Friday, September 26, 2008


Ponte Vecchio - Old City
@7" x 6"
Graphite on 70gr. Sketch Paper
Casey Klahn

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

View my complete body of drawings at Pastel.

At The Colorist, I also have a collection of drawings.

The Portal
4.75" x 4.5"
Scene at "Riva Ridge," Italy
Casey Klahn

Lake Garda Alley
@4" x 3.75"
Casey Klahn

See all of my drawings at The Colorist.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Drawing Class

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

If you have been faithfully waiting for the next posts at Pastel, thank you. I have been so busy with things (son's birthday; school starts; you-name-it) that I suddenly looked at the blog dashboard and realized that I hadn't posted here for over a week!

Some News:

I will soon have a great follow-up on the Brian McGurgan Abandoned Barn posted here, and the fast-action in blog posting is happening at The Colorist, where I am looking at my goals and artist's traits.

I am writing my lesson plans for the upcoming basic drawing class that I will be teaching in Davenport, Washington. Since it's a new endeavor, and I value teaching, I am putting forth a lot of effort to have a good plan. I do have a couple of paintings on the easel, but overall things are slow in the studio. Some times are just for studying, I guess.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Last Cow Discovered?

My ignorance of the beautiful French language is on display in this post. To me, "Lascaux" sounds like "Last Cow". And, indeed the Caves at Lascaux do feature some cows - among the first known cow paintings. Perhaps the French should have called the place "First Cow".

Be that as it may, today is the anniversary of the discovery of the caves, on September 12th, 1940, by a dog and his entourage of four boys.
Pre-historic art, so called, is an endless source of fascination to the artist. Was the early artist a "magician" or "shaman", because of his inexplicable ability to represent the natural world by drawing? There are early man paintings in my own area, and what little kid wouldn't wish to be the first to discover a rock wall covered with something like that?

As I prepare to teach an upcoming class on drawing, I am asking myself many questions about the activity of drawing. Is it "magic", or in other words, reserved for a special person, or type of person? Or is drawing available to anyone?

Matisse, who is the subject of my current studies at The Colorist, has said that a drawing must "be decisive!" Does he mean decisive like in the use of the double envelopment (also first displayed on this day at the Battle of Marathon, in 490 B.C.) ? Or, does he mean to make marks with authority, and not tentatively or weakly?

So, today instead of Five answers for Friday, I have put these questions to my kind readers. What are your feelings about drawing, and how it should be taught?

Note: I want to give credit where credit is due. The earliest evidences of art, although muddled in with functional and craft objects, are actually ceramics, and not drawings or paintings. This could be due to archival reasons, but there you have it. Of some comfort to the pride of the painter, the earliest known art object may be a Venus figurine painted with Red Ochre.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What Are Your Subjects?

My Subjects -
Trees in the Field

Rural Buildings

Conifers and Color Fields

It was interesting to see a great pastel artist list his focus on a narrow range of subjects in a book I read recently. The book is a dated one by Albert Handell, Pastel Painting Workshop. He likes the Southwestern landscape with arroyos and pueblo-style structures. He does trees, rock boulders and waterways. In his figurative work, he likes vignettes and portraits.

Why be narrow in subject matter?

It is good to be aware of what your subject matter is before you go off to the field to paint on site. Why be narrow in subject matter? My own feelings are that you may delve into a subject as deeply as you wish, and may never run out of inspiration. If your goal is to "draw things", then you may wish to pursue every possible subject one after the other. But, if you are wanting to produce paintings with depth and with good technique, then limiting yourself to a handful of subjects will provide you a greater opportunity for depth.

Limiting your subject matter will put you in good company.

Limiting your subject matter will put you in good company. Van Gogh stayed with agricultural landscapes in France that revolved around trees, waterways, fields, buildings and bridges. He did portraits and still lifes, but he stayed with common themes. Degas stayed with interior and theatrical figures, such as orchestras, singers and ballerinas. He did nudes at the bath. He also liked the horse track, and some industrial interiors. Daniel Greene stays with the portrait, but in his figurative work he focuses on painting his wife, artist Wende Caporale, in the New York subway with tile mosaic backgrounds. Of course, he does other works, but his series work is a method of staying focused. Harvey Dinnerstein does self portraits where he is painting bare chested, and Andrew Wyeth stayed on the Helga series for a number of years. His Helga series kept true to his own ouevre of rural interiors and moods.

