The Fugitive!






There is a fugitive among us artists….and it’s apparently Alizarin Crimson!  It has always been one of my favorite colors to use but it can be a precarious character in painting.  There is, however, a heroine to this story and her name Permanent Alizarin Crimson…I know…not necessarily the most creative name to be given to a heroine.  She is a rather reliable substitute, as seen in Cypri above, to create that rich garnet red. In doing some research about the color that I love so much, I discovered a blog post by Jay Babina on the Artist Daily website.  He contacted Utrecht (before they were Blick) and received the following sensible explanation from Matthew Kinsey, the “Ask the Experts” representative:

Alizarin Crimson is the synthetic version of one component of the traditional vegetable-derived color Madder. (The other, more fugitive component, Purpurin, gives madder a unique hue that is distinctly different from Alizarin.) While Alizarin is still considered by our industry permanent to the standards of durable, professional painting, it is the least lightfast color still in the modern palette. How quickly it may fade would depend on how it is used on the palette and how the resulting artwork is displayed and cared for. Mixing fugitive colors directly with white to produce tints will speed up fading compared to using it full strength or in glazing over mid-tones and darks. Paintings displayed in full sun or under unshielded halogen lamps can fade more quickly than if they are protected from harsh UV light.

Permanent Alizarin Crimson is not directly related to Madder. It’s a different proprietary formula depending on the manufacturer, but most use a quinacridone or other synthetic organic pigment to simulate the appearance of the traditional color. With some adjustment it’s an excellent replacement for artists who are most concerned with permanence. 

The art materials industry has gone to a lot of effort to make consumers aware of issues of permanence so today it’s possible for artists to decide for themselves which option to select, based on individual skill, pictorial objectives and aversion to risk of fading.  Paint manufacturers still offer genuine Alizarin Crimson because there is great demand among artists for this unique color that’s present on so many historical works of art. Despite being relatively less permanent than other colors, we feel with good craftsmanship on the part of the artist and proper care on the part of collectors, Alizarin Crimson still deserves its place in the modern painter’s kit. 

Winsor Newton has also provided some additional information on “The importance of being permanent” which can be found here! Winsor Newton provides ratings of permanence on their pigments as I am sure other reputable paint providers do. I believe as a collector of art, it is important that you make sure the artists you collect respect the materials so that the artwork you are paying your hard earned money on will last you generation after generation. 


What I have learned about Plein Air….

Plein Air Painter

I am unabashedly a studio painter.  Oh sure, occasionally in the summer months I set up an easel system in my garage and paint.  In my old neighborhood the kids would sneak over, filled with curiosity as to what Mrs. Barron was up to in her garage with the music blaring.  But that was about as close to Plein Air as I have ever gotten.  Now I am living where there is a major Plein Air Competition held by the Cedarburg Artists Guild ( every year.

I love my intimate environment with my canvas and paints.  It is important for me to build a relationship with my subject matter.  So I was rather perplexed trying to figure out how to be involved, enjoy the weather (when it was nice this past week), and meet other artists now that it’s no longer too cold to be out and about.  While at a Guild meeting I realized that I could use my time to walk around, meet some of the artists who have come here to participate, and do some interviewing with photos to share with all those who are friends of the guild’s Facebook page.  During this time I have benefitted more than I thought I would.

I have met some amazing artists and seen how they treat their canvases for outdoor painting.  I have seen many different ground colors used.  In fact, one artist used a very bright green undertone which he felt would be difficult to paint over but halfway through the painting he discovered that bright lime tone gave such inner light to his landscape.   We have shared discussions on numbers of brushes to bring, use, and the challenges with whichever they have decided.  However, I believe the most important lesson to be learned from plein air painting is the need to make quick decisions as the light changes so rapidly.  As an artist we forget to use our instincts and I believe plein air painting encourages us to push our talents to the top without allowing our safety devices to get in the way.  A lesson that I hope will stay with me forever.

Most artists have enjoyed the conversations by passerby people walking down the sidewalks and have been so gracious to allow me to invade their space with my pad, pen, camera, and questions.  I’d like to thank them all for their time!

