Friday, April 27, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012


Matthew James Collins makes his own sanguine sticks for fine art drawing.  He posts at his WP blog about his DIY method.

Sanguine Drawing.

Wikipedia on sanguine.

Sanguine has a classy reputation, and well deserved.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Report on Roche Pastels at The Scribbler

I still owe you a report on my new Roche pastels.  While you patiently wait for this, I found this article in the March issue of The Scribbler that I find very helpful in describing the behavior of these top drawer sticks.  Also, Charlotte Herczfeld writes some revealing analysis of Edgar Degas' style with these premium pastel sticks.  Page 12 begins the article.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Above Riva

Garda Heights
5" x 7"
Casey Klahn

The foothills of the Alps.

Monday, April 9, 2012


If  it is in motion, it is asymmetric. Time. Space. Number. Pattern.  Balance is the element of art often described as symmetry, and the lack thereof is described as asymmetry.  This unbalance is what sets things in motion, and is a fundamental tool the artist uses to bring two dimensional pictures to life.

Pleasing your artistic sense when creating an unbalanced composition is not a very straightforward skill.  What may please you is open to interpretation. It is a test of your own ability to observe your compositions, and to be self-critical.

Ghost Riders
6.75" x 9.75"
Casey Klahn

One example of asymmetric choices is the radical imbalance in Ghost Riders, seen above, caused by placing the two trees fully in the left half of the visual space. I reconciled this asymmetric "insult" to my senses by creating a heavy preponderance of balances.  The colors are orange, violet, and green, which are an even tripod of secondaries.  Add blue to even the number of dominant hues. 

The number of trees is two, which is an even number.  The "z" pattern of foreground shapes makes use of the mirror-image that results from cutting a "z" down the vertical axis.  The trees are each as wide as the intermediate space between them.  See how unrelenting balance can harmonize the heavy imbalance caused by the trees being to one side?

Asymmetry is closely related to the element of space. In the post on space I discuss asymmetry in other ways, such as an imbalance in the size of space versus negative space.

Asymmetry is indicative of organic shapes and objects, and will be your most frequent choice for compositional arrangements.  Learn to understand what pleases you when organizing your picture space, and your viewers will be pleased, too.

An impressive example of information asymmetry occurred when a buyer, Mr. Zack Bodish, acquired a signed artist's proof by Picasso for $14 from a thrift store.  He knew the value, and the seller did not!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Color Thoughts

Barn Interior Color Sketch
7" x 6"
Casey Klahn

My friend in Virginia, Lou Gagnon, is having a dialogue with me via e-mail.  He wrote these kind words about Barn Interior:

The yellow window is a perfect example of the light value square exercise.  Unity through value with detail through hue.

Not knowing what your doing is the best way to go about it.  All this rules stuff is most helpful when your(sic) stuck or you've surprised yourself and want to know why.

Thanks, Lou!  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Choosing Symmetry

Colossians 2:9

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

You are free to choose symmetry in organizing your compositions, although it is unusual to do so today.  We discussed in the last post, Symmetry Versus Asymmetry - Make Your Choice, how contemporary audiences are visually trained to enjoy some irony in their art, and that bilateral sameness is not readily accepted.  But, this was not always the case in art, and the first examples that come to mind are the early icons of Jesus Christ.

Symmetry is found in the 6th. century Christ Pantocrator icon of Saint Catherine's Monastery of Mount Sinai, shown above.  The figure of Christ is generally centered in the image. When centered in the halo, the inside edge of Christ's left eye is on the center line.  In iconography, centering the image of Christ is a hieratic statement, and signifies the primacy of God and holiness.  Adherence to standard formats also signified orthodoxy, and the center line of the image is key.  Balance continued to be an important tool in western art through the Renaissance.

However, it is interesting to see the exceptions to visual balance in this Pantocrator image.  The eyes are asymmetric, as well as the margin of the halo, which is the same thickness to our right and top, but narrower on the left.  This is the big secret to creating interest within symmetry:  make the two halves unmatched, or asymmetric in nature.  The main subject may split the division line, but comparing the halves will result in balanced, but not mirrored, compositions.  One may include visually balanced masses, yet they could adopt different shapes, such as the triangular tree vs. the higher, irregular tree mass in Wolf Kahn's tree painting in my previous post.

In sacred art, the dual nature of Christ, who is fully God and fully man, is almost invariably illustrated by this compositional trick of overemphasizing the bilateral disparity of the face, and especially of the eyes, which are the mirror of the soul.  See also da Vinci's Salvator Mundi.

Although Christ's face splits the centerline, there are multiple ways da Vinci has satisfied our need to thwart balance, including by varying the spacing and height of the objects and hands.  They provide a visual pathway through the painting.

Fast-forward to Edgar Degas' portrait: The Painter Enrique Melida Y Alinari (1838-1892).  By the time of the Impressionists, realist portraiture involved not historical and sacred subjects, but daily life and contemporaneous subjects.  

Degas' portrait, which looks much like himself, nevertheless is of another painter.   Simplicity here demands more balance than in the far older images of Christ!    The halves of this image, left and right, are uniquely similar as regards shapes, and the two color composition reflects a bilateral unity on a formal level.  The main relief we get from symmetry is the shaded left side of Alinari's face.  More relief is offered by the division of objects top and bottom (head vs. shoulders and suit) and by the slight right turn of the head.


Next:  Asymmetry.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Cold Weather

Spring Snow in the Distance 
6" x7.5"
Casey Klahn
iPhone record

The distant view north from my studio last eve.