Monday, 8 October 2012


Casey Klahn - "Treetops"

This week I would like to touch on the difficult-to-verbalise business of "seeing differently".

I am attracted always to the works of artists who have this ability to "see differently".   The camera does a remarkable job of capturing nature exactly as seen, as do certain artists.....but I am far more impressed by those artists who have managed to find a language of painting which is more about shapes and colours and expression and atmosphere and poetry.  An art which is fuelled by imagination and invention...and by this I do not mean purely imaginative or abstract art.  "Invention" in this case means finding a way to see beyond the obvious, to INTERPRET the subject matter in his or her own way - to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Many artists of old were able to do this.  Samuel Palmer, inspired by poet/illustrator William Blake, saw in the ordinary English countryside, a "differently seen" beauty - arguably somewhat whimsical and fantastical -  which he was able to incorporate into his drawings.  the drawing below is of a couple of trees.  An ordinary and simple subject, but he has given these trees real character. His colour choices are his own too.      Believe it or not, this image is approximately 200 years old......

Here is a more recent work, the work of a UK artist I interviewed for my book "Watercolour Inspirations" - Michael Morgan:

"Remote Manor"

This is obviously not a literal scene.  The artist has allowed himself to recreate the main aspects of the scene in an imaginative way and he has used fascinating and complex techniques to "animate" the surface of the paper - the mix of these elements is just as important as the subject matter - and is, to my mind, a bold ,brave, magical "alternative" treatment of the subject which hovers between reality and abstraction.

An artist I have discovered on line recently, is a contemporary  US painter called Casey Klahn.  His work is a celebration of colour, of landscape, and of seeing differently.  I marvel at some of his pieces, they are not at all literal, yet we fully recognise the subject matter.  (I long to be able to do that! )  

At the top of the blog is one of his works, another below, more can be seen on his excellent blog

"Wind break"

We know "Windbreak" is about trees.  We know there is a scene of distant hills behind the trees...perhaps a lake...perhaps it is doesn't matter.  It is an ordinary scene made extraordinary by the use of a very personal choice of colour and of a personal approach to the shapes within the rectangle.    What matters is the feeling that this painting gives to you. It gives me JOY, because I so thoroughly enjoy those tiny, rich touches of turquoise, blue and pink between the network of branches - masterful, beautiful, surprising, delightful.  I just want to stare and stare at them.  And that royal blue..why would he use that, asks the logical brain......but in the hands of someone confident and brave - just look how successful and oh how visually satisfying - particularly with that little touch of pink at the base of the picture....delicious.  

Seems to me that all of these three artists have something in common...they are, in fact, risk-takers.  Without having the faith to trust oneself enough to take risks, which come with the attendant important big and scary risk -possible failure -  nothing exciting is going to be gained. 
Here is Casey's comment on his blog - I agree with it fully.

Casey Klahn is an American artist whose landscapes and figures are strong, vibrant and emotive. Working in various drawing media,  such as pastel, charcoal and graphite, his pictures are dynamic and yet they provide an emotional renewal at the same time. Often surprising in the use of colors, his palette is up-to-the-minute. His visual ideas continue the explosion in art that began over a century ago with Modern painters such as Cezanne, van Gogh and Matisse.   

Casey says:
  • A painting must become more than the sum of its parts.
  • A painting is a history of what happened to the artist.
  • An artist should communicate his ethos through his art.
  • I believe that a painting should affirm the personal.

Hmm - food for thought.  Have you ever thought about this.... or do you actually prefer not to agonise about it, and just crack on in the hope it will turn out ok?

Perhaps we all need to question ourselves once in a while.  Ask ourselves if our art truly represents who we are, and what we believe in.  I, for one, am an impatient and simple soul, and I know I do not think too much about things like this - probably I am lazy in this respect...but I am intelligent enough to recognise that I definitely ought to think more about it!   I certainly know that I would like to be able to "see differently" more consistently and I am dissatisfied with my lack of ability to do this to my own satisfaction. I get it going in part, in some of my paintings...but I suspect I need to take more risks, be braver and bolder.

Here is a little almost-there one for me......This painting slipped thro the net and instead of appearing on the walls at my Open Studio, it was tucked away in a portfolio, forgotten,  and only came to light today.  I am pleased to have found it, but slightly irritated that I did not have it up for sale, as I feel it has just the atmosphere I was after. It was one of a pair, the other one sold quickly so I probably could have sold this one too.  A 6" square woodland scene, with a touch of "seen differently" about it. (8"x8" framed) If you think you might like to own it, please send me an email to  It is only $100 (+ shipping), including its frame and mount. It would be a simple matter to reframe it into a grander frame if you wish.  This one can stand on a surface, or be hung on the wall.  

"Cool Spring Woods"  pastel  6"x6"


  1. Thanks for this post, Jackie. I would like to paint more poetically but something always interferes; an internal voice that takes over. I will always wonder why freedom of expression comes much easier to some than to others!

  2. Very humble thanks for your kind words, Jackie. Also, I'm glad that you took the trouble to find those quotes, because I think they add some push to the image ideas.

    Cool Spring Woods is a beauty, with unconventional things and that joy you mention!

  3. Very interesting post, Jackie, not least because it features the work of someone I regard as an online friend - Casey Klahn. Casey's paintings regularly provide me with a colour thrill!

  4. I enjoyed reading your comments about Casey Klahn. I was fortunate to take one of his workshops and am proud to own one of his paintings. He continues to inspire and serve as a mentor.

  5. I always look at your posts as reference. Thanks a lot!

  6. Your sentence 'Ask ourselves if our art truly represents who we are, and what we believe in', has pushed many artists into blogging or creating a website. Somehow, putting your portfolio online so that it can be viewed by many and generates feedback, helps to find out if our art represents who we are.
    Casey is in my blogpost too this week, with different pastels.
    They are wonderful, or with Bell, they definitely give you a 'colour thrill.

  7. Jackie, what a thought provoking post. I have loved Casey's paintings for quite some time. It is strange that we strive for painting a more emotive type of painting, but what emerges is so much more tight and realistic. It is about learning to be fearless and take those risks. But why is it so hard? I think it is fear of looking silly, family pressure to make it look "real", and these are two of the biggest. Funny, I have an oil on the easel right now that needs me to "step away from the easel." You and Casey are both an inspiration to keep on!

  8. Realize that when you are not able to get out of your own way, you are in left brain, a lower vibration. Left brain makes decisions based on our memory bank and what experience has taught us to be safe and functional.

    Your true 'style' comes from allowing your creativeness to come through your unique filters. The language only you can speak, painting is communication in alpha.

    I've been instructing all my workshops in this method for years and am currently working on a book - there is no separation...

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