Have I got a treat for you!! I’ve been a huge fan of Casey Klahn’s work for some time now so I’m thrilled to have Casey here to guest blog about his new still life series. I’ve been watching him post fabulous painting after fabulous painting of these still life images on various Facebook art groups and I became curious – What was his inspiration? What’s driving him to create so many? What motivates him to keep going?

Born in 1958, Casey Klahn is an American artist whose “abstracted style and use of color embrace the expression of his personal idea.” He is a well loved art instructor and he also writes a blog: TheColorist.blogspot.com

Casey, take it away!!


Hi, Gail! Thanks for asking me to guest blog at How to Pastel and to talk about my floral series. I’m making a series of 100 still life or floral images, and trying my hardest to make each one different from the last, and to make each one a fully realized artwork.

Making florals was on my mind for a couple of years, but I never imagined the direction these would take. They have become an important part of my body of work, now. I don’t know much about flowers, and as an example my wife will put flowers on the dining table, and it will be a week before I even know they are there. I’ll say, “how did those get here?”


Casey Klahn, "Mixed Floral," 2014, pastel, oil stick, and graphite, 8 3/4 x 7 in
Casey Klahn, Mixed Floral, 2014, pastel, oil stick, and graphite, 8 3/4 x 7 in


A great deal of my impetus in these paintings is my admiration for the art of Henri Matisse, the French giant of Modern art. I saw 2 major exhibitions in 2014 of his work and am reading everything I can get my hands on about his life and art.  Those were: 30 plus paintings and sculptures in St Petersburg, Russia, and The Cut-Outs in New York City. Let me tell you that seeing the art is the secret trick – much more important than reading about or just seeing stuff online!

I blogged about my trip to see Matisse in Russia last August at TheColorist.blogspot.com. Noteworthy works included the 2 monumental paintings, Jazz and Music. Also, my personal favorite was Portrait of The Artist’s Wife, 1913. I remarked to myself that the few still life works I saw there were not masterworks, but they were works by a master artist. That gave me some wiggle room in my own approach to my paintings. Who cares if each one is a smash hit? The idea is to paint much! You are expressing your ideas and, to me, your feelings. You might be surprised at what comes out. Certainly, these florals I’ve been doing are my surprise.


Casey Klahn, "Pink Flute," 2014, pastel and charcoal, 12 3/4 x 7 ?
Casey Klahn, Pink Flute, 2014, pastel and charcoal, 12 3/4 x 7 3/8 in


More secrets from Matisse. Matisse pays as much attention to the negative space in a still life as he does to the objects in the painting. Further, he wants the overall construction of the painting to be supported. My article is worth the read because I went all the way to Russia (during wartime!) only to see Matisse, and some very strange things happened. He revealed 3 guiding principles for his paintings to me. They are: passion, color, and (French word) insouciance. He feels intensely, colors boldly, and could not care less what you think about his works!

So, when I came home from Europe, I had this big floral that I was working on and I was at an impasse. I had started it from a set-up of irises in my studio, 2 months earlier. As I went back to it, informed by new inspiration, I quickly finished what has now become a very important work for me.


Casey Klahn, "The Conversation. 2014," 2014, pastel, 21 x 13 1/2 in
Casey Klahn, “The Conversation. 2014,” 2014, pastel, 21 x 13 1/2 in


For me, each new artwork should say something different. Creativity is about bringing the new thing about. Why retell what another has already covered? How boring is that? So, as a result of this philosophy, I decided to use this series of a hundred paintings to express this somewhat formal idea. New each time; same subject matter. See how the content becomes more ideal, and less particular?

Plus, there’s the challenge that I enjoy so much.


Casey Klahn, 5 Green Roses. The Ark of Movement, 2014, pastel, oil stick, & graphite, 10 3/4 x 10 1/4 in
Casey Klahn, 5 Green Roses. The Ark of Movement, 2014, pastel, oil stick, & graphite, 10 3/4 x 10 1/4 in


I am thrilled when I see some problems in a piece, because I have a direction for the next one. Attempting to fix the last one! However, I try to set up a different arrangement and make the “fix” about some formal quality of painting.


