the Blogger’s Conundrum

Blogging gives new meaning to the question, “what makes people click?”  Oh, I guess the question was “what makes them tick?”  Whatever.  I’d be happy to know the answer to either one.

Do you know?  What made you click?

[Top of the post:  Drawing of My Mother as a Young Woman, by Aletha Kuschan, pencil]


Busy Girl

With all this blogging, you might wonder how I find time to paint.  Well, it’s not easy.  Happily I love to work.  But alas, even at the end of the day, there’s always a few remaining chores left to do.  Seems like there’s never enough hours.  Here I am, late at night, darning my socks.

[Top of the post:  Drawing after a figure by Georges de la Tour, by Aletha Kuschan, pen and ink]

Ants on the March

Of course, with summer you’re going to get some close encounters with insects.  It simply goes with the territory.  Might as well just invite them to the picnic.

[Top of the post:  Child’s Drawing of Ants along with Ant Stickers, collage detail, by Aletha Kuschan and kid]

Vertical Flowers

I love summer.  Some people complain about the heat.  Not me.  I complain about people who complain about the heat.  I love the heat.  I bask in the heat like a turtle.  I’m not talking about getting a suntan, mind you.  That’s bad for your health.  I’m talking about a sitting in deep shade, sweat still pouring off me, sweltering in the 90% humidity and loving it kind of appreciation of summer.  I’ll admit: a breeze can be good too.

So, I love to paint summer pictures.  I’m not the only one enjoying humidity.  Plants love humidity, and they grow like crazy, and I like to see them grow.  When summer gets really maniac with stuff growing everywhere, I’m in heaven.

I love the round, billowing forms of folliage on trees.  I love fonds of grass, the scribbly texture of weeds growing with abandon.  I love the texture, the layers, the depths, the color, and the long hours of daylight.  Consequently I enjoy painting images like the one above, summers of fact, and summers of imagination.

[Top of the post:  Crepe Myrtles in August, by Aletha Kuschan, acrylic on canvas]

Free For All

I’m so pooped.  Been drawing in a way I’m not accustomed to, making a rather detailed drawing in colored pencil.  Included in the picture I worked on today are rows of fonds of Rousseau-esque tropical plants.  I have to count the leaves to keep track of what I’m doing, and it’s just about driving me bonkers!

A good antidote would be something like the above.  I made this collage in my studio one afternoon for the sake of a photograph and then disassembled it, keeping the better fragments and consigning the remainder to the dumpster.  It was something fun to do.  Things like this make good designs for kids’ murals.  This one has some genuine kids’ drawings in it.  It was physical and fast, measuring about 80 x 80 inches.

In contrast, the drawing that’s driving me bonkers measures 11 x 14 inches!  I’m still working on it.  Not ready to post yet.

[Top of the post:  Design for a Child’s Mural, by Aletha Kuschan, collage of drawing fragments stapled to the studio wall]

Edible Chesapeake


I’m very happy to announce that one of my honey jar paintings appears on the cover of the summer issue of Edible Chesapeake magazine, soon to be hitting the stands all around the Chesapeake region.

Edible Chesapeake is a quarterly publication that celebrates the abundance of local and seasonal foods in the Chesapeake watershed. The magazine celebrates family farmers, fishermen, food artisans, chefs, and other food-related businesses, as well as the consumers, home cooks and restaurant-goers who support them.

Both the publication and its web site contribute to the growing national movement throughout the United States that is encouraging people to eat more locally-grown and locally-produced foods. By eating locally, consumers help sustain the small family farms that grow these foods, and everyone gets to enjoy food that is fresher, tastier and healthier for us. Furthermore we help reduce the cost to the environment and our pocketbooks of transporting foods over long distances.

UPDATE:  You can find Renee Catacalos (formerly the publisher of Edible Chesapeake) writing here!

