Friday, June 20, 2008

What To Paint Today?

The words subject and content have different meanings to me in regards to painting. The content will be the elemental things depicted, such as trees, hills, sky, persons, etc. The subject, for me, is often never about the content. The tree's will be about "cool against dark warm," or the subject may be the color composition "analogous blues." Get it?

Artists will frequent the same content again and again, partly because the elements are less important than the subjects, or the "oeuvre." The trees and figures become tools to work another formal aspect of the art. Narrow content is another way to become identified by your work.

Eden Compton and Harry Bell are two blogger artists that I read regularly who exhibit narrow content choices. Albert Handell identifies his usual fare in his book,
Pastel Painting Workshop. The limits of his ouvre include portrait vignettes, closely cropped trees, rocks and streams, and architectural elements. Handell says that patient study is required, and that limiting content is the key to this.

Bunkhouse Thumbnail Sketch
(Scanned Image)

I am carefully selecting my next plein air site, based on a sketch I did a year or two ago. The bunkhouse at my In-Laws' farm has a lot of the elements that Wolf Kahn uses repeatedly in his narrow content set: looking uphill towards a small rural building, with the elements of sky, vegetation and tree masses.


Eden Compton said...

Your post is so timely Casey! I have been giving a lot of thought the last few days about the need to clarify my goals and how best to communicate my ideas via content/technique. It's the hardest part of painting, I think, but the most important! I like the work you've been doing -- Wolf Kahn is the perfect artist to study on so many different levels. (I see "Wolf Kahn barns" everywhere these days since I've been in the country!) Thanks for the post!

Casey Klahn said...

On my easel are two works from plein air sketches that I am trying to keep fresh and loose like WK's pastels.

Learning never stops, huh? Thanks, Eden.

Gesa said...

This is interesting. I hadn't thought about it this way, but it makes a lot of sense. I will keep this in mind when preparing for my Scottish Islands outing in a few weeks time.