Teaching drawing at MPA soon!

MPA refers to the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, Virginia, and I’ll be teaching drawing there during the winter session.  Here’s some of the things that class participants can look forward to doing.

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Continuing Drawing
For both beginning and continuing students seeking to improve their skills. Hone your drawing and observational skills in this dynamic class as you draw from life and subjects of your choice. Gesture, line, proportion, mass, volume, value, tone, perspective, and shading will be covered. This class will provide a strong foundation for any level. Optional prerequisite: I’ve Never Held a Pencil: Drawing for Beginners.
Instructor: Aletha Kuschan
9 lessons @ 2 hrs, $260/235 MCC district residents
6607.317         Tu, 1/17-3/14              4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
The class features a systematic and fun introduction to many, varied ways of making drawings.  We’ll draw things from life.  We’ll draw things from memory and imagination.  We’ll make quick adventurous, exploratory sketches and we’ll do sustained and probing drawings of things.  We’ll create tableaus of objects to discover the theatrical side of art.  We’ll look for ways to reduce inhibitions about trying new things, and we’ll talk about how artists get new ideas for their art — both technically and narratively.  This class is the big buffet table of drawing, and I guarantee it will be a lot of fun.  Beginning artists will dive into a ton of interesting things to explore and experienced artists can find ways to advance their own goals by a careful reassessment of the foundational skills.
Some features of the class are outlined in more detail at this post, including what materials artists need to will need to have.
https://fantabulouskoi.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/everything-about-continuing-drawing-at-mpa-this-winter/
Here’s a link to MPA’s website.  Class registration opens on December 12!
https://mpaart.z2systems.com/np/clients/mpaart/event.jsp?event=279

exuberant moment

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A certain kind of day you step out the door. The first thing you see is thrilling. Intense blue sky, brilliant light, a tree casting shadows across the ground richly green. Speckled lights and patches of shadow are equally strong and distinct shapes like positions on a chessboard. Balmy air envelopes you.

I remember I heard the sounds of birds and insects together. In the random distance someone’s far away percussive shout catches my momentary attention and disappears. I turn and look in that direction. A father yelling instructions to his kids, or a roofer shouting to his crew. The words inaudible are like the sounds of birds, too.

The entire tableau revives an insistent alert as you stand there: all this is real! You are alive — isn’t it thrilling!  This is the present. You have awakened a second time today.  This time it’s more urgent and sensory.

Sometimes you recover a sensation that you had as a child — that belief that everything is new — which I guess children feel because THEY are new.  My daughter at a certain age used to ask me, “Am I still brand new?”  And I said, “yes, of course you are.”

Whatever the causes, at virtually any age in life, one sometimes stumbles into the moment of glad awakening.  It’s then you stride into the present. You step inside it.  It was always there but you’d forgotten to notice.  Now you’ve found it again, the lost present, where had I left it?  Oh, here it is. Right in front of me! Silly me.

I vow not to lose it again.

When the light is brighter, when smells travel through the nose deep into the brain, becoming elements of a waking dream, movement seems quicker.  Do birds fly through the sky with such clean speed this way always? I’ll make a point to notice this again!

I’m suddenly aware of gravity. I notice the earth pulling me toward it. I can feel my feet inside my shoes.

I remember my father’s voice.  I know that my mother is inside the house.  And here is Everything Else. I felt this way just a few days ago when the weather was uncommonly balmy.

 

 

 

On asking why

red-eyed-cicadaFor me art seems second nature.  Not to draw or paint — to give up those things would be for me like asking if I should give up thinking.  No need for thinking anymore so I’ll just stop.

I have trained my brain to do art.  I think of visual stuff in an off hand way all day whether I’m painting or not.  I have a hard time understanding how people cannot draw.

And why doesn’t everyone have a still life table?  What’s up with that?  Even when you’re not drawing the stuff it’s so nice to see it just sitting there.  And the spaces between the things look so intriguing —  they sit there in space in relationship to each other and gravity has them screwed to the table as the Earth blasts through space.

Isn’t it wonderful seeing an object through the hard clear surface of a glass jar? To see a thing behind the jar being distorted by the glass? Or seeing the patterns on a cloth from an oblique angle as the cloth recedes in space. How DO other people manage their day without these charms?

I want to draw as a cicada sings, or as a spider spins a web.

You may be closer to a similar relationship regarding the elements of your work — whatever it is that you do — than you’re aware!

Comment to an artist friend

” I am playing with the idea of letting a painting dictate

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its own direction…,” said my artist friend Fritz at his blog Fruitful Dark.

Those words describe the way that I try to relate to perception. I am always striving to be more connected to the motif, to discover things about it, even in random ways. I want something that is opposite of technique (as usually understood) — instead to have a direct line of thought between what I’m seeing and what gesture I make on the painting or drawing. What if the most notable thing in a certain motif is, say, the reflection on a vase? The usual advice (and I’m not knocking it) is to start with the big shapes first and go toward details — for this approach is a way of organizing the picture to get at a kind of realism or even just the awareness of the whole. And I have worked on my drawing chops for years to learn about proportion and the big sense of the image, and so on. But sometimes now I go the opposite direction — I let my mind work with the first thing that really pulls me, no matter what it is or how illogical a process it might invoke. Because one interesting idea is not something that just sits in isolation — it leads to other ideas, places and feelings.

The odd detail will help you notice some other feature that maybe you hadn’t seen. I am not fastened to one picture even — though certain pictures become ones where the aim is completeness. Those I will wrestle with over whatever time span is necessary. But other works are passages of travel through various ideas. They don’t have to be finished. They can proceed willy nilly.

Of course none other than Corot said to continually attempt to get back to the first impression — that first sense of “ah!” — and you might not even know what provoked THAT feeling. It is somehow mixed in with everything all at once. And it’s hidden inside lots of separate items. It stands behind the details like a gravitational force.

