30 December, 2008

Snow World

All Photos: Lorie Klahn

Looks like another big snow year, and that's sayin' something. Last year we were up to the gills in the white stuff!

Every year I have to say the Farmer's Almanac is a good read. They called for the big snow, and what do you know?

Friends and family have been helping me by shoveling the path to the studio, and I have actually gotten some art work done. Woo Hoo! Today, though, we are literally swimming in windblown snow berms up to our armpits. I'd be happier if I could strap on my skis, but that will wait another week or so.

Happy New Year to everyone, if I don't post til then. Stay warm!

29 December, 2008

Books, 2008

This year's books review might be smaller than the previous two. On the good side, I did read two double-volume sets with @ 1,000 pages each (@500 pages per book). Well, to be honest I am in the middle of the second Matisse bio, which I started twice. That's the kind of year it's been!

As my closer readers know, I had two operations this year (urology - yiick). This has made me less productive much of the time. Without papering that over, I do have positive regards for the year to report. I haven't forgotten that it was the January opening at the Karlson/Gray Gallery in Langley, Washington, that featured my New School Color pastels, and was a success. New people found my art, and began collecting.

Also, it was last winter that saw the electrification of my new studio, and a whole new chapter of studio life began. I would say that I still have no routine, partly from lack of time. My youngest little schooler doesn't go every day, yet. My being sick, and my wife's more than full time new work project have also been a huge challenge.

All of this to say that I have painted a number of works that I very much like. My plein air paintings turned a corner, and now that skill is becoming part of my repertoire.

Books 2008

The Rape of the Masters, Roger Kimball

The Unknown Matisse, Hilary Spurling

Matisse the Master, Hilary Spurling

By Volkmar Essers

On Painting, Giuseppe Verde (Still on the bookshelf)

I'd Rather Be In The Studio, Alyson Stanfield

Multi-Brand Color Chart Pastels, Marie Meyer

Pastel Painting Workshop, Albert Handell and Leslie Trainor

Outside of the art genre, I read:

An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson

The Day of Battle, Rick Atkinson (Get busy on the third one, Mr. Atkinson)

Ideas for my own books to write:

Drawings - Essays & Examples

New School Color - will this be the year for a manifesto on color?

A Portfolio - a catalogue of works

The Colorist - a blog book

On my wish list:

Ordinary Heroes: Six Stars In The Window
, Dan Oja.

Atkinson's third book in his victory trilogy.

24 December, 2008

Nativity Art and The Book of Kells; Old Books

Virgin and Child From The Book of Kells

In Western art, the illuminated manuscript image shown above is the oldest extant depiction of the nativity. It is found in the Book of Kells, which is the grandest artifact in Irish culture, and certainly a great Western art treasure.

For nativity image inspiration, see this article. And for more on TBOK, go here.

A stunning contemporary project has artists illuminating the Millennial Bible, known as The Saint John's Bible. Their press:
In commissioning a handwritten, illuminated Bible, Saint John's revives a tradition that has been nearly absent from the Christian world since the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. The Saint John's Bible affirms this community's commitment to the study of Scripture, to the book arts and to educational, artistic, spiritual and scholarly pursuits.

Oldest Book on the Shelf

Bibliophiles swoon at these types of things. The oldest book in my personal library is Stories By English Authors, Scotland, 1898. My favorite story from it is The Courting of T'nowhead's Bell, byJ.M. Barrie, and it is a knee-slapper about the culmination of courtship come down to who can foot race to the church fastest. I have a few books dated @ 1900-1905, too.

The book is up at Google books here. Also, a readable version of The Courting of T'nowhead's Bell is here.

23 December, 2008

Have I Ever? 100 Memories or Not

Casey Klahn - What Did I Do?

This meme is going around the art blogs, and it is much fun. It gets you thinking, especially at this time of year. I enjoyed seeing this one at Tina Mammoser's and at Harry Bell's and Tracy Helgeson's. I did happen on a new blog, for me, and the author, Finnish-Canadian artist Marja-Leena Rathje (December 10), seems to be the one with the most accomplished. Way to go!

The ones that I have bolded are what I've done.

