30 November, 2008



Curator Jessica Morgan, of the Tate Modern, writes about the big ideas driving art now, and I have to say I concur with her. I, myself, am very interested in Modernism, but worry that it's old stuff. I ask myself if my art is too much like Modern Art, then is it adding anything to the whole? Do I even care?

The economic downturn has me thinking that a grand opportunity is here for artists to retreat and see if there is an art within them that is less market oriented. What kind of art would I make if there were no chance to sell it?

Morgan writes:

In a curatorial sense, I am fascinated that few exhibitions try to take on really big issues. I think there is a certain amount of fear in the idea of taking them on. One result is that people look to the past. There has been a tendency to revert to the early stages of modernism. It was a point of utopian hope, experimentation and bold ideas of political change.

There has also been a type of artwork that allows the audience to create or complete it. I’m thinking of artists such as Carsten Höller, who made the slides at Tate Modern, or Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster [whose current show is in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall]. They take on the role of curator and to some extent allow the curator to be an artist.

The economic shift will affect the art world. One of the things I hope may fall by the wayside is the type of fashionable production created by the market. We’d all be better off without quite so many galleries and useless publications.

Thanks, Katherine, for taking me to this article.

Addendum. Again, indebted to Katherine Tyrrell. I found Edward Winkleman's articles (Part 1, and Part 2) reflecting some of my thoughts about how artists and collectors might proceed in tough times. I have been thinking about the behavior of American artist during the Great Depression. We are very far from the economic realities of the thirties, but some of the templates from that time come to mind. Pre-selling art, long term views about collecting and strategies like that crossed my mind, too.

26 November, 2008

The Latest FAD


News Flash!



The latest "FAD" is the new blog idea:
The Fine Art Department, created by the wonderful Tracy Helgeson.

Her cunning idea is to create a small and intimate space to show some fantastic artists who sell art on their blogs. With only about thirty or so artists at The Fine Art Department, it isn't difficult to find your Christmas gift of fine art or craft. My own art is presented there, and if you wish to buy, just find my sale blog at caseyklahn.blogspot.com.

Many of my readers over time have wondered if I even sell my art via the blogs. The answer is yes, but until now I have been very subtle about it. Call it a "fine art thing". I am very much "for" capitalism, and every artist has to earn a living somehow, but we tend to place our life's work on a pedestal. If you are someone who has never bought an original painting, do not be afraid of artists! We think of ourselves as regular people, and to tell the truth, my collectors over the years have either been friends, or else they become such after we get acquainted.

Washington State Art Blogs

I am trying to keep track of the art bloggers (and Wordpressers, etc.) who blog from Washington State. Today, I add two new links, and I have to say that I am surprised that I didn't know Rachel's blog existed! Rachel is (IMHO) a rock star whose work is highly prized in the Northwest and beyond. Why didn't I know about her having a blog? How many other Washingtonians are out there blogging away in hiding?

Local Bloggers:

Robert Chunn, of Alla Prima, in Seattle. I linked him once before, but forgot to highlight him as a WA blogger. See his great link list, even though I'm not on it (hint), it is a work of art in itself.
Rachel Maxi
Seattle Sketcher, who is part of the Urban Sketchers

25 November, 2008

Reader Traits & Matisse Bits

The faithful readership
of The Colorist are responding with some well thought-out Artist's Traits. These are responses to my Artist's Traits series, and represent the desired character traits these artists feel would bring them growth.

First, I will list the traits, and then a blurb from each respondent.





Adam Cope, of Dordogne Painting Days, France, writes the following:

"Well then can we say that doubt & questioning is part of the mix of ingredients?

Doubting is part of the critical functioning & must work in a way that is constructive to creativity. When it works well it is analytical & opens up the artists to new opportunities. However, in my experience, the suspensions of the doubting, critical self in the beginning phases of making a painting is important, for if the artist is to dig deep within himself (herself) & tap into the authentic, the natural - 'le Propre du Soi' - then this is more of an affirmation, a kind of YES as it feels natural & as if it always were & will be. The opposite of doubt maybe?

Do some research into the the idea of Genius as the Ancient Greeks meant it.

So my traits are doubt & genius."

Deborah Paris, of Deborah Paris-A Painting Life
, Texas, says,

"High on my list of traits for myself as an artist and for my work is- Authenticity. By that I mean possessing an aesthetic which is 'of its own time' (reflecting both the time and place of its making) as well as one that successfully announces the unique passion of its maker."

Lisa Bachman, of The Studio News, Maryland, explains,

"I admire perseverance. That ability to persist towards a goal in spite of frustration or self-doubt. If I could use only one word to describe Van Gogh, this would be it."

Julianne Richards, our ever-faithful Colorspeaker, New York City, writes this comment, too,
"Here are some of my thoughts on 'traits and...'
First, what I call 'a strong (very) work ethic'-which falls under the already mentioned 'discipline' is the first thing that comes to mind whenever I think of a trait of necessity for the 'artist path.'
In staying with artistic traits, in addition to self awareness, I would definitely add having a keen awareness (and interest) of one's environment-both on the small and larger scale. As your posts are reflecting, being open minded to learning and change, ultimately makes one a better artist as well as a better person."

