Wednesday, November 28, 2007


10.5" x 7.5"
Soft Pastel
Casey Klahn

Winter is definitely here at the Klahn studio. I left some not-fully-dried clothes in the dryer overnight and they froze! Snow is on the ground, but not quite enough for skiing, yet.

Here is a hearty "Thank You" to all who are reading this new blog. One reader writes a question about problems using spray fixative on his pastels. BTW, his name is Chuck Kuhn, of Bainbridge Island, and his photography portfolio is a treat to view. See it here. Not only are his pictures well taken, but you may get a bit of the flavor of Northwest life on the islands of Washington State.

I'll try to put together a good post on fixative use from my own perspective soon. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bits @ Kahn
The link above will take you to an interview titled: Separate/Together, Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason. I haven't read or seen enough about EM, or Cecily Kahn for that matter. In this interview, Kahn reveals some insight on the second generation of Abstract Expressionism and intuitive process, and about having an inherent color sense.

Read Lin Wang's blog post, The Dust on Butterflies' Wings-Wolf Kahn in Pastels. It is about the occasion of Kahn's installation at The Hoyt Institute of Fine Art. BTW, this is an interesting blog to read in general.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Best Pastel of All Time

Introducing: The Degas Award for Best Pastel of All Time.

In my considered opinion, the first Best Pastel of All Time Award goes to Edgar Degas for his The Green Singer. Executed in 1884 at the height of his artistic powers, this 60.3 cm x 46.4 cm pastel work represents a high point in Degas' application of color and in his portrayal of the female figure. The turquoise and orange compliments present a stunning motif, and the drama of the low angle (theater) lights on the youthful character please the imagination. The pastel work resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Congratulations, M. Degas. Would you consent to an interview for a future post?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pastel Workshop Insight

Here is a blog entry about a neophyte (I gather) who took a workshop on pastels - except that the program was anything but the standard picture making approach! It provides great insight, and is fresh in more ways than one. I thank Lin Wang for sharing his experience.

Kevin McLatchy, pastel artist & workshop instructor.
Urban Art & Antiques Blog.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vincent van Gogh on Pastel

Self Portrait with Cap
Black Chalk
van Gogh

"Pastel is a process which I should like to know. I shall certainly try it someday. If one can paint a head, one ought to be able to learn it in a few hours," van Gogh.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Selected Pastel Artists

The pastel artists linked here represent the best that the medium has to offer. Enjoy.

Kim Fancher Lordier

Harvey Dinnerstein

Jim Few
Don't be distracted by the poor quality layout of this site. Few's art is among the best work anywhere today. His work, Sunday in the Park suggests space and modeled form with a great brilliance.

Sarah Blumenschein

Monday, November 12, 2007

Basic Pastel Techniques

If you have found this blog and hoped for a primer on pastel painting technique, I offer the following links:

Aileen McLeod at Suite 101. on Painting and Selection of Pastels.
Painting with Pastels.
Wet Canvas, except this is the "dry canvas" part. May require registration.
Squidoo Lens by Lisa Bachman.

These excellent links were chosen for the beginner's interest.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Diane Townsend Pastels Review

Pinks & Greens
7.8" x 6"
Soft Pastel
Casey Klahn

The pastel market is exploding. That includes the tools of the pastelist: sticks, paper, and accessories. The assortment of different brands available to the artist is mind-boggling. I want to start a series detailing the brands that I favor, with a review of each and some insight into how they effect my technique.

In the Studio with New Diane Townsends

Pastel Review. First, we will explore my favorite brand which is Diane Townsend Artist's Pastels. These handmade jewels come in three styles: Soft Form, Terrages and Thin Line. By way of explanation, consider the Soft Form to be a classic shape, Terrage ("Earth Gesture") to be a large rectangular shape, and Thin Line to be as described by their name.

The DT website lists the sizes of the handmade pastels as follows:
Terrages, approx. 1 and 1/2" long and 1" across , and 6/8" thick
Soft Form approx. 1 and 3/4" long and 3/4"thick
Thin Line approx. 2"long and 1/2" thick

Diane Townsend Soft Forms and Terrages

I attended a workshop taught by Diane a couple of years ago. I consider her a master of the medium, and an artist whose work I respect tremendously. She is an academic whose grasp of art history and of Modern Art makes her a pleasure to learn from. The workshop covered abstract pastel work, and was certainly a watershed for my own expression in the medium. She is a friend as well as a teacher.

The reasons why I favor the DT pastel line has as much to do with my own style and palette choices as anything else. Aesthetically, there is no pastel tool on the market that comes close to her pastels. They are a joy to hold and to use, with properties that appeal to me such as their large size (even the Soft Form is a fine size), their softness and their ability to cover well when I wish to be bold with my gestures.

Diane has been making her own pastels since 1971. The backstory is that she learned her formula from an Italian conservationist who had translated a Renaissance-era recipe for pastels. The emphasis for Townsend's pastels is on the color, which is true of only a few lines of pastels available. Other biases of pastel manufacturers can emphasize consistency of hand and thoroughness of palette, and some make a technical decision to produce sticks with greater hardness.

The Thin Line product compliments Judah Catalan's gestural style, and the Terrages were created to suit Wolf Kahn's expressionistic style.

Hand. DT pastels are as consistent as Unison (the king of consistent handmade pastels) and are in the middle of the pack for softness. Dakota Art Pastels has rated them with five major brands being softer. One reason they are relatively hard (for a soft pastel) is the addition of some pumice in the three lines. Pumice allows the pigment to invade the tooth of the artist's paper. I find them to work just fine on my sanded papers, as well. The relative hardness works for me and steers me towards using DT pastels for much of the painting, as compared to Schmincke, which are too soft for heavy usage.

Another review has DT Pastels as inconsistent, but I haven't found that to be the case at all. The only instances I have had of crumbling have been mechanically caused, and not spontaneous like a certain other well-known line. I reform them by spraying the crumbled pieces with water and hand rolling.

I favor the emphasis on color first. That alone will bring out the intensity that I value in my palette, and seems truer to both my expressionist and my natural leanings. Very dark tones that are clear and true to their hue are essential to my own style. They are dark enough that I have to record the numbers of the darks on my palette so that I can get them back to their hue family properly. These are the best dark darks I know of on the market.

Scroll to the middle of this Dakota Pastels page for a softness comparison of major pastel brands

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pastel Blogs

Noah Klocek, of Imageblock Blog, is known to many through his story board work at Pixar. I must have have seen his work in the special features sections of my kids' movies. Cars, perhaps? Shrek? His blog features many pastels, and they are atmospheric and active.

Klocek belongs to a group in the Bay area known as the Early Bird Painters, and their works are a treat to see, also. Perhaps it's the animation culture or something, but they are adept at the"digital makeover" of their paintings. I actually like the results that they get from these things, but I struggle to grasp the leap from plein air to digital results. Anyone care to inform me on that?
Luminous still lifes, among other things, and handy with a Nikon camera.
Stunning and atmospheric wildlife art.
A neighbor to the North doing plein air seascapes with liveliness.