Friday, May 30, 2008

Detail Didact

Soft pastels are not very appropriate for drawing details. Choose pencils and hard pastels for smaller details. Here are five tips for the detail-oriented pastel artist.

  1. Decide ahead of time whether your picture will be finished as a painting or as a drawing. The difference to me is more about lost lines and edges versus outlines. Either result may be achieved with pencils, charcoal and hard pastel. But, keep track of your goal.
  2. Sharpen your crumbly pastel pencils the old fashioned way. Shave a small portion of the business end of the wooden case from back to front to expose a small tip of pastel. Make sure you get it exposed all around. I use an X-Acto Knife for this. Now, sand the point with a sandpaper sharpener. I re-use mine by stapling hardware store sandpaper to the old board.
  3. The bigger Derwent Set may be my favorite because it has three values for most of the colors. And I like the consistency.
  4. Don't forget the invaluable General White Charcoal pencil. Also vine charcoal and compressed charcoal sticks, the latter also comes in white.
  5. Hard pastels may pleasantly surprise you with the intensity of some pigments. They are traditionally used for blocking in lightly, but I urge you to try them over soft pastels occasionally. The effects are better than many other tools used for moving around and shaping soft pastel.

Detail from Route Step...Casey Klahn

More than enough knowledge on sharpening pencils-Link. Warning: doll defacement shown.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Soldier Artist

Soldier, Hero & Artist Charles W. Reed

Abraham Lincoln at City Point, Virginia, 1865
Charles Wellington Reed (1841-1926)

Charles W. Reed was a soldier artist in the Civil War. What is more, he earned the nation's highest medal, the Medal of Honor, for an action at the Battle of Gettysburg.

MOH, Authorized Version until 1895

A rather confused link, but with numerous thumbnail images of Reed's artwork.

It seems that Reed, an enlisted bugler, was rather a "Johnny on the spot," having been present at key battles and for great events. Among those events he witnessed were Gettysburg, the illustrated review of common soldiers by the president, and no less than General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. His illustrations were published after the war.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Civil War Artillerymen

Route Step in Garrison
8" x 7"
Charcoal & Pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes
Casey Klahn

This now qualifies as my return to the figure, and as a project. I'll name it the Civil War Project. The guy on the left of the image makes a great model, as he is a big statured guy with large hands.

Today, at The Colorist, I posted about the Civil War artist Alfred Waud. Follow the links there to find some artist reenactors who are active back east.

The drawing is not quite this severe in respects to contrast, as this is a scanned image.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Civil War Art

Painting Waiting to Happen
All Photos: Casey Klahn


Girl Marching in Uniform


Back to Civil War figures. I had the unparalleled opportunity to sketch and paint the reenactment in Spokane over the holiday weekend. The figure is a subject I have
wanted to return to. An artist can pay good money for costumed models, or find an event like the one I did. But, you gotta be brave to set up in the middle of holiday gawkers, and more than likely fail all over the paper. See the artist bleeding on the ground.

As it turned out, I was really happy with the outcome. Yesterday's post shows Friday's images. I returned with the family in tow on Monday, but gusting winds kept me from setting up. It just underlines the blessing of getting a good set-up on Friday.

Maybe I'll get in costume and arrive next year at the Civil War reenactment as a period artist. Stove pipe hat, anyone?

I was wondering who were the artists active during the Civil War, so that I could have a baseline to begin with for my study. The illustrated magazine was new on the public stage, and artists were in demand. The first artist I found was, of course, a pastellist. Edward Lamson Henry, 1841-1919 struck a chord with me right away.

Winslow Homer is the most noted Civil War battle sketch artist. Thumbs.

Wounded Soldier being Given a Drink from a Canteen
Drawing: Charcoal and white chalk on blue-green paper, 1864
14 3/8 x 19 ½ ins
Winslow Homer

Drummer Boy
Drawing: Black and white chalk on blue paper, 1864
17 x 10 5/8 ins.
Winslow Homer

Battle Sketching!

Sharpshooters in Green, On Site "Battle" Sketch
Pastel, Casey Klahn

Photo: Casey Klahn

It never crossed my mind before that sketching a (reenacted) Civil War battle could be so difficult. Or exhilarating! This is the Memorial Day weekend, and the war between the states is one of the things we remember.

Casey Klahn

Needless to say, one must work fast! I was very happy with the outcome. I sat cross
legged on the sidelines and worked back and forth between two sketchbooks, in charcoal and charcoal/pastel to capture the mock battle's ebb and flow.

After the battle, I was able to set up my field easel behind the medical tent and painted a fun work with a Medical Assistant and his banjo. The blue jacket caught my eye, as it could be tied in with another blue uniform jacket that was hanging on a camp tripod, and a third element (perfect!) of a large flag. The backdrop? White canvas tentage.


Civil War Medic with Banjo Sketch
10.5" x 9"
Pastel & Charcoal on Diane Townsend Paper
Casey Klahn

Casey Klahn

Lessons Learned:

  1. I don't draw animals as a habit, but I am happy to get the impressions I got here.
  2. Following the rule of keeping my field works in a reduced value scale (nothing too dark or light) doesn't work when faced with Army Blue. I should know that stuff, as a veteran myself!
  3. The Banjo Player WIP I think may need it's blue elements split up into a triangular composition, with the coat to the right of the figure, and with the white tents as framing highlights. And the background needs work.
  4. I wanted to "model" the form of the banjo player, but didn't quit make it. An opportunity there!

Cavalry Formation, Action
Casey Klahn

Pastel in Moleskine
Casey Klahn

It didn't escape me that painting on sight is just as anachronistic as the dress-up event I was chronicling. The camera was just making it's (evil) debut in the same time period, and it would forever make the painting less dear in the public mind.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Death of Preciousness

Le Bill Murray du Avant Garde

The Precious Thing

Into Action!

