29 March, 2010

Rock Solid Neutrals

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

These car sized boulders are called glacier erratics.  They remind me of the way that neutral colors can mimic, or reflect, the colors around them.  This is true of the grays, and of the browns and tans that I used for the grass - they "adopt" the violets and blues that surround them.

26 March, 2010

Ten Life or Death StudioTips

Intent, After Degas
Pastel & Charcoal
Casey Klahn

The other day I found Dadaist, Erik Satie, via Sippican Cottage, and I was amused by the story of the state of his studio after he died.  No one except Satie had there entered for twenty-seven years, you see.  Among the histoire his friends uncovered were love letters and his portrait rendered by his vrai amour, the painter and pastelist Suzanne Valadon.  Also they discovered seven velvet suits, many unpublished songs, some drawings and way too many umbrellas.  What will be found in your studio when they come to collect your corpus?

Since the studio has been my steady haunt, lately, I can offer you these ten tips for studio practice. Bonus: Here are ten that I published two years ago.

1.  Lay out all of your drawing tools, such as charcoal (all sizes), graphite, erasers, stomps, knife and so forth.  Once I did this, it increased my tendency to form my paintings around sound drawings.
2.  Have lots of surface area.  I have a ladder studio organizer, a custom made 2.5 foot by 7 foot by 3 foot table, an extra full size easel that lays down as a table, and several knock down tables of various sizes.
3.  Make some room for your art library.  I use a surplus bookshelf and some wall shelves that are bracket mounted.
4.  Lately I have been mounting my newly finished works on a piece of Fome core or GatorBord and hanging them with a bulldog clip on a nail.  I can reference my current direction that way.
5.  Peg board.  The young 'uns may not remember that funny board with holes and pegs that hardware stores used for all of their displays.  Find them at your hardware store - ask the kid there what it is.  Here's how to install one.
6.  On my pegboards, I hang rulers, tape, architects square, clips and clamps, my field easel and bag, utility knife, and so forth.  Everything's handy.
7.   My eye doctor has me washing my eyelids with baby shampoo.  It treats my lifelong blepharitis, but we all receive a lot of studio contaminates in our eyes.  I use Johnson's and apply with my fingers.
8.  Speaking of studio environmental hazards, I also use a hand barrier cream rather than gloves when I paint with pastels.  Works great.  I tried to find the one I use, but Murphy's Law took effect and it is discontinued.  This one looks a little more expensive, but not as much as others on the market, either.
9.  A pair of studio slippers helps keep you from tracking dirt to the house.
10.  You need a few breaks for the mind. I always have a pair of binoculars at hand in order to keep track of the prairie animals.  Of course, you never leave them on the windowsill, right?

24 March, 2010

Tree School - Green in Trees (New Material)

This Tree School post is a re-write of the one that was originally posted at Pastelsblog in January, 2009.

With a couple of exceptions, every landscape I have done has trees.  But don't expect to see green trees in these pictures.  I want to convince you to almost never use green as your departure point in painting trees.  

The color of your trees will either establish or enhance your overall color composition.  You want unity, and you want a proper color statement.  Sometimes, green just isn't part of that structure.

Green will key the color composition for you. If you wish green as a major element in your image, then use it. If not, then do a color study of your composition first to determine what color you will be making your trees.  The local color of trees is usually green, but if you think about it, there are other local colors of trees. Brown, orange, silver, gray and black are present. Trace or hints of red and blue are very evident to me in trees. Cast colors include violet and blue. When we view our trees in this manner, any color becomes part of the natural palette associated with trees.

Remember that color has much more value than associations with objects. Some assign emotional value to color, but I also think of it's plastic qualities.

Don't become a victim of the tyranny of green.

All images in pastel, by Casey Klahn.
1.   Blue & Gray River  10" x 14.5"
2.   Clear River  7.5" x 9"

3.   Violet & Green Tree  5" x 4.5"

19 March, 2010

Tree School - Tree Admiration

After Wolf Kahn, #1
9.5" x 6"
Pastel on Paper
Casey Klahn

First posted January 21, 2009. This post is updated to offer new links to artist's whose trees I think you should see, and the other set of links can be viewed at the original post, here.

Take a different approach to trees...

Learn from other artists whose renderings of trees you love. Mark me down as a Wolf Kahn follower. His forests of trees are gesture rich, and pure blocks of color are woven into the whole. I did the drawing posted here directly from a WK as a study to try to "get" more of what his methods are.

The Art of the Landscape community is a good place to start your overview of artists who paint nature.  Don't miss Martin Stankewitz, who has a blurb book on this subject.  His style is finely composed.
You might know Bill Cone for his exquisite views of California and the rocks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Recently, he has favored us with tree compositions that are just what you should be looking at to understand the abstract elements of tree groupings.  A real delight.

All of the artists I've mentioned here take a very different approach to trees, and your tree style will become a signature of your own work.

