing about art is that on occasion you get some recognition.  Over the weekend, ArtSlant posted my article on Matisse on their Facebook page.

I think that someone who spoke about one's art direction was Alyson B. Stanfield.

12 March, 2011


Erratic Boulder
6.25" x 8.5"
Pastel & Charcoal
Casey Klahn 

We had snow a couple times this week. Maybe when spring gets here, I'll think about doing some more of these boulder scenes.

Another note.

I grew up around the Pacific beaches. I recall, as a kid, my uncle driving onto the bridge in his pick-up truck and the span had been washed away by a tidal wave (old term).  He broke his arm, and us youngsters got a kick out of seeing that old bridge down in the water like that.  I also felt a 6.5 earthquake, and that is the extent of my experiences with natural disasters, since I completely missed any volcanic fallout when that big one went off in 1980. 

Also, I have been to Japan, which is a beautiful and serene country. Not unlike the boulder in this painting, solid and solitary in her beauty.  

We are watching Internet news and videos of the unimaginable situation across the ocean in Japan. My prayers and thoughts go out to the many who are affected by this natural disaster.

08 March, 2011

Kids Those Days

Our friend Adam Cope reminds us why drawing and painting one's children is something artists are fond of doing.  In a very well blogged report, he takes us through a chef's tour of some tender and poignant children's portraits.

I was happy to find his link to a blog titled ArtKids, Artistic depictions of children.


I remember best the one by Rembrandt that is a sanguine chalk sketch of two matrons and a toddler.  It's in the gaze of the child that this one comes alive.

Let me add these two reactions I had to this subject.  

Last night I watched an interview by Charlie Rose detailing an exhibition of Henri Matisse works, and one of the major works is this one of Pierre Matisse taking his piano lessons.  It has layers and layers of meaning, and I always enjoy studying this painting, which has to do with the First World War. It is interesting to note that Pierre is depicted as an adolescent, but when Matisse painted this, his son was serving as a soldier.

You know when you go to a Charlie Rose interview, you will be tied up for an hour, so be forewarned.

Secondly, I want you to see the work of Antti Rautiola, of Finland, whose subjects are children.

04 March, 2011

Studio News - Winter 2010-2011

Studio News - Winter 2010-2011
Casey Klahn

1. There are over fifty new artworks in my two flat file cabinets, waiting for the framer. I don't actually expect all fifty to make the final cut - what I do is eliminate the worst third or more after I get a better look at them (and come to my senses). This process I wrote about previously: The Axe Falleth

These artworks are also waiting for the formal photographs, and then they go to the Photoshop technician and the archiver. We now have the latest Photoshop program in the house, but I think I'll stick with my old version 1-point-oh. I mean, if it was good enough for Fred Flintstone, then it's good enough for me. 

2. The direction of my art is evolving. I am trying to simplify my colors. That means that I am developing smaller ideas, or maybe I want to say more singular ideas. 

Subjects are the prairie, especially the trees and up the hill, and the Hoquiam River. Also, I am going bigger. I continue to struggle with doing full sheet work, but I am creating many pastel paintings that are in the almost full sheet sizes. Is it the opening dimensions that I struggle with? Possibly. I typically do not compose well with traditional opening sizes, but am prone to work in "custom" sizes. It has to do with my way of composing images - from the inside out. By the same token, I do respond very well to the Golden Rectangle - which is, again, not a standard opening size. I drive my framer nuts.

3. I have been cleaning, organizing and doing minor changes in my studio. The biggest addition is the sheet rock wall, where I have a nice, white wall space that is well lit.  Visitors are expected, and studio sales may become a major part of my vocation in years to come. 

I also installed another track light bar. The biggest challenge has been having too much light from snow reflection. Even pulling the blinds was not enough. I finally hung a blanket over my north windows to cut the harsh light. 

A new microwave oven keeps me in the studio for lunch, which gives me more time for art making.

Did you see Cindy Michaud's new modular custom studio space? It is well thought out and worth your look: New Studio Reveal

4. It has been record-cold around here. My studio is nice and warm, except when the wind hits my east or north windows. They may be insulated windows, but there are gaps opened up by the loss of squareness that comes from moving a trailer once or twice. Also, the front door, which opens into my studio, has lost it's weather stripping and I haven't replaced it - as simple as that would be. Good thing there is always Duct tape.

4. This blog continues to be a popular place for readers to find out what goofy ideas are in my head about art and I guess they come here looking for what art I am doing lately. I always say the pictures are coming, and then I post old images that I have on file. New readers like to see these, and maybe my old readers have missed one or two. 

5. On a personal front, I just finished reading a private, unbound  memoir of an American who spent the Second World War as a POW in Japan and The Philippines.  He was an army officer who survived the horrific Bataan Death March and was imprisoned in 5 camps altogether.  His humility and courage is typical of his generation, and it must be said, atypical of people in general.  

6.  If you are someone who comments here often, and yet don't find your blog on my text blog roll, send me a note so I can fix that.  I am not as attentive to that as I should be.  I just found one that made me say, "Doh! How could I not have her on my blog roll?"

River Corner, Red
3.5" x 3.75"
Casey Klahn

My wonderful daughter turns 8 on Monday.  

Photo Credits:  Lorie Klahn

02 March, 2011

Video Series Takes You Into Degas' Studio, Home and Head

Drawing: Casey Klahn

Go here for a six-part video series that is a great tour of Montmartre and Degas' studio in the form of a re-creation.  The focus is on his later works.  Warning: pastel exposure.
Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism