Monday, May 26, 2008

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.


Eden Compton Studio said...

These are great Casey! I love the "Medic with Banjo". It reminds me of some of the Homer Winslow sketches he did on site during the civil war (I hope I have my dates right - I'm pretty sure it was the civil war!)

Casey Klahn said...

Hey, Eden. I was looking at your blog this AM. And Margaret Dyer's. I am still looking to find my voice for plein air figures, and so I immediately thought of the two of you.

I went back today, with family in tow, but the wind was gusty. I sought shelter under a big awning tent, which proceeded to blow over flat! Not sure if my sketches were much use, today, but I did set up a composition with a burly sergeant and a cannon.

More photos. My wife had the D80 and took @150 images. And I got images of a young woman in a spectacular orange dress. Lorie got images of very little boys in uniform, which I also wanted. I have an idea that this series may play out for a long time.

Thanks on the Homer idea. I am trying to find artists who sketched or painted the Civil War. Wouldn't you know the photographers of the war have the public's attention already? Arg!

Don Secor said...

I am the Civil War Medic (actually Hospital Steward) you have depicted in your wonderful sketch. Just thought I might mention that although the camera was widely used during the Civil War, drawings were essential in letting people see what was happening on a daily basis. Photographs were usually put into public "displays" or taken for individual or family use, whereas drawings were used widely in daily and weekly publications. "" is a great source of old Harper's Weekly newspapers. Lots of drawings. All viewable online. Also check for a good source of some period artists.
Thank you,
Don Secor

Casey Klahn said...

Hi, Don. Thanks for finding this site. I'm sure the reenactors are tired after a long weekend.

There is a great part of a Hospital Steward in The Horse Soldiers, with Wlm. Holden & John Wayne.

I did study up, and found the AskArt site. I'll certainly look up Sons of the South. I guess Colliers was popular, although I haven't found any pix on that, yet.

Keep an eye here, and I'll probably have a studio version of this painting posted. The elements are great, but I'll have to organize them to my liking.

In the hopper are an Artilleryman, and a few of the period dressed ladies. If my wife has good child photos, I want to do that, too.

Ann McMillan said...

Hi Casey!

I like the reenactment sketches very much! Especially the one on two pages that looks as grim and cold as a real battlefield...

Don't you just love painting moving figures? I always get a charge out of chasing the impossible, but find that I can effectively remember details from this kind of looking.


Casey Klahn said...

Ann, thanks so much.

I think the image you refer to is "battlefield," which has more background and a blue-green cast to it. On that one, I pre-sketched the field before the event, and then filled in little vignettes as they appeared to me at different times during the battle.

What an interesting turn of events to finally be back to the figure in this project. It began as a desire to attend a life sketching event, but it was full. Then I remembered seeing the signboard for this reenactment event, and I went, and here were 200-300 costumed actors ready to be portrayed!