See also:

Land Sketch
Loriann Signori
John W. Stinson
Randall David Tipton

17 March, 2010

15 March, 2010

Quotes Blast

 Under Riva Ridge, Italy
 @8" x 5"
 Casey Klahn

Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn't be done.  Amelia Earhart.

Fads are the kiss of death.  When a fad goes away, you go with it.  Conway Twitty.

In the dime stores and bus stations, people talk of situations, read books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall.  Bob Dylan.

Art is made to disturb, science reassures.  George Braque.

The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art's audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.  Paul Gauguin. 

There's a lot of whiners in every crowd.  R. Lee Ermey.

I bought some batteries, but they weren't included.  Stephen Wright.

You would be wise not to finish a painting.  Wayne Thiebaud.
When you cease to exist, then who will you blame?  Bob Dylan. 

I make pictures and someone comes in and calls it art.  Willem de Kooning.

I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.  Lily Tomlin.

In art the best is good enough.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


10 March, 2010

Shape Up - Abstract Organic Shapes

Originally posted January 19th, 2009.

Blue Trees in the Middle Distance
7 - 3/8ths" x 5.75"
Casey Klahn

Consider the words of this blog title, "abstract organic shapes." For a sound and enjoyable study of shape, see Diane Mize's post, And Then There is Shape. An organic shape is one with a random pattern or irregular edges - just the opposite of geometri
c shapes. Abstract means non-specific or simplified. A non-tree tree, if you will. More of a shape than a technical study of leaves, foliage, branches and trunks.

Think twice before you include trunks, branches or leaves

If you want foliage, then make your tree as formless as possible.Irregular, and
abstract. Think twice before you include trunks, branches or leaves. A better direction to go instead is to ask yourself how this shape will effect your overall composition. Back all of the way out of the picture plane, and make a value and shape sketch. How big will the tree or trees be? Will they form a unified mass? What will the relationship of these trees be to the other elements in my painting?

Consider the image posted today, Blue Trees in the Middle Distance.

Since we are building a landscape here, albeit an abstracted one, we have chosen to model the form of our trees. Keep it simple, with roughly three values only. As with strict realism, we have opted to not go very broad with our value range. An almost black violet, a dark middle ultramarine and a middle violet do everything we need them to do to represent two trees on a slope. We keep the diagonal strokes all parallel, which heightens the gestural effect of our marks.

An unrelenting melancholy

Anchor the trees to the ground with well placed shadows, and a dark line where we interface with the ground. Higher key colors in front of and behind our trees help with modeling. Atmospheric effects of the ridge, sky and clouds push them back, and limiting the palette help with unity. Again, we keep our gestural effect with our marks - they don't conflict.

An almost unrelenting
melancholy pours down the picture plane, brought about by the blue and the clouds. A critique was written about this painting, here.

09 March, 2010

Trees On The Prairie

Prairie Bush
5.25" x 12.75"
Casey Klahn

The Prairie Series is beginning to show a direction. I am starting to be able to enumerate the things that I am trying to say visually with these paintings. It is more about trees on the prairie than it is the open spaces. Perhaps the open spaces will be my next thing, but I feel these have a kinship with my last series, The River Series. It is a visual relationship - not a naturalist or descriptive one.

It could have been a series about abstract land masses, which is a great theme for these open spaces in the American west. But, I kept focusing on eye sumps, like dark masses and colored splashes in foliage. The relationship of the tree to the whole is also key in good
landscape paintings.

I wanted to add some words - essays and texts - to this series. Then I realized that I already have a series about trees, called Tree School, at my blog Pastel. Please enjoy these lessons on rendering trees. I think you'll find them unique, and I will be bringing them here interspersed with my new prairie pictures as I get them photographed. I also hope to write new texts to the Tree School, and together we can watch the Prairie unfold.

Originally posted January 15th, 2009.

Tree Study in Turquoise
@ 6" x 5"
Casey Klahn

The title "Tree School" sounds like it belongs at an arborist's convention, or maybe a logging camp. But, I want to offer my artist's take on rendering trees with pastel.

Trees can be an awful distraction in a painting. Especially if they are present but not the subject, and if they take up too much of your effort.

We all enjoy graphite drawings in detail of a beautiful tree. Great texture, perfect modeling, and wonderful presence are what please us. But, that is the tree drawing where the tree is center stage; the star of the show. What about when the landscape is about things other than how the trees look? What do you do then?

Additionally, you can face a problem when the trees are the main content, but not the subject. I mean by that the painting where a color composition is the subject of the painting, or maybe something like the motion of one's eye through the woods. Trees have a built-in drama to them, and I propose that too much detail can distract from the message.

Return here to attend my short course on trees in pastel, and I leave you with this hint: don't begin with green.

04 March, 2010

Banner Banter - How To Make a Blog Banner

Banners and Badges Are Creative Blog Design Elements

Here is a special thanks to those of you who voted to choose a new blog banner. The gray banner has prevailed. There were 16 votes for gray, versus 11 and 10 for the brown and green ones, and some sentiment for keeping the old one was expressed.