[Top of the post:  Summer cover of Edible Chesapeake magazine with Honey Jars painting by Aletha Kuschan.  Photograph:  Aaron Springer, courtesy of Edible Chesapeake magazine] 


Cabinet of Curiosities, More Curiosities

Once upon a time, long long ago, Smithsonian magazine did a story on the Chinese soldier statues that were being unearthed near the ancient capital of Xi’an.  Based on a photograph in the magazine I sculpted this soldier torso in clay.  It’s never been baked and sits atop this dresser where it’s sat undisturbed for about 25 years.

Over the years it has attracted a number of friends, some of whom are visible in the photograph — including a wooden duck, that stands guard over it.

[Top of the post:  Dresser top of Curio Objects, photography by Aletha Kuschan, sculpture of Chinese soldier by Aletha Kuschan]

Pen Lines are not Elephants

Always remember that it’s just a drawing.  You can make a dozen drawings.  You can make a hundred drawings.  If you look past the immediate task, you can gain enormous freedom with the immediate task.  Removing your hesitations about the drawing you’re making now means that you can concentrate more upon the drawing you’re making now, taking bold steps, fully aware that if something doesn’t work out, there’s always another drawing following this one where corrections and new ideas can gain the day.

So it often happens that artists learning to draw with pen try to avoid making mistakes, since the pen line is permanent. They devise ways of evading error. They allow their reluctance to commit a mistake to take precedence over the ideas they wish to express.  They pursue the common wisdom that says draw the initial contours using chalk or pencil, firm up those lines with pen, and later erase the guide lines so that only the pen line survives.  This process is fine as far as it goes.  I’m not knocking it.  I’ve used this technique myself for certain kinds of finished pictures.  But underlying the technique is an altogether unnecessary fear, that of making a “mistake.”  When you stop worrying about making mistakes, though, you are opened up to the opportunity of using pen line as a direct tool of expression.

I love pen precisely because it preserves every mark.  When I draw with pen, I do so very freely.  If I think the contour goes here, that’s where I put it.  When I realize that I was off by this much, I throw down another line as the correction.  Both lines are visible in the drawing, and the energy between the lines becomes a record of my thoughts.  The drawing that results is not only a “drawing of an elephant” but is also a “drawing of what I thought the elephant looks like,” which is a slightly different animal.

When you are learning to draw, my advice to young artists (and young at heart artists) is to put the ideas down with directness.  You are, after all, making a drawing not an elephant.  The directness of the lines-as-ideas has a beauty all its own.  And when you use pen in this way you take advantage of the unique properties of the medium.

Let pen lines be pen lines.  That’s my motto.

[Top of the post:  Drawing of elephants, by Aletha Kuschan, pen and ink]

Early Still Life

While staying at my parents’ house, I found this still life I painted ages ago.  I was just starting out painting in earnest back when this was made.  It was one of my first elaborate compositions, one having more than just a couple objects in it.  Looking at this really brings back some memories (one of the great advantages of making pictures).

The cloth that the objects rest on was really thick.  I can almost feel its texture just looking at this.  All the things belong to my mother, and thus the picture reminds me so much of her and her garden.  Back at that time, I often set up still lifes of flowers that I picked from my parents’ yard.  It was such an immediate kind of painting.  Just walk outside, find some flowers that looked pretty, put them in a vase, start painting.  The translation from life to art was brief.

This painting is a bit rough around the edges.  I didn’t know how to see tones as well as I do now.  But it has an airy feeling, especially around the flowers, that seems true.  The oranges and apple pave a little path right into the picture.  I think that’s kind of cute.  You see, after many years, I look at this as though somebody else painted it!

[Top of the post:  Still life of daffodils, by Aletha Kuschan, oil on panel]

Stealing from Picasso

Picasso was quoted as saying, “I don’t find, I steal.”  Well, I figured if he was stealing, I should too.  Right?

I like to copy the works of artists I admire, from time to time.  I made this copy of Picasso’s portrait of his companion Jacqueline Roque from a little photo I found in a book.  The way that he has turned her features into a design while preserving a likeness was something I found fascinating.  So I copied it.

I think that copying works by other artists is kind of like humming a tune you like.

[Top of the post:  Copy of Picasso’s Portrait of Jacqueline Roque, by Aletha Kuschan, acrylic on canvas]