But horses for courses. I don’t have to do the motif the same way every time. I can go totally illogical with it. I can fasten down a detail if it suits me, why not? And I can leave details hanging suspended in chaos for the sake of experiencing a passage of thoughts. The things learned will accumulate. They’ll go somewhere more connected in time.

some red, violet and green inside the edges

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If you study Bonnard a lot, inevitably you will begin to notice the edges.  Perhaps someday you even live in the edges (I don’t know yet about that).  While many artists advise students to choose a “center of interest” old Bonnard taught his fans to seek the periphery and now I include things in the picture that can never be identified.  For instance, there’s a black vase to the right of the blue compotier.  I’ve drawn the black vase before (as below).  It’s covered with the most beautiful designs.  Sitting next to the compotier, its surface wasn’t even black but instead reflects the red of the background cloth and also reflects — in a marvelous way — a convex image of the seashell sitting next to it.

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All that fell outside the range of my picture, but I was so aware of it.  (I suppose I’ll have to do another picture sometime of these other things.) But at the right-hand edge of the new picture at the top, there’s a dark curvilinear shape touching the compotier and it depicts the edge of that black vase.  So that really makes no sense, does it?  But Old Man Bonnard told me not to fret about what makes sense.  He said this is a nice trail to follow, but you have to travel a long ways down its route before you come to the really neat stuff.

I’m taking him at his word.

And once you discover the edges, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the stuff inside the edges too, he said …

Above: pastel on UArt 500 grit paper glued to board, 18 x 24 inches; below: watercolor

bright remembering

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Some drawings are thoughts. I usually approach pastel as though it were painting, but in this one I was drawing as much as painting — was putting things in places, was putting down lines in particular.  I like seeing the lines in situations.  I feel like everyone ought to notice the lines that are everywhere.  The world is filled with the most amazing lines everywhere that you look ….

But I digress. I like the bright orange of the persimmons against the pale sky blue of an old table cloth. And the pale violet of the backdrop with them, and the sweet sentimental rose on the elegant pitcher.  They all conspire most earnestly to convince me that life is good.  I remember all the joys of hundreds of ordinary days of the present and past years and believe that the future will be similarly rich in experiences.  Various members of my family are evoked in a picture like this.

It’s almost a family portrait.

Pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes “touch” paper; 17 x 20.5 inches

Red!

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I’ve been doing so many flowers that I tend to forget about some that I had set aside.  So here’s another horizontal format of flowers.  The blue compotier in all the pictures that include it holds seashells, which are fun to draw blurred as they are by the glass.  The glass pickle jar is also a fun object.  Of all the vases I’ve used so far, I think it’s my favorite.

This one measures 24 x 18 inches on UArt sanded paper — a wonderful surface.

new flowers

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I’ve been working on flowers a lot lately.  This pastel is the most full of things of the several pastels that I’ve done so far.  It measures 30 x 22 inches on Canson “touch” paper. The curvature of the lens distorts the image a little (visible especially at the upper right), but you can get the idea.

I’ve been buying fresh flowers, arranging and rearranging them for the several pictures.  It’s nice to have fresh flowers around.  The persimmons are from the garden.

I bought the table about two years ago at a thrift store.  I was “in the market” for a good still life table at the time, but figured I’d have to settle for department store tv dinner tables because of the expense involved in purchasing actual furniture.  However, when I visited the local thrift store looking for vases and other still life items, the first thing I saw was this table whose edge you see on the lower left.  It was very inexpensive! I recognized my destiny in the instant! It was kismet!  I left immediately.  Returned thirty minutes later with the family pick up truck and bought the desk and brought it home!  It’s gotten a lot of use since that day, but this is the first time that the edge of the table itself has peeked out of the picture.  Usually it’s covered with cloths.  There’ll be more peeking in the future, rest assured.

Someday I’m gonna go full Cezanne with this table …

 

flowers and striped cloth

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I set up elaborate still lifes for paintings. Even when I’m painting something else, it’s fun to see the still life sitting there on the table. I think to myself that everyone ought to have a still life table for the fun of having the things to look at and to put into interesting arrangements — whether you’re an artist doesn’t matter.  Rearranging the items on the still life table could become a catalyst for rearranging things in your life (I’ve heard of some kinds of psychotherapy that use a similar tactic).  Or maybe it’s something to do to nurture one’s inner decorator or architect.

In truth, though, everyone already has still lifes arranged all throughout their houses.  We just don’t call them by that name.  The shelf where I keep still life objects is a still life set up in its own right.  I put the things on the shelf in ways that cram as many items on the shelf as possible, but the arrangement has its own unintended charm.  I should paint that some time.  And everyone has a corner of a room — kitchens are notorious — where a bunch of things sit in haphazard arrangements that echo the things’ uses in the lives of the home’s inhabitants. Other places to find the wonderful, revealing haphazard still life include the insides of closets, the work desk, the bathroom shelf, inside cabinets and  spaces under beds.

All those compartments have a beautiful charm — are like entries in a diary telling us truths about the quiet spaces of living.

Flowers are a traditional subject, however, in traditional still lifes and so I paint them often.  Moreover the flowers are organic in form and thus connect the inside and outside worlds.  Nature made the flowers (and the gourd too in this still life above) and human beings made the rest in the still life above with the striped cloth.

17 x 23 inches, pastel on sanded paper, available.

 

little bouquet

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In a little vase of flowers you can find so many things — the stability of gravity, the beauty of light, the profusion of nature, a riot of incident — they are all there.  Even in the small compass of a little bouquet, there’s so much to see. A little vase of flowers is a microcosm of all of nature.

Pastel on sanded paper, 11 x 10 inches. Available.