Even though I didn’t paint this year in the competition, I do believe I came out a winner for having met those that I have talked to and for learning all that I have which will provide me that additional courage to participate fully next year.  If you are in the Cedarburg, Wisconsin area I hope you’ll come on out for Strawberry Festival on Saturday and head over to the Cedarburg Cultural Center ( to see the plein air paintings and perhaps bid on one in the auction that begins at 4:30pm.

Hope to see you there!

Finding your inner child….

I was originally going to chat about Johannes Itten and my personal fascination with him, his personality, microbiotic eating habit, and his Bauhaus effect.  However in looking through some old papers, I stumbled across a picture of Paul Klee’s Red Baloon, 1922 and felt compelled to write about it. 

Paul Klee was asked to join the Bauhaus in 1920 by Walter Gropius and he would remain there for 10 years and produce over 10,000 works during his tenure as a professor.  Earlier than that he had become friends with Wassily Kandinsky and the two of them would remain as such for the remainder of their lives.  Klee was known for his impish sense of humor as well as his fascination for producing art which entailed a child-like simplistic quality.  However his work should never be construed simple or as child-like as it is completed with much forethought and with painstakingly accurate use of materials.  One child-like quality of Paul Klee was his inquisitive mind to seek out and experiment with new styles of execution for his artwork.  This inquisitiveness carried through in the various materials and techniques that would in turn drive his work.  He was a colleague of Johannes Itten who was fascinated with color and its relationships with other colors.  I believe this influenced Paul Klee and sparked Klee’s further interest in colors while he experimented with surfaces and material application techniques.  I cannot help but also feel that Klee’s friendship with Wassily Kandinsky was instrumental in the above work that I am writing about, Red Balloon from 1922.  I believe the people that he was surrounded with were very important during his creation of his painting Red Balloon which was done during the time he was teaching at Bauhaus with Itten and Kandinsky.

Paul Klee could be considered “avant garde” by today’s standards as he showed artistic evolution as well as inventiveness with his materials, often leaving the edges of his canvas and paper raw and unpainted which allowed him to add a title line as well as an inventory tracking number.  Most other artists didn’t do that at the time and were treating their works with more formality in structure.  Klee’s inventiveness would carry over to his studio space at Bauhaus which was said to resemble a kitchen, one that might belong to some alchemist.  The studio contained various bottles, paint powders, oils, easels, and one chair.  Klee often worked on many pieces at a time, explaining the numerous easels yet only one chair.  Paul Klee created works that contained multiple layers of materials and textures.  This is well observed in the painting Red Balloon where Klee actually manipulates the muslin the work is painted on. 

Previously working in the creation of lithographs Paul Klee discovered a technique to create that same type of line that he was able to achieve in lithography but instead create it with paint. This technique can be seen in his Red Balloon painting to create outlines.  To fulfill this vision of painted atmospheric lines Klee uncovers a technique called “oil transfer”.   This manual process entails painting with oil paint, which has been thinned, onto one side of a piece of paper.  Using a technique similar to tracing, he treated the prepared painted paper as if it were carbon paper.  Klee draws on the backside of the painted sheet which transfers the dark lines onto the muslin.  In some of the other pieces of work he made, you can actually see darkened areas where Klee’s hands rested on the paper while he was drawing with a stylus or perhaps a pen.  This technique creates a broken up almost chalk like line but with the medium of oil paint.  Klee would not only employ this technique with oil painting during his Bauhaus years, but would use it again in his watercolors.

Paul Klee, along with being so experimental, was very aware of the impact and significance of each mark or gesture in his work from a grain of sand added to paint, to a scratch in a paint surface, and to the gesso leeching through gauze material.  The Guggenheim, in an exhibition writing, refers to Paul Klee as a “technical innovator” with regards to his work and I wholeheartedly agree.  This innovation is what also solidifies his status of being the “avant garde” artist that I mentioned earlier.

While painting Red Balloon Klee utilized his long history of material manipulations and technique processes.  One of my favorite of Klee’s techniques is his ability to create a luminous, almost airy, quality to his work.  For this effect he chooses to use muslin on which to apply paint.  The open and fine weave of the muslin becomes easily wavy and distorted when placed onto a panel. The panel is used to provide additional durability and strength to the otherwise frail muslin fabric.  This combination of open weaved fabric and playful paint application provides Klee with the atmospheric texture that he achieved in his lithographs, but in an oil painting.  The relationship between the wavy muslin fabric weave and the straight, almost graphically designed, lines is a sophisticated yet child-like playful contrast.

