The other morning as I woke up and looked out the bedroom window, I was so inspired by the color of the sky that I ran downstairs, grabbed my oil pastels and paper and sat outside on my front porch to capture the color through the trees. I have always loved sunrises and sunsets, but after learning about artist Wolf Kahn I am more in tune with the color of the sky.
Wolf Kahn was born in 1927 in Germany. His father was the director of the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra. With the rise of Nazism, his father was forced to leave Germany, leaving Wolf behind to be raised by his grandmother. When he was 11 years old, he was put on the children’s refugee train to England and then in 1940 he met up with his father and brothers and sisters already in the United States. His grandmother died in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. He attended New York’s High School of Music and Art, which he graduated from in 1945. He studied with painter Stuart Davis and printmaker Han Jelinek. In 1947 he entered the Hans Hoffman school in New York and studied there for 2 years. He received his Bachelor of Art in 1951 from the University of Chicago. Upon receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, he studied in Italy for some time. He and his wife Emily Mason, an artist in her own right, were married in Italy. Starting in 1968 their time was divided between living in NYC in the winter months and Brattleboro Vermont in the summer. The landscapes of Vermont inspired him.
According to John Updike “Wolf Kahn brings the hot, pure color of Abstract Expressionism to an idea of landscape that is tranquil, reflective and witty. He scans what is before him for patterns and sometimes astonishing contrasts. He brings back from his survey of nature colors- magentas, purples, orange-pink—that must be seen to be believe”. I often page through the two books on Wolf Kahn at our house, my favorite is “Wolf Kahn Pastels”, He does a writing with each work in the book and his essays are as beautiful as his artwork. He writes about the process of creating, of seeing and his creative questions, I find it most inspiring.
The essay “The Color Purple” was paired with this pastel “A Light Violet Haze”, created in 1998. In the essay he writes “I use purple to get me going when other colors fail. It never disappoints and never becomes ordinary.” He also says he doesn’t rely on color theory to guide his direction, but he does love how purple and green work so well together. I love these essay’s. They give a deeper look at the creative process, which opens me up to thinking differently about what I am seeing. As artists, we need to explore how others think and see the world. This is how we grow our own work.
As I am writing this, I looked out my window and saw through the trees, the bright green leaves that just opened against a very dark blue sky. I took a moment to go out and take a picture to use it later in a pastel. Once the art of seeing takes hold there is a whole new world to capture. Color is an amazing thing and as spring bursts forward there is so much new color to see and be inspired by. Here are the two oil pastel’s I have created, inspired by Wolf Kahn and color.
Have a peaceful and creative day.