1. Started your own blog
Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
Visited Hawaii [ long lay-over at the airport :-( ]

5. Watched a meteor shower
Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
Climbed a mountain [ dozens ]
Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea [ I grew up very near the ocean, but can't directly recall this- I mean I didn't see the beach from my house ]
Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child
Had food poisoning [ but self-diagnosed ]
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
Slept on an overnight train
Had a pillow fight
Hitch hiked
Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
Built a snow fort [ on Mount McKinley! ]

25. Held a lamb [ and fed, and given medicine to ]
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise [ I did the Alaska Inside Passage from Tacoma, but it wasn't a cruise ]
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
Visited the birthplace of your ancestors [ just my father's pioneer birthplace ]

35. Seen an Amish community [ my neighbors are Hutterites, which is a type of German speaking Christian community somewhat similar to the Amish. A Hutterite reader has informed me that I need to parse this closer, so I gladly yield to that request ]
36. Taught yourself a new language [ I have lived for a few months on my own in Japan and Costa Rica, and I began the languages, but that's all ]
Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person [ Darn! Just barely missed it! ]
Gone rock climbing [ hundreds of routes, including slept on them ]
40. Seen Michelangelos David [ another just missed! A pattern! ]
41. Sung karaoke [ with a group at a bachelor party ]
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted [ ohh, good one. I did my self-portrait with Photoshop. Some would count that, but I think it needs to be painted. Darn. ]
Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud
Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie [ T.V. many, many times. Dang! I knew this guy once, who jumped from the collapsing tower in The Green Berets.]
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies [ Boy Scout ones, though ]
62. Gone whale watching
Got flowers for no reason
Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving [ no, but I have jumped from helicopters at @ 7 feet ]
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp [ no, but I did see an atrocity location where they burned a church full of citizens ]
Bounced a check
Flown in a helicopter [ All kinds, including one long trip in the co-pilot seat ]
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt [ helped a few times ]
Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book [ self-published ]
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car [ received a new Ford Ranger from family ]
83. Walked in Jerusalem
Had your picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible [ Bible college graduate, I read it, wrote on it and studied ad infinitum ]
86. Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating [ deer, turkey and upland bird - I ate venison stew last night ]
88. Had chickenpox [ can't remember, but I had mumps and measles ]
Saved someone’s life [ mountain climbing, and on the mission field, and in the Army ]
90. Sat on a jury [ dodged that, barely, twice - including a big, grizzly murder trial !!! ]
Met someone famous [ Bill Gates - and I secured his life at 65 feet in the air by a rope ]
92. Joined a book club
Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby [ although I am wholly disqualified to have a baby, I did see my son and daughter a nano second before my wife. She insists she had more intimate involvement, though ]

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
Been involved in a lawsuit [ witnessed at a few, but I have not sued or been sued ]
Owned a cell phone
Been stung by a bee
Read an entire book in one day

Obviously, I stretched a couple to get in a yes, but I judiciously omitted a number that were marginal. I have, technically, been to Hawaii, but it was hardly a visit. I must have witnessed lightning over water, but can't really recall. I filled in the Amish visit because I have had a lot of interaction with the Hutterite community who own property on three sides of me, and know them all by name.

Contemporary-speak had me actually saying, "I had a baby" when my kids were born, but I couldn't post that with a straight face. I can't say I pulled anyone from a railroad track with a train bearing down, but I have climbed and adventured countless times, including some very scary technical climbs. It is arguable that someone may have died without my hand, but the preponderance of incidence forces me to say yes to this one. I did guide my lost party out of a trackless jungle at night, and have rescued and self-rescued in the mountains. I pulled five live mortar rounds that were mis-fires out of the mortar tube, but really all of that army stuff was just the job.

Did you find this blog for the first time at this post? Thank you for the visit. My list of the Top Ten Art Blog Posts of 2008 is found here. A very interesting series of recent posts is Artist's Traits, which had a large readership participation. And, fine art shopping for my work is found here.

22 December, 2008

Top Ten Art Blog Posts

In the spirit of "top ten" lists, I hereby name the Top Ten Art Blog Posts of the year 2008. Posts that made this list were memorable, displayed one or more noteworthy pieces of art, or had expository merit.

