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.


Kelly M. said...

Casey -- Glad you're returning to this subject of trees as part of your Prairie series. I love the sculptural aspect of a tree but hesitate to paint/sketch because of the detail. Here you've reduced it to its pure elemental self. Will follow -- many thanks!

Casey Klahn said...

I hesitate like thaat with conifers especially. That is funny, since I grew up in the land of giant conifers. Now, I find the reaching branches are too definite - too outlined. That's why I am so happy when I do find a way to portray them - then it is a great relief.

Thanks for reading, Kelly!

Jala Pfaff said...

I like hearing again about how you portray/think of trees in painting. These are both so gorgeous.

word verif.: pructiox
Sounds like a new medicine.

Casey Klahn said...

10Q, Jala!

Yes, I am ordering a dozen tubes of that.

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