Limiting my subject matter helps tremendously in finding compositions

My own oeuvre features conifers in a forest setting with color bands, trees in the field, and farm buildings. I recently have added deciduous trees and the figure to my interests. Making brief appearances in my art are clouds, skies and waterways. Limiting my subject matter helps tremendously in finding compositions when I go outdoors to paint. My next target is a neighbors farm outbuilding that one looks up to , and it has a stunning backdrop where the draw bends away and down in the background.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Color Thumbs

Unison soft pastel on Cartiera Magnani Velata paper (cream tone, 4″ x 4″ squares), August 2008.

Brian McGurgan

"Colour and I are one. I am a painter."
Paul Klee, 1914. Reference.

Brian McGurgan's color thumbs for our Abandoned Barn Project diverge quite well from my own. He had an early goal of working with neutrals and browns, and I salute his idea of having a color theory from the very beginning of a project. It's always best to have a color plan, or else the colors may get away from you and you'll wander aimlessly trying to resolve your color composition.

Let's review our browns. I think of Umber, Sienna, and Ochre when I think of brown. See a list of browns here. I omit Sepia, which is derived from the ink sac of the Cuttlefish, rather than from minerals. The family of browns based around iron oxides is called earth pigments.

When my mother washed my diapers in a river fed by iron springs, they took on a red color.

Umber, with it's iron oxide component, may have a red field to it. When my mother washed my diapers in a river fed by iron springs, they took on a red color. Vermeer liked his Umber. One may find an Umber with a green cast, however.

Here is the yellow opinion of Burnt Umber. Confused? Maybe the Real Color Wheel people in that link take a systems approach to color. Otherwise one takes the pigment source of the color and arrives at Umber, which is reddened by iron and manganese.

Divide your Siennas into the Burnt Sienna (red) and the Raw Sienna (yellow) categories.
Van Gogh valued Sienna.

Ochre is a light yellow brown and probably my favorite of the earth colors. Etymology: ὠχρός (Greek for yellow). I also favor the Brown Ochre made from Goethite, originally used at Lascaux.

Olives are seen by many to be in the brown category, but I arrange mine with the rest of my greens.

Did you know that browns have compliments, too?

Did you know that browns have compliments, too? I have my browns divided very basically into two sections in my palette, those with a yellow field and those more reddish. If you were to put an undertoned ground of green beneath your red-field browns a "pop" will occur. In other words, I would tell Brian in this phase of our project to think about sets of colors or relationships when approaching color ideas for this painting. I often think of a triadic relationship, like red, violet and blue or violet, yellow and green.
Perhaps, for these neutral compositions, one might think of a reddish brown, an olive green, and a violet.

Too strict of an understanding of the color wheel may make you think that intensity ought to be lacking in the brown colors. After all, there is no brown on the outer ring of the typical color wheel, and so an artist may conclude that brown is merely the result of mixing two compliments. Actually, there are many very powerful and intense browns available to the pastel artist. I look to my Unisons for these, but others exist, too. The reason they can be intense should be obvious: they are derived from earth minerals, which become pigments. The purer the pigment, the greater the opportunity for color intensity. Having said that, keep in mind that many earth pigments are no longer made with the original materials, but are artificially or chemically produced, or mixed.

Other earth pigments include Venetian Red, Sinopia, Caput Mortuum, Olive Green and Green Earth, White and Black.

Via Handprint, here is a chart of watercolor earth pigments in a chart form.

Last revised 08.01.2005 • © 2005 Bruce MacEvoy

Further Study:

Leonardo da Vinci was a great one for his earth colors.
Also, don't forget Rembrandt.
Thanks to Marion Boddy-Evans.


Yellow Ochre.
Brown Ochre.