Please copy and paste this award if you are listed. No attribution is necessary.

Here, in no particular order, are my Top Ten Art Blog Posts, 2008:

Adam Cope,
Dordogne Days, font-de-gaume-dordogne, February 2, 2008.
Rock Wall Paintings.

Joan DaGradi,
Paintings From New Orleans, mater-dolorosa-sunny-morning, May 20, 2008.
Definitive way to paint doorways, and yet popped with originality.

Corrine Bayraktaroglu
, Jafabrit's Art, Heart Paintings and New Links, January 17, 2008.
Okay, I'll admit to liking my art in a setting with a bird figure.

Lloyd Irving Bradbury,
Lloyd's Art Info, Blue, The Noble Color, May 6, 2008.
No nonsense meanings of the color.

Adebanji Alade,
Adebanji Alade: My Art, My Passion for Sketching, Afro XIX, December 9, 2008.
Jaw-dropping honestly and authenticity in portraiture with a pencil.

Gesa Helm,
Paint and Pastel, With All These Questions, August 13, 2008.
Weather and connection of the landscape in pastel.

Charley Parker,
Lines and Colors, David Jon Kassan, August 28, 2008.
Memorable feature of an artist who knows the pencil better than most.

Stephanie (Yellow) Smith,
A Roker Artist, Happy Halloween, November 1, 2008.
Wonderful illusion in a Halloween costume of a famous artist.

Nicole Caulfield,
Nicole Caulfield's Art Journal, Black, December 16, 2008.
Didactic on the maligned color, in detail.

Robyn Sinclair,
Have Dogs, Will Travel, Venice Etching, December 14, 2008.
First time genius in a new medium, and blogged as a lesson.

19 December, 2008

Decloned Deconstructs

Nature's Nature

Blogging friend and pastor, William Lehman, has given a lengthy response to my ten theses on a theology of art. Not content with just words, our creative blogger (and William is one of the most creative bloggers I know) curates his post with a link to the art of Andy Goldsworthy, and singer Michael Card gets in a music video. See the post here.

18 December, 2008

Record Snow?

Looking at the House from my Studio

Snow North
Click On to Enlarge Image

Knowing how my readership loves the snow photos, I offer today's snow images.

The headline for this post borrows from the time honored newspaper method of adding a question mark if one is teasing the subject. The national news has picked my region, the Spokane area, for having the baddest weather in a nationwide series of snowstorms.

At the airport, which is not far from me, their 17" in the 24 hour period is reported to be the record. I guessed that we didn't have quite 18", but I don't wish to brag.

I remember last year having an 18" or better snow one time, but perhaps that was only local. My home, in rural Lincoln County, which is west of Spokane @ 20 miles, does get slightly worse weather. Last year, we drove through tunnels of snow to get home, and that was a long winter!

Meanwhile, in studio news, I have recently finished teaching a beginning drawing class. I'll try to get a full report up at Pastel, soon. With the small measure of energy I have, I have been cleaning and organizing the studio with hopes that I can get some artwork done. Pictured here is a large portrait study I did for a class example and tool.

It is copied, freehand, from a textbook, so nothing to write home about, as they say. I do want to get back to the figure and portrait, and I have an interesting post in that regard coming next.

17 December, 2008

Ten (Theological) Theses on Art - A Response

Photo: Lorie Klahn

Extreme navel-gazing alert!

Occasionally I go "out-of-niche" and try to make my blog world bigger. Art blogging is a surprisingly small niche, and it gives me pause to wonder if it is indicative of how art fits in contemporary society. I found an interesting (if egg-headed) discussion on a theology of art going on, and decided to engage in it. I am planning an exhibition at Northwest University, my alma mater, and have been pondering about the nexus between art and spirituality.

Ben Myer's blog,
Faith & Theology blogspot, published his provisional, Ten Theological Theses on Art, Sunday, December 14th., 2008.

