Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Workshop Queries

What Should I Teach, and How?

I am getting inundated with requests to teach. Since I take the vocation, or avocation, of teaching seriously, I'll be carefully planning my first pastel workshops. There is a potential venue opening for me in Spokane, but I'll be going forward with plans in case I need to increase the reach of the workshops. Many possibilities beckon, including using technology to offer non-residence sessions.

Please vote the poll in my left hand column if you have opinions about pastel workshops in general. What is your favorite feature of a workshop? Thanks!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Starry, Starry Night

Remember when Don McLean was on the radio? Here is a touching video tribute to Vincent van Gogh set to the song, Vincent (Starry, Starry Night). Better have a tissue handy...

starry night
paint your palette blue and grey

look out on a summer's day
with eyes that know the
darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills
sketch the trees and the daffodils

catch the breeze and the winter chills

in colors on the snowy linen land.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me

how you suffered for your sanity
how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
they did not know how

perhaps they'll listen now.

starry night
flaming flo'rs that brightly blaze

swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in
Vincent's eyes of China blue.
Colors changing hue
morning fields of amber grain

weathered faces lined in pain
are soothed beneath the artist's
loving hand.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me

how you suffered for your sanity
how you tried to set them free.
perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you
but still your love was true

and when no hope was left in sight on that starry
starry night.
You took your life
as lovers often do;
But I could have told you
this world was never
meant for one
as beautiful as you.

starry night
portraits hung in empty halls

frameless heads on nameless walls
with eyes
that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the stranger that you've met

the ragged men in ragged clothes

the silver thorn of bloddy rose
lie crushed and broken
on the virgin snow.
And now I think I know what you tried to say to me

how you suffered for your sanity

how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
they're not
list'ning still
perhaps they never will.
Don McLean blog comments @ this song.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Big Stick Pastels - Home Made

The Mortar & Pestel, Jumbo Brown Sennie, Wallis Orange, Powdered Whitting and Some Blue-Gray Easel Tailings.

A Box of New Biggies and How They Register.

Without much copy, I'll just show you my pastel making efforts recently. I needed a big brown (tan) stick, so I converted a jumbo Sennie that I had into just the colors that I needed.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Thin on posts these days! With the Bellevue coming up, I am scrambling in the studio to get ready. A studio assistant is coming today to help, and so the tips will have to wait a while.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

At The Lake

Lake Sketch with Teal, Blue & Red
@4.5" x 4.5"
Casey Klahn

Lake Sketch with Green, Red, White & Black
@4.5" x 4.5"
Casey Klahn

At The Lake
@8"x 6"
Casey Klahn

Docks at the Lake

@6"x 8"
Casey Klahn

As promised, here are the sketches done at the lake over the Fourth of July holiday. You'll recall that I got to the lake without paper, and so a search of the cabin revealed some old sketches that I had done many years ago taped on the wall in the dining room. Already, acid was starting to yellow the edges on these, but you make due with what you have!

Luckily, a small Le Maxi sketch book stays in my canvas sketch bag all of the time, and so I was able to sketch as well. I also severely missed my umbrella, and made due with tree shade that was barely adequate.

What I liked about these scenes were the colorful boat canopies. I didn't really overcome the warmth of the paper for the first pastel. The evening light was very warm, but I still think it's too much in the resulting work. I did better on that account the next day for the second one.

I really enjoyed having my large palette box on hand with dozens of colors. And considering that, I feel very good about keeping the colors under control for these realist works.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Big Palette for Plein Air

Newly Minted Large Plein Air Palette, with Medium Boxes Shown at Top.

Over the Fourth of July holiday, the family and I enjoyed our traditional weekend at the lake cabin. Complete with fireworks and a fun boat parade, this vacation offered me a much needed chance to sleep like the house cat. I couldn't get enough!

Because of a mix-up, the pre-packed plein air kit that I had staged by the door of the studio arrived at the lake with no paper! Try that for an obstacle, some time. Safely there were my French easel, my canvas bag with accessories, and my newly supplied big palette box for its maiden voyage.

You may recall that my Plein Air Project had featured my Six Unisons "Go Kit", and my medium sized palettes, but the big box hasn't been shown yet. So, here is the reveal.

Many years ago I had purchased a box of 100 Senneliers at a clearance price from Jerry's Artarama, and like all of my original boxes they become something to reuse. I keep a stock of small wooden boxes, especially cigar boxes, ready for my next idea or need. The great thing about this Sennie box is that it is made-to-order and divided just right. Without foam inserts, I figure it must be good for about 200 sticks. Then, I add foam over the top to make a tight clam shell.

Next time: Lake Images, and How to Cope Without Paper. Also, at The Colorist, I will be writing about my conversation at the lake with our cousin, the HP color printer soft ware engineer. He took me to school about the computer and printer world of color theory.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gimme Five

Intuitive Composition. Before you get to intuitive drawing, you may have to discover the rules of classic composition.

Mattise laid awake at night...