Some interest has developed over this "kill the precious thing" idea. I'll expand on the theory for this Friday's Tips.

In the 1984 movie, The Razor's Edge, the character played by Bill Murray ships overseas to drive ambulance in World War I. He becomes a battle-hardened veteran, and when a "green" medic arrives with a spiffy new ambulance, Murray goes ballistic. Literally. He draws his service revolver and shoots out the headlights, holes the fenders, and generally disfigures the precious new truck.

That's more or less what I mean by "kill the precious" in your art. Some mark, passage, color, figure or shape that you have created may be just what is getting in the way of advancing your work. Kill it. Tissue over it, rub it with an eraser, or cover it with sizing. Now you're free to find the real reason for this painting.

Ready to walk the razor's edge?

Literary Ambulance Drivers of WW I.

Rainy Day Plein Air

Back Property Trees
6 5/8ths" x 9 6/8ths"
Casey Klahn

Back Property Trees - Pastel
6 5/8ths" x 9 6/8ths"
Casey Klahn
Six Unisons Only

Bald Ridge, Pencil & Pastel
5" x 8"
Sketch Paper
Casey Klahn

A rare outdoor trip
usually on foot, but this time in the Chevy.
As I unpacked, a downpour.
I clipped the umbrella to the hatchback
and sketched from the tailgate.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Moleskine Theme - Freedom!

Bob Dylan sings Mister Tambourine Man

Like Bob Dylan sings, " dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea..," Freedom!

Like Martin Luther pounds a nail in the Wittenberg door...Freedom!

Like a cowboy sings at a camp meeting...Freedom!

Except we're talking about art, here. My theme at the Moleskine Exchange International collaborative blog is Freedom!

Ridens, 1929

OK. Like Picabia tells his gallerists and patrons to shove...uh, you get the idea. Freedom!

Like Pollock drips house paint on an unprimed canvas. Freedom!

Dora Maar Au Chat

Like Picasso puts two eyes to the left of the nose. Freedom!

"Let me forget about today until tomorrow."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tips x Five

Erased Trees
@14' x 10"
Pastel Study
Casey Klahn

Thumbnails are useful for establishing value, linear or color compositions.

  1. A thumbnail sketch can be any size "rough" out of a painting idea. I often make them about 3" x 1.5", and sometimes even smaller. The one pictured here is full size, though.
  2. What's the use in being inhibited in a rough sketch? Try new color ideas, and make mistakes like a shore-bound sailor.
  3. Save all of these sketches. I will pull them out of a drawer even a year or two late and have an "ah ha!" moment.
  4. One commonly missed opportunity for experimentation is to take a "failed" painting and go back into it with even more experimentation, mistakes and trial efforts.
  5. My wife will sometimes filch these mini paintings and put them in Christmas ornament frames.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Under Riva Ridge, Italy

Under Riva Ridge, Italy
@8" x 5"
Casey Klahn

Not often I post a drawing at Pastel, so enjoy this Sunday trip to Italy in sketch land.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kill the Precious Thing

Trees and Cloud
7" x 5"
Casey Klahn

Organize your palette.

1. I choose to organize my palette with my pastel sticks peeled and all in a large tray. The tray has ten sections, with violet, red/blue, green/blue, green, intense green, yellow, yellow/brown, red/brown, orange and red. Each section is then organized from dark to light values. I started with mid values in the center and worked outward.

2. Your overstock may need drawers or boxes of their own. I made some wooden boxes for my extra sticks and labeled them by their color.

3. As mentioned in tip #1, organize your color palette by intensity. I have a separate tray for intense ultramarines, and a dedicated section in my big tray for intense, or high key, greens.

4. Some choose to keep their precious brand in the original boxes. This can be a mistake, in my opinion. Think about whether this gimps up your ability to freely move from one color, or brand, to the next when making color choices. The advanced artist learns to kill the precious thing. It is an impediment to keeping momentum in a painting, and in reaching the overall purpose of a work.

5. I keep an eye on my tinted grays versus pure grays. The pure grays are in a box separate from my big palette.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Two Trees

Two Trees on a Slope
25.5" x 19.5"
Casey Klahn

This is a full sized version of the rough that I posted a couple of weeks ago. I am looking at the far sloping ground out the west window of my studio to get these images, but in my mind I am thinking of a violet world.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Articles of Merit

The Cup of Chocolate, 1897
28.7" x 21.3"
Mary Cassatt

Two pastel related articles stand out for your consideration this weekend. One was in The Pastel Journal, June, 2008, regarding your plein air kit: "Let's Take it Outside," by Richard McKinley. He covers the big parts of your set-up, from easels to shade umbrellas. For this article, you'll need to get the hardcopy at your magazine stand. We've been ticking off the list of kit in depth with our Plein Air Project posts here at Pastel, too.

Who are the great historic lights of pasteldom? The answer is briefed in Pastel Masters, by Naomi Ekperigin at American Artist Magazine's website. See what the influences of Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin,
William Merritt Chase and Jean-François Millet were on our contemporary burgeoning medium.

Grab yourself a cup of chocolate, and dig in to these articles!

Friday, May 2, 2008

My Apologies

This is the second Friday in a row without my "Five for Friday" tips! We installed a new washing machine, which has taken the better part of a week to complete. The floor and wall mold in the pantry generated a new floor, which had some severe leveling problems. Plus a new wall covering; new utility sink, and then the plumbing and finally the spanking new washer.

And did I mention that we had a high stress week, besides?

Your regularly scheduled pastel posts will continue shortly.