Here, from my Christian perspective, are my Ten Theses on Art:

  1. Art (etymology=artifice,artificial) is a visual, organic parable. Emotional and conceptual aspects of art are of the soul. Auto-didactic art remains a function of nature.
  2. Sacred art is a category of art that involves subject. If art were, or could be, "Sacred," the Lord Jesus would have drawn the gospel.
  3. At some point, content must always supersede subject in art. Content is the construct and concept of the artist.
  4. Nature is corrupt, but art may rise above nature inasmuch as it may be created in an environment of redemption.
  5. Making art is a creative act. Individuality is intrinsic to the making of art.
  6. The need of art is an act of faith, rather than a scientific quantity.
  7. Truth in art is no more self-evident or intrinsic than any other act in nature. We assert that truth is resident in Jesus Christ.
  8. Beauty in the classic sense is resident in nature, and therefore must be interpreted.
  9. Art has a long life - longer than human mortality. With perhaps the exception of performance art and conceptual art, Fine Art is a corporeal object of exceptional longevity.
  10. We reject the theology that God must not be represented in art. God is personal, and art is one of the many (perhaps imperfect) means of relating to Him.

Of the responses written to Ben's, my favorite, so far, is Erin's Six Theses. I took great umbrage with poserprophet, whose angst over Auschwitz has made him completely forget the redemptive acts.

15 December, 2008

Photo & Bio

Casey Klahn

Some favorite art bloggers of mine have recently posted good photos of themselves, and it adds a dimension that makes the authors more reachable. Some others have updated photos, as well. Even though I know perfectly well what I look like, it strikes me that some of my readers may think that I have an orange 'fro, and a red nose.

So, in the interests of full disclosure, above I re-post my best photo portrait from last year. And, here is a short biography from March that I offer, with a little updating:

My name is Kenneth C. Klahn. The nickname, Casey, is a play on my initials.

Max Klahn,
my grandfather, immigrated from Germany around the turn of the 20th Century and pioneered on the very, very rugged and extreme northwest corner of the USA. Max logged and home-steaded, and my father Kenneth K. Klahn logged and served in the elite Tenth Mountain Division in WW II. I visited the battle sights in North Italy in 2006.

I was born in 1958 and grew up in the hardscrabble town of Hoquiam, Washington. From the age of four until I graduated high school at age seventeen, I drew over 100,000 drawings. Mostly the figure.

I did complete two of three large correspondence binders from the
Norman Rockwell Famous Artist's School Course for Talented Young People when I was not quite a teenager. I co-founded a "Master's" art class for high schoolers, cartooned for and co-edited our award winning HS newspaper. Otherwise, I am a self taught artist, and began the fine art profession about ten years ago.

A few other interesting things about me include that I am married to Lorie Teel Klahn, who is a Nurse Practitioner, and we have two young children. We own a small farm in eastern Washington, but don't actively farm.

My work life before fine art included specialty retail sales work at REI, mountain guiding on Mount Rainier, and ten years in the Army National Guard where I was a Captain of Infantry. I have done a modest amount of international travel, and hold a Bachelor's degree in the Bible. I served as a short-term missionary in the deep jungles of Costa Rica, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

Famous Artists School

Tomorrow: 2 Years of The Colorist!

13 December, 2008

Coffee Clutch - Newsy Morning

<span class= Since the snow is flying here at Colorist-land, I suggest you pour a cup of Joe and see what we've been reading and writing lately. Two very interesting threads have been posted at Pastel, recently. One is a review by Brian McGurgan about the Vincent van Gogh nocturnes on display at MoMA. The other is my interview with German artist Astrid Volquardsen, whose beachscapes in pastel are well worth seeing.

<span class= Much of my recent posting at The Colorist has been of old favorites and also a guest essay. The Criteria for fine drawing is revealed here by Mary Adams, of Trinidad & Tobago. And, in case you missed them, why not check out the subjects of Barns and Intuition? Further, the series on Artist's Traits was an all time great series about the way-of-life for the dedicated artist (about fifteen posts long).

Refill? http://images2.hiboox.com/images/4308/16a37c607cb8b6f9af8703647e80b231.gif If you've read this far, you know that I am convalescing after an operation. Things are fine, and it went well. Today is another no-appetite day, and the pain meds are being stepped down. The first of these operations (this one is #3) took about a year to recover from, and the second hasn't really been recovered from. That was February - so this third one is supposed to be the fix.

