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.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Casey! These are exactly the concerns of my work, especially of my paintings on canvas. How to integrate the gestures with the fields of color, and how to keep it right-brained and stay away from over-thinking. This is not easy. At all.

As for technique, I am thinking I'd like to get some big soft pastels to incorporate into my acrylics. The marks made with those could be sprayed with clear acrylic to make them stay.

You've got me thinking anew about this.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks for the kudo, Martha. If I don't get to it later, I want to send my best wishes for the holidays.

loriann signori said...

Beautiful emotive pastels!
You are right over-thinking is a curse. The best paintings paint themselves. Thanks for bringing this forward to keep us feeling. Loriann

Casey Klahn said...

"...over-thinking is a curse". I think you've made a quotable quote there, Loriann.

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism