Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tree School - Freely Working from Photos

Olive Trees & Paint
May 2008
Pigment Wash, Charcoal & Pastel
On Diane Townsend Paper
21.5" x 14"
Casey Klahn

I hope you are aware of the troubles of working from photos. They include getting permissions from the photographer, incorrect perspectives that are inherent to photos and color and value issues. A good rule of thumb is to work from photos of places that you have been, yourself. This olive tree image originates from Italy, and I have a deep connection with the landscape there. I am currently working from some photos that I took of coastal Washington State, where I had recent plein air sessions and where I grew up.

I used reductive treatments where I rubbed away the pigment in the trunks with a kneaded eraser.

All this being said, the response that you have to your photos may be a great point of departure for your masterpiece. When I began this olive tree series, I had a picture in my mind of how the master, Wolf Kahn, treated olive groves in Italy. I had a feeling for the oldness and the primary nature of these much-painted trees. I wanted my treatment to be new, but still somehow related to the classic look of olive trees. I wanted the emotion.

Olive Trees and Paint is as much about the tools I used in the painting as it is about back light and ragged branches. The Townsend sanded paper; the under wash of pigment and water; the over-sized electric green Sennelier pastel stick and gestural elements are forces that I brought to bear. Composing on-the-fly, with intuitive placement of the elements, was a focus of mine in this image. The use of black charcoal established a strong and gestural pattern to the branches and trunks. I used reductive treatments where I rubbed away the pigment in the trunks with a kneaded eraser. The triad of violet against green and reddish umber provides life to the color composition.

Remember how you freely re-arrange the elements in front of you when you are painting from nature? The same applies to using photos for reference material in composing new works.


Jala Pfaff said...

Gorgeous!!! And thank you for the description of the technical process on this one--always great to have new ways of working to try.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Jala.

I am working my way through different tree images and giving my written "responses" to them. I hope to get some of my new works out, soon, too.