Casey Klahn, "Arrangement With Milk Bottle," 2014, compressed charcoal, pastel and vine charcoal, 11 x 13 in
Casey Klahn, “Arrangement With Milk Bottle,” 2014, compressed charcoal, pastel and vine charcoal, 11 x 13 in


After that first larger work, I continued with the genre and soon had done, I think it was, 20. I thought to myself if I had made 20 that fast that I could eventually finish a hundred. The challenge, of course, gets harder with every 10 or so works because they must differ! Whether I’ve achieved that or not, I don’t completely know for sure, but that is still the idea I’m after.


Casey Klahn, "Fraternity," 2014, Pastel, oil stick, vine charcoal & graphite, 11 3/4 x 14 in
Casey Klahn, “Fraternity,” 2014, Pastel, oil stick, vine charcoal & graphite, 11 3/4 x 14 in


At the time of this writing, I believe there are about 70 still life paintings completed.

I still don’t know much about botany, but at least now I am able to see the flowers put in front of me!



Thanks so much Casey!!

Aren’t those paintings something?? They invigorate my creative impulse and move my soul. I wish we could have had all 70 here. Check out Casey’s blog at TheColorist.blogspot.com to see the rest of the series – those completed and those still to come. Also, see them at the Pastel Society of America Facebook group page.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. Casey Klahn has a terrific video where he talks about and shows his painting process and where you can see more of his remarkable work.

PPS. I chose a floral by Casey Klahn for my first (September) Pastel Gems blog. Go see it here.

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15 thoughts on “Casey Klahn: The Still Life Series”

  1. Thank you for this, Gail. I’ve enjoyed Casey’s work on Facebook’s PSA page for some time, now. I’m off to watch his video!


  2. Thank you Gail for sharing your blog with Casey Klahn. His florals are a wonderful surprise! I love the texture and mix of media in Mixed Floral but Pink Flute made me want to grab some flowers and run to my studio – wow! I’ve always enjoyed his masterful use of color but this new series highlights his style for me. Thank you Casey.

  3. WOW that’s about all I can say. The colour, design, and emotion in each pastel is wonderful, and each one unique. Thank you so much for showing us Casey’s beautiful pastels and yes it would be amazing to see all 70 so far completed.

  4. Loved the article about Casey Klahn and his approach to still life. One question..I thought soft pastel and oil pastel were incompatible. Do you know how he worked the two media? Can you layer oil over soft or the reverse?

  5. Thanks, Irene,

    Although I do use oil pastels with soft pastels, the oil medium I use mostly with soft pastel is oil bar, also called pigment stick or oil stick. They are very creamy and close to using oil paint from the tube, which I also like to use with soft pastels. They lay very well together, given the paper being sturdy enough to accept the oil paint. I have experienced oil bloom on some papers, especially la Carte, but I just let that become a happy accident.

    The main idea is to experiment, experiment, experiment. My workshoppers get a kick out of it when I tell them the reason I use oil on a pastel work: to lose control of the process!

  6. Thanks for this Gail.
    While taking a workshops with Jessica Masters at The Pastel Shop in Cambridge, Ontario I noticed a framed 5x7ish pastel on the wall, a seashore scene. It was a simple image – water, sky, shore and shore grass. However not so simple when viewed up close, I mean up close. Multiple layers of colour, soft edges and subtle transitions of colour. I asked Edward Hanson, the owner, who did the painting. He replied, Casey Klahn. I’ve been hooked ever since – amazing work.

    1. How lucky to have seen a Casey Klahn pastel in the real!! One day I hope to have one of my own because yes, I know what you mean about amazing work!!

  7. Just browsing through your website Gail. It’s a very informative and pleasurable experience! thanks for the many diverse strands of pastel related subjects you explore and share with people. Great work

    1. Aidan, thanks so much for your comment! And I’m delighted that you are cruising about the site and finding bits and pieces to tickle your fancy. Come back again anytime 🙂

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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