A new and attractive blog banner
can be the most dramatic change for your blog, next to selecting a new template. Yesterday's post presented various types of creative blog banners for your inspiration.

This post will link you to the simplest tutorials I have found for creating and posting a new banner to your blog. I won't touch on platforms other than blogger, except to say that I think the information here on designing and creating your banner will benefit you no matter which platform you use. I will add the following advice that I found helped me. I use Photoshop Elements (version 2!).

  1. Determine the size that you want your new banner to be. I experimented with my old one and discovered that 717 x 426 pixels was my preference for a banner in my particular template. When you open a new file in Photoshop, designate the size you choose.
  2. A helpful hint in choosing a banner size is to find an image that you feel is an approximate of what you want to make and open the properties by right clicking on it. Use that as a starting point, but don't copy - you want to stand out.
  3. Notice that a few of the banners I linked make their statement in a small space, about 70 pixels tall. That may be your solution if you want to cut to the chase. Charley Parker's is 593 x 110.
  4. Why not allow your readers to participate in choosing a banner design by polling them?
  5. Make sure your finished product doesn't look pixelated, or fuzzy, when you post it at your blog. I suggest that creating it in the right size, by pixel dimensions and by dpi, will do the job. I try to create my designs in a 200 or higher dpi, and then I save them at 110 or so to make sure they look sharp enough. In my (uneducated) opinion, most people's web feeds can support at least an image of 110, rather than the old 72 dpi. Any other opinions on this?
Some have advised against big banners, and I sympathize with that opinion. I have gone with a big banner to make a graphic statement and to make my blog recognizable. I have found that there are many ways for readers to arrive here, and usually they have followed a subscription tool, which highlights the image or title of each post. The downside of having your post "below the fold," as Katherine van Schoonhoven says, is not too critical, in my opinion.

How to make a banner and post it:

Blogspot Tutorial
Photoshop Tutorials
Paul Stamatiou
Design Mom (embed code tutorial provided)

Don't forget to have a tag line. I like Angela Taylor's, "I have marks to make." Mine is "New School Color." Many bloggers make the name of their blog fit a tag line, such as "Robin Pucell, Watercolors in the Plein Air Tradition." I think it's important to include your name somewhere in your header, because people want to view and buy art from an artist. An internet nom de guerre doesn't help in building your artist profile.

Keep in mind the overall look of your blog, not just the header or banner. Also, your background color. The Colorist sported a mid-value blue-gray background for the first half a year of its life. When I went to white, the added light was well worth it as far as my art was concerned.

Why I'd never make it as an IT guy.

03 March, 2010

Banner Banter - Banners I Like

Blog banners I like are linked below. Tomorrow I'll post a "How To" for those who want to upgrade their own blog banner.

Paint2day (modest sized banner)
Chris Earnhart (irony and graphic pop)
Deborah Paris (has a new banner!)
Jennifer Phillips (artist in action)
JafaBrit's Art (story time)
Laura K. Aiken (remember to include your name like this)
Charley Parker (thin to win)
Brian McGurgan (definitive art image)

02 March, 2010

Blog Remodel Underway

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

The Colorist blog is undergoing a
remodel, and that includes new tabs, a sidebar clean up and a new banner. The strategic concepts were aided by the rigorous mind mapping which I posted about here and here.

One thing already accomplished is a revamp of my profile by:

  1. Killing the blogger profile widget and adding a picture that links to my blogger profile;
  2. Updating my picture at my profile (and then I had to go around to my other communities, like Twitter, etc., and change those to match);
  3. Cleaning up my blogger profile page;
  4. Placing the profile in my tabs rather than in the sidebar.

Further cleaning will involve deleting as many sidebar widgets as possible. I have added a few that I feel I will want after the clean-up, so it looks more crowded than usual now. My criteria are that they have utility. I value widgets that link within the blog, those that link to other content I have placed on the web, such as an artist statement, other blogs, website or whatever, and those that link to other authors' blogs. Next, there are the blog awards, which gives a reader a sense that "this blog has enough merit for me to read." There is the Follow widget, which I have found to be my easiest way to read around the blogs I like. Ditto the bloglist with thumbnails, although I find it to be so space-filling that I keep mine short. Time to clean that one up to reflect current blogs, too.

More widgets are there, as well, but I admire blogs like Steven LaRose whose blog Fish or Cut Bait, is so devoid of marginal clutter that the result is a page that reflects a graphic statement I like very much. It points more readily to his content, but I also love the contrast it provides to his rigorous abstract art. Cool.

Tech crazy, yet?

Labels have become a tag cloud, thanks to the input of my readers who voted for this. For now, I opted for the blogger version. Maybe a better one will appear later.

Next post: Banner Banter (including a How To make a banner and post it).
Still to come: Keeping Tabs. Find out what have I decided to do for blogger tabs.

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