Koi Exist to be Beautiful

The woman who bought this painting cried when she saw it.  I’ve never had anyone react to one of my paintings that way before.  “It is like a dream … the images of these fish being fish and being lovely just by being,” she said, “This “fish joyfulness” you have captured.  It will be a most rewarding day each day when I go … down … to the front door and see this.”
A person with that rare sensitivity helps you understand your own motives.  What had drawn me to paint these fish swimming?  Yes, their joyfulness of being.
[Top of the post:  Koi Swimming, 40 x 30, oil on canvas by Aletha Kuschan, private collection]


Sounds like the name of a designer shirt, but actually it’s the name of an artist — an artist who has some suggestions for how we might jazz up our pictures.  Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo was an artist of the 18th century.

What has he got to teach us today?  (I’m not going to make this complicated.)  Paint ostriches!  Think for a moment what you see in this spectacular, virtuoso drawing:  ostriches, people in funny hats, outdoor architecture, airy landscape, ladies in fancy dresses — all in one picture.  Tiepolo was about 73 when this frolic took place.

This, I tell you, is one stop shopping at its best.

[Top of the post:  Punchinello with Ostriches by Domenico Tiepolo (Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Museum)]

Summer Children

Art ought to portray our hopes and longings.  It ought to lead us into questions about why we’re here and life’s purpose.  While art can be about any of the concerns of mankind, it ought sometimes to be about wonder and delight and celebration.  And nobody knows how to celebrate life like a child does.

If we look at children and watch what they do with complete spontaneity and abandon, we should ask ourselves what they know that we don’t.  Or what they know that we’ve forgotten.  Children are true connoisseurs of living.  Whenever I see a child play, it reminds me that I’ve good cause to be thankful.  A child’s world is real joie de vivre.

[Top of the post:  Drawing of Two Children  by Aletha Kuschan]

Adjacent To

Perhaps because paper was once in short supply, we note that the old masters drew on their rare pages with more joyful abandon than is typical of artists today.  And they were more thrifty.  Often a page of old master drawings will have several subjects on the same page, and they will not necessarily have anything to do with each other.  Often they are at right angles to each other.  And sometimes artists (like Ingres or Rubens) would even put more than the correct number of limbs on their figures — all presumably in the interest of deciding what the pose should be.  Four armed ladies?  Let’s not go there.  Save that for another occasion.

In our era of anything goes, it’s interesting that this conceit — this putting lots of things onto the same page hasn’t caught on as a revivified trend.  Heck, a lot of artists could do it and suppose that they were inventing something brand new (the ones who have not studied history, that is).

Besides things that happen to rent space on the same page are the colors that halo objects.  Everything in the world is colored and if you look really closely at all the color, it can drive you nuts!  There is so much of it to notice.  I didn’t peer too deeply in this drawing, but just enough to put some blue on top and green on the side of the marigold.

[Top of the post:  Studies of Plants by  Aletha Kuschan]

Colored Pencils (Shell fossil)

Colored pencils are something that you love for themselves.  Even before you draw.  They look so great sitting there colorfully arrayed, row upon row, in their neat little box. Traveling has awaked my appreciation of this studio in a box. 

Of course you have to think a little differently when you’re making your picture with these.  Everything becomes a line.  You cannot work the masses of an image with the big dollop of color.  Or, let’s say, you can dollop, but you’ll do it with lines.  You can scribble a mass, you can rub the color into a continuous tone, but you will have massed it particle by particle.

So, of course hatching is what you do.  I love hatching.  You can lay line beside line in a wonderfully monotonous way.  It’s hypnotic — like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes, except more colorful.

This subject lent itself to colored pencils as it seemed to have been composed of lines itself!  Lines of calcium threaded together, in three dimensional contours, that rolling in upon each other formed — poof! — a fossil shell.

The legislators of my state have managed our lovely Maryland so marvelously that they have hardly anything to do now, and so they’ve gone way beyond state flowers and state birds.  We’ve got a state fossil.  And it’s at the top of the post.

[Top of the post:  Maryland’s State Fossil: Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae by Aletha Kuschan]