Thanks, also, to Martha Marshall and Zoom (who added "Love, faith, hope, courage, persistence, generosity and a sense of humour")
for checking in. Also, a special thanks to the others who have commented throughout this series.

More Matisse Bits

I will be noting some fantastic Henri Matisse trivia as I come across such. See my study of the great Modernist here, here and here. Also, if you select my label, "Henri Matisse", you will see all of my posts on the keener, but several of them overlap with the Artist's Traits posts.

I mentioned before that Matisse's progeny are involved in arts, but I also notice that they don't seem to flaunt the name. With some propriety, I send you to this young man's very nice blog.

This fantastic blog, the Quip TORUM, entertains me much. Today's Matisse post led me there.

Laura K. Aiken writes A MOSAIC STUDIO, a "Mosaic and Visual Art Blog sprinkled with Henri Matisse".

I am gob-smacked by children's art, especially since I am a father of two young ones myself. I came across this really enjoyable video of some young student responses to Matisse.

Speaking of the wee ones, my own were watching some Bugs Bunny cartoons, and I happened to see one that is a tribute to Matisse. "Wackiki Wabbit" not only features landscapes with Matisse patterns, but the castaways are drawn in the linear style of the great artist, too. I post it here, but keep in mind that this gem is 6.41 minutes long! Sorry about the Google ads.

21 November, 2008

Life Magazine Archive

Keeping in mind the copyright laws, go have a look at the new Life magazine archives that are now up at Google. ArtNewsBlog makes us aware of this, and has highlighted the "Artist's at Work" section. Get a load of these wonderful color photos of Henri Matisse in his studio in 1949, by photographer Gjon Mili.

For information regarding posting images, see:

The Artist's Rights Society, ARS

19 November, 2008

Reader Traits and Matisse

Henri Matisse

Miki Willa offers the trait of Discipline for the artist. Miki recently returned from a long tour around the U.S., and shows many pastel landscapes of her visits. Anyone care to write an essay on discipline? I will post a well written one here if you do.

Lisa Bachman offers Perseverance. It has certainly taken perseverance for Lisa to get all the way from A to Z in her informative Alphabet Art project. Find out what a zoopraxiscope is, and marvel at her entertaining illustrations for each letter entry.

Ready to be challenged? Hilary Spurling reveals this about Henri Matisse and his art:

"It is not easy to understand today how paintings of light and colour...could have seemed at the time, both to their perpetrator and to his public, an assault that threatened to undermine civilisation as they knew it. But Matisse was not simply discarding perspective, abolishing shadows, repudiating the academic distinction between line and colour. He was attempting to overturn a way of seeing evolved and accepted by the Western world for centuries, going back to painters like Michelangelo and Leonardo, and before them to the Greek and Roman masters of antiquity. He was substituting for their illusion of objectivity a conscious subjectivity, a twentieth-century art that would draw its validity essentially from the painter's own visual and emotional responses." Spurling, The Unknown Matisse.

I am still looking for your input on artist's traits. What are the traits you consider valuable to an artist's character?

17 November, 2008

Call for Traits

Modeling the Head
Sketch for Drawing Class
9.5" x 8"
Graphite, White Charcoal & Pastel
Casey Klahn

Thanks to all of my readers for making the Artist's Traits series a success.
Also thanks to the many Bloggers who kindly commented. The genesis of this series was taken from my bi-annual goals, which I began to formulate in September. As a framework, I wanted to work towards improving myself and focus on certain traits that are important to me as an artist.

The list of traits follows, each linked to an essay or set of essays:

Courage-Denied, Moral,
Get It!
Creative Integrity-Artist's, Matisse's
Self Understanding-Link

For you technology minded Bloggers, you may be interested to know that I highlight popular series' with quick-link buttons (my version of a Widget), and the post for this series can be found here. If you want to start doing these for your own blog, the "how to" of quick link buttons can be found here.


Now I would very much like to hear from the readership. What is the trait (or traits) that you hold high for the artist?

14 November, 2008

Artist, Know Thyself

Photo: Lorie Klahn

"Know yourself. Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful."
Ann Landers.

Self Understanding is imperative to the risk-taker. Often, I look to my days as a rock climber for analogies to explain something. When I did the daredevil sport, and it came time to try the next harder grade, it was only when I could do a thorough self-diagnostic that I knew I was ready to advance. Energy? Check. Fitness level? Check. Equipment? Check. Weather? Maybe, well okay-check.

The artist may advance his images with greater confidence if he knows what his limits and abilities are. When you began the painting, you were envisioning a Michelangelo. In the end, for some reason, it turned out as a Klahn. Not that it's bad, but still not what you envisioned!

"Trust not yourself,
but your defects to know;
make use of every friend
and every foe."
Alexander Pope.

Do I mean introspection? Navel-gazing? Not too much. We are not writing philosophy; we are making pictures. Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said, "...the shallow
know themselves"? But, a little self-awareness of, for instance, the will to finish a particular painting might be good to have. You may ask yourself, "Do I care enough about trees-in-a-glen to make this image really speak?"

Some self understanding will keep you against that day when the nay-sayers come about and denounce your work. "If I ever decide to buy something like that, stop me!" "Everyone can't be Rembrandt!" "Art is okay for you, if you can make a living at it!"

Why do you make this art? Are you strong in yourself? Do you feel the art in your bones? It might be good to know the why of it for when that day of doubt arrives.

"To reach any knowledge of oneself is a rare and precious bonus. Most people live to the end in doubt and uncertainty. What a torment! It's not a matter of finding the right path, but of finding one's own path, as Nietzsche said, 'Become who you are.' Alas! for [sic] one moment of certainty, how many hours of doubt!" Henri Edmund Cross

I think that having a solid "first person authority," knowing what you think, understand and believe, can help in making your art unique and authentic. It is one piece of the originality puzzle that all artists seek to solve.

Have you ever had the experience of revisiting a painting that you haven't looked at for a while, and discovering that it has a trace of van Gogh in it? You didn't know you had that in you, and you are wondering how that happened. There is no end to the delight of self discovery through art.

"I know...that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas," Albert Einstein.

Another common phrase for the self-seeker is "Don't fool yourself". Once in a while, use some tools for checking in on your own ideas and beliefs about yourself. Sometimes, the mirror is a good device, and sometimes it is the mirror of a friend that tells the truth.

Have you ever overheard others speaking well of you? I hope you get the chance, as it is a wonderful thing to hear un-solicited praise. And, at the same time, the truth can be helpful when it's not exactly praise.

Another fun example of third party input is to secretly observe people looking at your art. I once posted some cartoons on a bulletin board, and a friend of mine made sure that I stood ten feet away and watched reactions. Didn't Mark Tobey make a point of going to his own openings in disguise?

Next Post: I'll be asking you to add your traits-to-be-gained. What are your desired traits for the artist's life?


Stanford on Self Knowledge.
Extreme self-thought.

11 November, 2008

War & Remembrance - Veteran's Day 2008


My father's time.

Remember the veterans. They take the insults of the few with silence; they take the thanks of many with humility.

10 November, 2008

Knowledge & Art

Casey Klahn
Photo: Lorie Klahn

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent van Gogh

In our last post, we studied the trait of generosity, as exemplified by Vincent van Gogh. How do we make the transition from the world's best known self-taught artist, van Gogh, to the subject of knowledge? Is there a contradiction here? Isn't knowledge the stuff of formal education?

In order to be fair, we may have to ask if art training is necessary. Before we go too far in this, I have to say that I have never found it becoming when someone brags about their lack of letters. I prefer to speak of the merit of someone who excels in spite of their deficit in formal training.

Cafe Terrace...
Ink and Graphite
Vincent van Gogh

One of my favorite creeds is: "Be, Know, Do". Art is a "doing" activity, and one "is" an artist.
By contrast, knowledge is not art. Need an example of the limits of knowledge in art? A highly valued characteristic of good art is the quality of "looseness". Can one even teach "looseness"?

The ultimate "loose" artist, Mr. van Gogh, was as pitiful a student as ever darkened an art academy doorstep. He was dismissed from the Royal Art Academy in Antwerp, where he was disappointed in the pedantic character of the training. My feeling is that if the art environment (art school, for instance) values open marks, then the artist has that much greater chance of being loose.

"Now, if you can forgive someone for immersing himself in pictures, perhaps you will also grant that the love of books is as sacred as that of Rembrandt, indeed, I believe that the two complement each other." VVG

Knowledge and art appreciation fit together hand-in-glove. For me, it is true that the more I learn about art, artists and art impedimenta, the broader my love of it all becomes. I seem to appreciate more and different types of art, and at the same time, paradoxically, I feel that my critical faculties get sharper, too.

The long and short of it is that knowledge is essential to the growth of the artist. Didn't go to art school? Make it up with a lifetime of personal study. Go to museums and galleries. Look at as much notable art as your sore eyes will devour. Read about art, the lives of artists and study art history. Look online at the current world of art.

You say you did go to art school? You're not finished learning, either, Rembrandt. As every true student finds out, learning is a lifelong task that only begins with proper schooling. Thirst for knowledge is the hallmark of the learned.

Many times we have heard that it isn't what you know, it's who you know. I say, know thyself.

Next Post:
Self Understanding

07 November, 2008

Artist's Traits Widget

Matisse Seeing
8" x 7"
Casey Klahn

I am gratified by the response that the Artist's Traits series has generated. Certainly I am impoverished in the trait department, and there is no doubt that I need this goals-study more than any. Your readership, comments, links and encouragements are a great blessing to me, and I am thankful for that.

You may access the whole Artist's Traits series via this link.
Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism