Swimming Right

The same fry, that was drawn a couple posts earlier, came from this momma fish made of paper mache.  She looks one color when swimming left.  And she looks like this when swimming right.

These differences in color come in handy sometimes.


Something Fishy

This little guy spawned in a notebook.  He is a drawing of an imaginary fish composed of paper mache who sometimes swam one direction and then swam in the other direction. 

He is an idea of a fish.

Blue Fish

The little blue fish:  I copied him from somewhere … I don’t remember the source, which I changed so much that I can no longer recognize it.  He didn’t start out life being blue.  He evolved.  He borrowed something blue, as well as something old.  It was a marriage of minds.

I liked the eye.  When my daughter was a baby, I used to make drawings of animals like this. I would sit on the floor drawing while my baby crawled around.  And she would pick up a pencil and scratch up the eyes.  I don’t think she liked the drawings looking at her like that. 

But this is (of course) the Proverbial Fish.  The one that got away!

Big things in little packages

     Sometimes a big painting starts out small.  Just like we do!  This sketch in oil crayon is an early version of the koi pictures.  If painting is like a garden, this is the young spout.

The idea began like this, —and (see previous post), it grew.

I’ve never been to Disneyland

Who needs all those rides when you’ve got your own Radio Flyer?  As one might surmise from this view of my studio, I also have a busy imaginative life.  I don’t relax at amusement parks.  I relax washing the dishes.  Give me something where the imagination rests!

I like to paint big pictures. 

Someday I’m going to get some furniture.

(In the lower right-hand corner is a colored pencil drawing, just visible, of a little bridge to somewhere.)


“My Diebenkorn”

Richard Diebenkorn, were he still living, would be about my mom’s age.  So he was a grown up painter when I was this size.  He’s like an art Dad to me.  (Matisse and Bonnard are my grandparents.)  I wanted to paint something that was thoroughly my own, yet Diebenkorn-like.  A wonderful large Diebenkorn of a Seated Figure Wearing a Hat was on display at the National Gallery of Art around the time I made my picture.  The textures are very different — his and mine — but something of the brushy Diebenkorn surfaces comes to life in its own way in my picture too.

My painting is a self portrait. It depicts a larger than life-size, two year old me, clinging to her doll which “me” is afraid of losing to some other children.  To get this image, I used a little square format, black and white photo dating from Post-Cambrian times.  It’s a striking picture (if I’m allowed to say so myself).  It’s a very modern sort of thing to shake up just the right kind of bright decor.

And I need to find it a home.  It’s kind of an orphan!  [Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 56 inches, by Aletha Kuschan]


Got a hero?  I do.  Lots of them.  Richard Diebenkorn, the great 20th century American painter of life and abstraction, is one of them.  I went through a whole phase of studying Diebenkorn’s painting about eight years ago.  I poured over every book I could find and visited as many Diebenkorn paintings in collections as possible.  Thanks to new motherhood, I had missed a huge Diebenkorn show in Washington.  That’s okay.  I’m happy with the kid.  But perhaps to make up for the missed opportunity, I studied him in this other, vicarious way.

While my baby daughter was asleep, on a few nights when I was not, I rolled out large sheets of paper on the floor and made my own big abstractions using kids’ tempera paints!  I was just like Richard Dreyfuss with the mashed potatoes (mentioned a few posts back)!  What a lovely obsession it was to feel this thrill of the pure beauty of paint itself and the aching search for forms that are untied from things and thingness.

The painting above, however, comes from Diebenkorn’s figurative phase in the 1950s and early 60s.  It shows a limp girl who seems to be feeling somewhat like I felt (after a night of tempera painting while baby slept).

[Designers take note: I make copies!  Commission me to copy a Diebenkorn.  I’d love it.   Just like  Rubens, I still make copies.]

Finding Quiet

For exercise I used to take walks at night on the grounds of the US Capitol, which once seemed like the most secure place on earth thanks to its large contingent of police officers.  Alas, that was some years ago.  At the time anyone could climb the Capitol steps and look at the National Mall from the terrace.  Being on the terrace put you eye to eye with some birds.  From that height one actually looks down at some trees.  It was very fine on summer evenings, hardly a lonely place even at night with many tourists and joggers around.  At sunset the Mall is radiant, the view from the top of the stairs is superb.  I got into the habit of climbing the stairs, up and down, for as long as endurance lasted.  It was great exercise for both body and mind.

At the base of the Capitol lies a large reflecting pool.  I used to do circuits around it — indeed, around the entire Capitol grounds.  But the pool is what I particularly recall now.  I used to sit and rest a while there, gazing long at the surface waves and their intricate patterns.  I thought it would be the most amazing thing to try capturing that in art.  And ambitious artist that I was (and am), I took my drawing materials and tried diligently to catch that pattern in motion “freehand” (as the saying goes).  I drew some memorable patterns and felt myself more connected to nature as a consequence, but the picture above was painted from a photograph and came from a different pool on other federal grounds.

We need lazy times to think and dream.  I used to cast my worries into those wave patterns and push them off.  I used to find my dreams reflected back to me like echos from the restless ebb and flow of the water.  And all these matters transpired under the great, oceanic, twilight sky. 

To find quiet, look down and look up.

[Top of the post: acrylic painting on canvas, 40 x 60 inches by Aletha Kuschan]