Beautiful Dreamer

Her face has pale violet and a light, apple-green like you find on a smooth Granny Smith.  Her hair and eyebrows are the warm brown of early autumn leaves.  Cobalt blue outlines around her nose and cheek and mouth are like the first brisk mornings of late September.  And her head and hand are drawn in dark lines like the stark shadows of shortening days.

A summer dream that dreams of autumn — of school and playground adventures.  The coming of Halloween with its fabulous costume parade and sacks of candy.  Studies and books, school supplies and standing in line, and raising your hand eagerly, hoping to catch the teacher’s eye.

The same motif that was a pencil drawing in the previous post, I drew with crayons here.  These are oil pastel crayons, and the colors are “out of the box.”  I mixed some passages, but I also let the exaggerated color happen that goes with using the crayons unmixed and as you find them — I just let that happen.  Cools and warms create the dimension.  And zigzag lines jazz things up.  I also made no effort to “finish” anything.  Those out of the box colors, well, they lead to out of the box ideas.  None of the colors are quite real, yet they are evocative of real things.

I don’t know quite how to explain it, but I like a drawing that follows your attention wherever it goes and for as long as it goes.  And when the thoughts stop in mid-stream, the drawing just stops in its stream too.  And the empty spaces seem to say something.

This drawing, like so many of my studies, was like being in a dream.  And then something wakes you up.

And you stop dreaming.  You are awake!  Time for school!

[Top of the post:  Child Sleeping (study for a painting), by Aletha Kuschan]

Sleeping and Dreaming

This drawing of a sleeping child is a study for a painting.  I have made so many drawings of this face and her hand and this pose!  I have tried so many times to dream her dreams.  Drawing is partly a way of entering into other worlds.  Like a novelist creates characters and actions for them to be living, an artist has to create the whole pictorial world of the painting.  But unlike the novelist’s, the artist’s world is one scene only that forever plays again and again before the spectator’s gaze.

There are actions in paintings, but they are frozen and stilled.  I love the stillness of art.  I love the stillness of a scene that never changes, of a child who forever dreams, of a summer day that is eternal and always wonderful and bright.

[Top of the post:  Study of a Sleeping, Dreaming Child, by Aletha Kuschan]

My little trees in a row

On a bright spring day of this century, I drew this row of young trees.  They are clothed in pink veils of flower-before-the-leaf.  And much of the silvery bark (that will soon disappear in leaves) is still visible and bright.  Their own branches and the variegated greens of more distant trees mingle on the page.  You can sense the space between near and far, yet everything is depicted in spare lines and haphardly rubbed tones.  It’s all very abstract.  Yet it’s all very “there.”

Whenever I draw something like this, it’s like taking the whole morning home with me and having it forever as a keepsake.  Spring morning-to-go!

[Top of the post:  Row of Trees in Spring, by Aletha Kuschan]

Scribbly and Leafy

Art is an interpretation of things.  Whenever we draw from life we confront one idea of reality — that highly acute (thanks to optometry) clear world with sharp edges and infinity of focus.  Our eyes light upon different things and the mind blends them into one continuous idea of what’s “out there.” 

In the arts of drawing and painting, by contrast, the world exists in two dimensions, and it has a finite size.  Maybe it’s just 11 1/4 x 8/7/16 inches like Raphael’s Saint George and the Dragon at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  Maybe it’s 1.50 x 1.97 meters like Monet’s Nympheas at the Musee Marmottan.

However big or small it is, a picture represents a little world in itself — very much in finite and usually rectangular terms.  So the artist always needs to be aware of the differences between the world as he sees it before his eyes, verses the world as it exists in pictorial imagination.  Then too there’s the difference between the artist’s intention and the picture itself, which sometimes takes on a life of its own.

And the artist needs to be alive to the qualities of the medium used to make the picture as well.  Not all media are equal to all tasks.  Letting the picture travel to those ideas that the medium itself suggests (by virtue of its unique qualities) is one way that artists learn to invent ideas.  Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.  Sometimes the medium limits what is possible and thereby creates the forms the picture will take.

Crayons are scribbly.  They can produce continuous tones, too, of course.  But line is their hallmark and their characteristic virtue.  And nature too is composed of a great many lines.  So the marriage of material to subject, where crayons are concerned, often leads to scribbles of one sort or another.

And one needn’t resist this.  Because scribbles can actually be quite beautiful.

[Top of the post:  a quick study after nature, Scrubs at the Arboretum, by Aletha Kuschan]