The paint application is light handed but precise in placement.  This style creates an airy feeling in his work that I personally respect and enjoy.  Very often oil paint can emulate a heavier feeling because of the properties of the materials, however Klee’s light paint application on the muslin allows you to readily see the texture of the fabric and the open air holes in between the weave of the fabric, thus resulting in that feeling of atmosphere.  This visual openness of the weave is instrumental to the sense of light, almost as if the work has an aura around it and coming through it.  Compositionally the work remains playful, especially with the red balloon being placed at the top center of the picture, commanding attention to what it is proposing within the picture.  I believe the splatters of red throughout the composition lead the viewer’s eye back and forth around the picture which provides an additional sense of movement to the painting.

To the viewer the picture Red Balloon is easily interpreted, but I don’t believe it was meant not to be.  The vision of the red balloon provides me a sense of wonderment and adventure.  I do believe the picture was created to provide that sense of journey and if looked at during the period it was created, perhaps this was to be a journey out of Germany in 1922.  Since Germany was going through such awful financial hardship financing the debt for WWI, it would seem appropriate for a painting to be completed that shows an escape from all that hardship to a land that was unseen but had to be better than this one.  That type of thinking would also fall in line with that playful child-like thought behavior that Klee possessed.

I admire Paul Klee’s playful banter involved in this painting between figuration and abstraction.  I also enjoy seeing his Bauhaus influences as well, such as the graphic styling and colors from Itten and Kandinsky.  The primary goal of my artwork revolves around the exploration of materials and application techniques which has given me great appreciation for Paul Klee’s self-evolvement within his art practice.  I have not yet begun to work with lighter fabrics such as gauze or muslin as he did, but I look forward to working with them after seeing their potential effects while learning more about Paul Klee.  My previous artwork usually involved the fabric weave to be in uniform direction; however I will instead use the weave of the fabric within my work and not so much as just a structure to place it on.  I have always been conscious of adding light and airiness into my oil painting work and that was the reason why I chose to write about the painting Red Balloon because I respect what he was able to achieve with this piece.  My thoughts of contrast making a painting interesting are somewhat simpatico to Klee especially when it involves painting style with strong linear aspects.

I am looking forward to what influence Paul Klee will have on my work. With this essay he has given me many ideas surrounding material manipulation that I am eager to start on.  I believe his work resembles much of the philosophy of what the Bauhaus presented to the rest of the world.  With respect to the sensitive color usage, strong graphical linear characteristics, and the circle in contrast to the square it is not surprising that this work was created during Paul Klee’s Bauhaus years.  This is further cemented when research is done on Johannes Itten and Wassily Kandinsky whereas you cannot deny how much they all influenced each other during that time. Paul Klee may have been trying to emulate how a child creates art, but his techniques and materials are anything but child-like or naïve, which I believe adds depth and interest to this painting as well.

For more information on Paul Klee try the following references:

From Picasso to Pollock: Classics of Modern Art. Guggenheim Museum.

Hall, Douglas. Klee.  London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1998

Merrell Publishers (Edited by Stefan Frey and Josef Helfenstein). Paul Klee Rediscovered: Works from the Burgi Collection. London: Merell Publishers Limited, 2000.

Hello world!

Well it was just a matter of time before I began blogging….but I would rather call it canvassing.  I am hoping with this blog to clip-clop my way through post college graduation and venture into the entrepreneurial unknown.  I guess it will contain a little of everything but most likely it will be to pass on information I come across in the Metro-Chicago area regarding art.  I seem to always find something trivial that perhaps someone else could use.

I am a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and have discovered that while the experience was fabulous, the degree from here doesn’t really provide you with a guaranteed job.  I even had an internship at the David Adler Music and Arts Center creating visual art programs and improving others, but I still feel like I am back at square one looking for a job.  I have discovered that I would like a job back in academia helping others find their way to their dream career..that would be my dream career.

Until I get there, I hope all visitors will help me canvas the road to my dream career and canvas the various topics that I chat up.  Thanks for visiting!

– Catie