15 March, 2007

Intuitive Choices

Abstract Reds Over Blues
20" x 12"
Original Pastel
Casey Klahn

Under the tutelage of Diane Townsend I painted this abstract work. It has some elements of color field painting, like Mark Rothko, and extensive gestural elements. The gestural nature is in keeping with the drawing roots of the pastel medium. I like the way the paper's surface is evident, and yet the color blending, and heavily worked nature of the piece makes it work as a painting for me.

Let's talk a little bit about intuitive choices in fine art. The choices that a child makes are very intuitive, because their knowledge base is limited. The hands start moving, and the limitations are the length of their little arms, and the characteristics of the tools. They are mostly trying these tools out for the very first time.

A great deal is made of technique in art. The pastel medium is no exception. In fact, technical skill is probably too emphasized in this medium. It's supposed to be hard, you see. And, admittedly, there is much to know (much that I do not know!). Sometimes beginning steps are not rewarded very well by the outcomes.

"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things."
Edgar Degas said in a quote posted at Expo Degas.

So, intuition! First sketches with bold gestural marks always work better for me than deliberate and measured work. The thing is to have years and years of drawing from memory in one's back pocket, and then the quick marks made on the paper will seem intentional. I don't subscribe to the subtle and tentative working that is often required of detailed realistic work.

The same goes for compositional choices. It is not easy to describe, but I think that studying good composition is necessary, and then ought to be put out of one's mind. If you can internalize compositional knowledge, it will come out naturally as you draw. The best thing I can say is: "try it".

The ability to critique one's own art becomes more important when you want to be an intuition-driven artist. Did this one really turn out to have the best composition? Color Choices? Does it have too much to say for one painting? Ask these questions of yourself.

Wolf Kahn has a chair that he sits in and ruminates over his finished art. Most artists do take some time and distance away from their works to try and get an objective perspective on their own creations. It's challenging.

The pastel medium is "made to order" for the artist who wants to favor intuitive creation. It is a direct, and rewarding tool. It's interesting to consider that in the book, Wolf Kahn's Pastels, the great colorist chose to make the text a collection of essays on artistic process. A natural fit, I think.


Anonymous said...

Ohhh How interesting Casey! Get this....of all the paintings that I have made. Which isn't NEARLY as many as many other artist's. I haven't been painting as long...but anyhoo...."Magnolia" was the one that people liked the most. I did it by accedent or not trying.Intuitive.... I was hmming a hymn that I had gone over in Choir..."The Apple tree" and out it came! LOLOL That is an interesting post! I find that hard to do at times, easier at other times. R you like that? Does it just become easier as you progress as a painter? It's strange...my moods will change. I will be able to paint one way, cartoonish/abstract, abstract, mixed media....it depends. I have wanted to start up collages for awhile but haven't because with paintings you can mess up and paint over a mistake......any suggestions as to how I could just chill. Not worry sooooo freakin' much. I think painting is helping me learn to do that...just SLOWLY. It may take time to overcome some things. I don't know...Ok I'm going on and on.. I better shut it now. LOLOLOL Well Anyhoo, I love this piece Casey!

Casey Klahn said...

"...people liked (it) the most..," is because you have that spark of an artist inside! You have an indescribable thing that makes the canvas you paint come alive, somehow. Intuition!
Angela brings up a good point. The painter has similar experiences with the brush as I do with my sticks of pigment.
How to just chill? Believe it or not my answer is "practice". Get really familiar with your abilities to the point where they become second nature. Then, when you approach a new situation, like depicting water, or a different paper that you've never tried, or perspective drawing, you have the mind to hand coordination already established.
I guess the lesson here is drawing is fundamental to any artist's ability to create. Remember that Chihuly (local boy makes big) has drawing as a foundation for his glass ideas.
If you can compose drawings in your mind, or express yourself with an intuitive brush stroke, then when you pick up a new tool there is greater chance for success.

Philip said...

Interesting article and picture. I agree with what you say.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks. I wonder about intuition and monoprints, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm..... Makes me wonder alot Casey.....if I do not have the ability to chill right off the bat. Do you think that makes me a bad artist? I have often wondered that, looking at others art, they look so free...and have the ability to be so... where as I don't always. You can see it in my work too...
Do you think that I should just give up? Just in need of an oppinion. :)

Casey Klahn said...

I think you are a great artist. There is that spark!
I am often lacking the verve, if you will. Today, the dish network guy came (high speed internet), I had to get up from my nap (!) as I've been double sick the past few days.
All to say that my art work that's prepped and on the easel has been ignored for three days, now.
Join the club, angela! we all have trouble finding the Ooomph, some times.

Philip said...

Why don't you have a go at monoprints? I think it helps to do something different once in awhile. I always try to give myself an artistic diversion once in awhile.

Lisa B. said...

In the last 3 years, I've done one pastel I've been really happy with- and I had no idea what I was doing.

I don't know what came over me, but I hope it comes again someday!

tlwest said...

Really quite rich!

Anonymous said...

Thank you I think you are a wonderful artist as well Casey!!! Good to know that I am not alone in my feelings of wondering about art. That someone with your talent likes my work,means ALOT to me!:)
I sure hope that you feel better soon Casey! :) *HUGS*

Casey Klahn said...

The diversion idea is a good one. Someday I will pull some prints, Philip, and I'll definitely be looking at you and Martha for inspiration.
Lisa, did you hear the harp music playing in the background while you did that work? When I get a convert to pastels, I commission them, and a little bell ringer, as well.
And thanks Terri and Angela. I was surprised to be able to pull off a decent abstract, but it's a testament to Diane's teaching ability.

Lisa B. said...

No harp music yet Casey, but the gazoo did an awfully nice fanfare.

Mary Richmond said...

i think all good painters paint intuitively, no matter what they are painting. call it being in the zone, listening to the muse, being in tune...isn't it why we paint? to be in that intuitive, wonderful place? isn't that why feeling blocked or inadequate is so painful, because we miss that free flowing, humming, wonderful intuitive place where our imagination and our perception join?

Jala Pfaff said...

Hello Casey,
I was blog-hopping and happily stumbled upon yours. What wonderful, wonderful work! It's also really exciting to see someone else out there who, like me, doesn't use pastels in a run-of-the-mill way. I've put your blog link on my blog and will be greatly enjoying your work from now on.
Jala Pfaff

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks for the generous comments, Jala, and I take them to heart. I am glad to see your site, too. You are an awesome artist!

I have great respect for someone who can take the atelier method, and yet still value all styles. That's my feeling about art, too.

Jala Pfaff said...

Thank you so much for the compliment! I'm spending waaaaaay too much extremely fun time going through tons of your old posts, now that I know about your blog. Your work is truly mouth-watering. (Do other artists feel the way I do about a box of pastel sticks--that you want to almost literally eat them? :)

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks for reading through my blog, Jala. That's a compliment in itself.

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