I was just paging through the archive here in preparation for my 2 year blog-birthday on the 16th.,
and while reviewing the past anum, I could see the difficult year that it has been for me and my art. Still, I did paint 3 or 4 that I value highly and so I can say that growth happened in spite of resistance from the physical issues.

<span class= Is the cup of coffee still steaming? I figured out (after almost 2 years!) how to get gifs to play in my blog. It's my secret, by I also found out that you shouldn't mooch other peoples' bandwidth when you use these. If their host is big enough, and they offer them, then it is Okay. Otherwise, be a good-netiquette-neighbor and mind whose bandwidth yer' on.

<span class= This is a fascinating one. Our favorite New York State oil painting blogger, Tracy Helgeson, is following her Tribe-marketing instincts, and has grouped a terrific band of art bloggers together at one site, The Fine Art Department. The FAD is your one-stop shopping place for an affordable fine art/craft purchase, and when you go there and click on my link, it takes you to this easy-pleasey place where you can see several of my ready-to-ship original pastels. That's caseyklahn.blogspot.com.

Soon-to-come: idyllic snow pictures.

09 December, 2008

Mary Adam - Drawing Criteria

Mademoiselle Romaine LascauxPierre
Auguste Renoir

Mary Adam, of Trinidad & Tobago, blogs at Drawing, Etc. She has posted a concise and spot-on article about drawing basics that caught my attention. With her permission, I bring you Some Drawing Criteria:

Mary Adam:
I've always thought that Renoir was a brilliant draftsman and that everyone else would think so too. But it's by no means a universal view, and in the end it's a matter of taste and how different people define drawing. In fact there's no universally accepted definition of drawing, and it's futile to devote too much time to thinking about it.

However, it's important to me personally to have my own understanding of what drawing is, and especially what good drawing is, because otherwise how do I know what I'm striving for, and whether or not I've achieved it?

These are the criteria I use to judge drawings, my own and others:

Unity. Everything in nature has intrinsic unity. If the unity is disrupted or broken the object ceases to have life or to be itself, or the drawing is not convincing. Unity in a drawing is easiest to see in figure drawings, especially hands, and in animal drawings; but there's unity in everything, including landscapes and man-made objects. For an example of a lack of unity, imagine a drawing of a flower pot that looks as if it's made of plasticene.

Balance. I've blogged about balance in drawing before (A sense of balance). The kind of balance I mean relates to the law of gravity and it can be sensed or felt with one's own body rather than seen. A lack of balance in a drawn or painted figure or object is to me a fatal flaw, especially if it's my own drawing, unless there's a compelling reason for it to be like that.

Three dimensional form. A drawing that gives a solid illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface is a beautiful thing to see. Dark and light tones (or "shading") can help to achieve it, but there's more to it than that because a seemingly flat silhouette, or a simple contour, can give a convincing sense of three dimensional form with no shading at all. What it means is that drawing is a more complex and mysterious skill than at first it seems.

Life. Achieving a feeling of life is tied up with unity, balance and three dimensions. There's a magical quality about a sense of life in a drawing or painting, and if the work has life, then other shortcomings might be overlooked.

Renoir's painting of Mlle. Lacaux has all these qualities -- unity, balance, three dimensions and life, satisfying all my criteria. I wish I could draw like that.

Oddly enough, Picasso's sketchbook drawings of invented "creatures" (links below) satisfy all my criteria too. The fact that they have 'life" is especially remarkable because these particular drawings are of invented inanimate clunky objects which could be carved from wood or plaster.

Some of Picasso's invented forms from 1927:
(first link, bottom of page; second link, top of page)



Some of Picasso's invented forms from 1933 (titled "An Anatomy")
(first link, bottom of page; second link, top of page)



05 December, 2008

Intuition Revisited

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

This is a re-post of a favorite essay.

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.

The choices that a child makes are very intuitive

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

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 pastel medium is "made to order" for the artist who wants to favor intuitive creation

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.