  1. Sketch in your center of focus first, then arrange the rest of your composition around it. Of course, you will usually have the center offset, as most good compositions follow the Golden Mean outline.
  2. Look at a thousand works by advanced artists and master's works. Learn how they have used the Golden Mean, and it will ingrain in you this not-so-secret formula of compositional success.
  3. Include the knowledge of the Fibonacci Spiral with your Golden Rectangle. I am a believer in taking the viewer's eye for a walk around my painting, and the spiral is the basic tool for this. Other tools include lines and patterns that suggest where the center of interest is. Another secret of mine is keeping the eye on the picture plane. More on that later.
  4. Be your own harshest critic. Before someone else is. What I mean is, learn to decide whether a composition of yours is better as is, or might be better re-arranged. Make the changes, or don't be afraid to discard the whole sketch.
  5. Brutally discard details that don't matter to the direction of your piece or your art. Mattise laid awake at night because someone complained, asking him why he hadn't used shadows and perspectives with his forms. By morning, he retorted to the air, "because they don't add anything to what I am saying!"

Not feeling intuitive? Go here for the Golden Rectangle PC cheater tool.
Need to cheat the Golden Spiral? Here you go.
Reference to Fibonacci.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Purple Pastel Secrets

Diane Townsend 12 Purples&Violets; Unison Open Stock and the Uber Chart for Colors.

The new book, Multi-Brand Color Chart, from the publisher Huechroval, has certainly been a fun and fascinating tool for me to use in my search for more purples. My last post described my need for the blue side of purple, and concluded with my purchase of a set of Diane Townsends.

There is a secret reason
for my choices.

What about open stock, or individual sticks purchased separately? The search for these, using Marie Meyer's new book, was a delight and I was able to establish which purple pastels I wanted. There is a secret reason for my choices. More on that later.

The demo of the book was a great success. I didn't need to labor long in my search, and the answers were quick and efficient. It helps to have a particular brand in mind if you want to fast-track your solution, as I was able to do by selecting Diane Townsends for the set, and Unisons for Open Stock.

My local art store is currently selling Unisons in OS at a discount, and so I went with my shopping list, and the color chart under my arm, and efficiently found my purples.

In the future, I may wish to select from another brand using the
Huechroval charts. But then, I think the choice will rely on my knowledge of the feel and texture of the brand's sticks. Do I want a block-in pastel that tends to be harder? Perhaps I'll choose Windsor & Newton.

...found my purples.

About that secret reason for my hue choices. I had such a blanket need for the blue-purples that I was essentially starting from scratch. That drove me to start with the highest intensity sticks of my particular choices, and if you look for those in the MBCC book, you find a swatch with a nomenclature and a black frame, but no color illustrated - blank space! The reason is that these spaces represent a color populated by pigments, or pastels, but unavailable via the CMYK color space. Now, you know I had to buy those!

File this under "trivia". The color purple has its own domain name.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hue, Chroma & Value Chart

Huechroval, Publisher.
"Build Your Collection by Design, Not Accident."

Marie Meyer's new book
Multi-Brand Color Chart for Pastels, is the tool-of-choice for serious pastelists looking to fill out their palette in the smartest possible way.

Because my recent works have featured a green and purple composition, I found myself short on the cooler purples. Maybe I have been raiding the studio palette for my outdoor kits. Also, I have a very large assortment of handmade purples that I got at a Kitty Wallis workshop. They tend towards the red field of the purple hue, and many of these have pearlescence in them.

Here was my opportunity to put the new Huechroval pastel book through a practical test.

So, the need for a goodly number of purples was identified. As you may know, my palette tray is a large, self made shallow wooden box that holds my main collection of colors. See this post about it's design. Here was my opportunity to put the new Huechroval pastel book through a practical test.

The Test:

To begin with, I decided to stock up with my favorite brand, Diane Townsends. And, I have been leaning towards the Soft Forms rather than the Terrages, which I already have a big collection of. I pulled my file of Diane Townsend information to see what my color chart records said. Uh oh! It turned out that I only had the color chart for
Terrages, but not for the regular-sized Soft Forms.

Well, the first thing to do was to order the hand made color chart for Soft Forms from Dakota. While there, I made an order of paper and found out that the DT pastels I wanted were on sale.

But, which colors to buy? Lacking the chart, I went to the shopping page at Dakota for Soft Forms and printed the list. Then, I consulted the Diane Townsend site and found some sets pictured. I printed out a few that had the purples I liked. Those will look nice in my file folder, too. Still at a loss, I realized that I had in my possession the most
comprehensive color chart of pastel stock available in the USA, Multi-Brand Color Chart for Pastels.

The book utilizes a 100 hue color wheel, and each hue is given a number rather than a name...I wanted blue dominant purples.

The book utilizes a 100 hue color wheel, and each hue is given a number rather than a name. The purple field I want is numbered around 75-80. Now you turn to the pages that cover these hues and eye-ball the ones you want. I wanted blue dominant purples.

The book will have a swatch, which is a little square, usually with the color represented and a numeric identity. The thing to do, then, is to see the facing page of data that lists the color and also which pastel sticks inhabit that color square. The brand name is abbreviated, and identified by the nomenclature that the brand uses.

While each page in the chart represents a hue, each square is perceptually a uniform distance from its neighbor and therefore a new hue. Then, the horizontal axis represents intensity and the vertical represents value.

Guess what I did? After I identified the colors I wanted, instead of open stock I ordered the set of violets and purples that was on the sale. I can use that as the nucleus of my new collection of purples, and fill in from open stock next time!

Next Post:

See the scrumptious new set of DT purples and Violets, and my open stock pursuit of purples!