04 December, 2008

Riposte -Repost

I am making a fine recovery from my operation on Tuesday. It will be a while before I am 100%, as my medical professional wife and I agree, it would be hard to find a more painful operation to have done. Meanwhile, enjoy a re-posting of this Barn subject essay.

Elijah Shifrin at Art & Critique
has written about my barn and rural building subjects in his article, "Casey Klahn: Barns And The Abstract Wizard Of Washington".

Elijah is thoughtfully focused on the abstract qualities of my building paintings. I have carefully tried to avoid being cast as "the barn guy". The reason is that sentiment is so easily attached to this great American symbol, and yet sentiment is bygone content in contemporary art. The challenge has been to de-construct this awe inspiring structure and make it relevant for today's art.

My Barn
Photo: Lorie Klahn

Working against my efforts to keep the barn image down have been a number of forces. Sales, believe it or not, has been a force tugging at my shirt tail. The popularity of this theme and image, the American Gambrel barn, has been so high that sales of anything barn related are a fairly easy turn. The great thematic content that is associated with the barn is reflected by the book cover that has my Red Barn with Ramp image on it: An Anthology of American Literature, by McMichael. Another force is the fact that I live out here in the rural landscape where every farm has a big barn.

Barn Sketch
Casey Klahn

Here in Davenport, WA, the barn isn't just American myth writ large, but an actual part of our lives. To be sure, the way of life is changing. The Heath family pioneered this farm at a spot about five minutes walk down canyon from my house. When the internal combustion engine started to replace livestock for locomotion, the farmers were able to build their houses and outbuildings uphill and farther from spring water sources. My family are the third owners of this farm, and the agricultural roots are gradually being eclipsed for a number of reasons. How wonderful for us to not see another house from ours!

Violet Oil Drum
7.5" x 10.5"
Soft Pastel
Casey Klahn

I'm heartened that Elijah has seen the abstract elements that are key to these building paintings. Shapes, colors and position are the content, more than the buildings themselves. Don't get me wrong. I'm as much a sucker for the deep meaning of the American barn as the next guy. My father built a barn once upon a
time. And, the building in my iconic painting is my own barn.

Thumbnail of Barn
Casey Klahn

The architect who designed the Gambrel barn was a flat out genius. The way the barn structure occupies the open land in rural America is stunning in scope and even vision. My barn, which is no longer used for any working good, occupies a side hill and commands a territorial view. I have some pride in owning it, but the Great Horned Owl that frequents it seems to have a bigger claim by virtue of time spent there.

Behind the Garage
Graphite on Sketch Paper
7" x 8.5"
Casey Klahn

Wolf Kahn uses the barn image a great deal in his work. He has taken it down to the pictorial elements with content that describes the position of the building on a slope or prominence, and elements like through-looking doors and windows, and severe value gradients.

The Heins' Farm
7.5" 15"
Casey Klahn
Private Collection

The story of my Red Barn with Ramp image I have told many times. I received a box of twelve "Wolf Kahn" Terrage pastels made by Diane Townsend, and in a first moment of inspiration I made a very small thumbnail sketch with the colors. It was the barn image just as it is seen on the book cover, except that sketch was about 1 inch square. I was in the moment, entranced by pure color and by the tactile qualities of the big, thick pastel sticks. Abstract shapes were the tools, and color was the content.

Elijah has written a good back story to the barn and building themes. The literary link to The Wizard of Oz is apt. The elemental truth of my surroundings is hard to contradict. Wind, sun, sky and agriculture. Can an artist overcome his environment long enough to forge content that aspires to higher art? I suggest not thinking too hard, but letting the hand and eye draw intuitively. Maybe that's the only way.

01 December, 2008

Out of Action and Van Gogh Post

Starry Night Over the Rhone
Vincent van Gogh

Since I will be out of action for the next few days (or possibly even a month) I have put out the call for guest bloggers. If you appear on my bloglist, and are interested, I would be glad to review a guest post from you.

Pastelist Brian McGurgan has posted at Pastel, one of my other blogs, about his experience at the van Gogh exhibit in New York. His insight gets you close to the master's work, and I have also included some links to the virtual tour and other related goodies.
Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism