My Ingres’s Wife and What the Heck

I made this drawing after Ingres’s portrait of his wife.  One finds quite a bit of distortion in Ingres’s images, and his portrait of his wife, though it seems so “realistic,” is no exception.  Her arms are very strange.  One hand folds under her arm and morphs into the most amazing shape.  And the arm she leans on is very hefty.  And these qualities must have really captivated me because I exaggerated them further though not intentionally.  I was trying to make a faithful copy.  I was completely caught up in the image.  I let proportion fly out the window — which is a good thing to do sometimes.  What the heck.  Just let yourself go.

As a consequence, I’d advise you not to mess with my Mrs. Ingres.  She’s got a wicked right hook.  Believe me.  She may look sweet, but don’t cross her.

[Top of the post:  Drawing after Ingres’s portrait of his wife, Delphine Ramel, 1859, by Aletha Kuschan]

Another Copyist

Here’s a drawing after an Ingres portrait by Kirstin Lamb.  Her copy has become an entirely new image, quite in its own right, with wonderfully loose lines and frank directness.   It’s certainly fun for me finding it and being able to demonstrate someone else’s use of copies.  You discover how fully inventive Lamb’s copy after Ingres is by comparing it with its original.  Mrs. Hayard has had a good make-over, as a consequence becoming a thoroughly modern Millie. 

[Top of the post:  Copy at Ingres’s Madame Charles Hayard, by Kristin Lamb]

Drawing a Peaceful Sky

I think this place looks peaceful, though I have no idea where it is and what source I used for this drawing.  Was I looking at a photograph?  Or maybe I put my own colors into someone else’s drawing?  Or maybe I made the whole thing up?  It doesn’t really matter.

Drawings take on a life of their own.  Whenever the artist starts seeing the drawing as simply what it is, then she begins seeing the drawing the way other people see it.  I’d love to visit this place.  To see the radiance left in the twilight sky that is richly mirrored in the water.  It looks so quiet, so clear, so calm.  It is dusk or dawn?
[Top of the post:  Landscape at Twilight, by Aletha Kuschan, crayon drawing in a notebook]

Drawing from “life”

The same Renaissance portrait sculpture that I drew and posted previously is pictured above from a different angle.  The wonderful thing about drawing from a sculpture is that you can study a figure from various angles, and yet always the pose is the same since, of course, she never moves. 

I was aware of an artist’s manual, written by none other than Peter Paul Rubens, that exists now only in a fragment.  He advised artists to make drawings after sculpture (as was his own practice) and to draw in such a way as to breathe life into the figure.  It should not look like a sculpture, but like a person.  I was aware of that advice and felt at the time of the drawing that my version was too much sculpture still and not enough of a person.  However, looking at the drawing now from a distance of some years, I think the woman in the drawing looks very alive — even despite her iris-less eyes. 

That’s why you draw first and editorialize later.  You need to gain distance from your drawings if you are really to understand them.  At the time of their making, your mind is full of your intentions — many of which do not make it onto the page — many of which are even conflicting and unformed.  And your mind is full of the model, which will of course be different from the drawing in innumerable ways (and this is not necessarily a bad thing).

When you are drawing, you should simply concentrate upon drawing, being focused on the subject and your visual thoughts about it.  And afterwards you can learn to understand the drawing you made, but you have to realize that it takes time.  What you notice about your drawings changes with time.  (Sometimes your drawing gets better!  Sometimes it gets worse.  Que sera sera.)

I can’t find the particular sculpture that I drew on the National Gallery’s website.  Perhaps I can locate it at a later date.  However, it is similar to this figure attributed to a follower of Andrea del Verrocchio. 

I like the way this woman’s head is held high, the way her neck is as supple and erect as a young plant.  This would be a difficult pose for a model to hold without tiring, which is exactly why drawing from the sculpture has so many benefits.  This model not only doesn’t move: she never gets tired. 

[Top of the post:  Drawing after a Renaissance Sculpture, by Aletha Kuschan]

Trips to the Museum for Drawing

I like to draw in the museums.  All the great old dead white male artists used to do it.  Quite a few of the dead white female artists got into the habit, as well.  Today African-American artists or Asian-American artists or other ethnic/American groups of artists, roam the museums drawing.  And when they die, successive generations will have any number of dead anybodies’ footsteps to follow in.  That’s my paeon to multiculturalism: to give it time.  No one should feel gawky by making drawings in museums.  Picasso was the greatest thief of all. 

Pst … just between us … all the ArtNews artists who spurn drawing, can’t draw.  There’s a reason for everything.  But … shh … don’t tell anybody.  Okay?

I drew this figure in front of the National Gallery’s The Young Governess by Jean Simeon Chardin. (A click takes you to a detail, click from there on “detail images” to see the whole painting.)  I guess I’ve made hundreds of drawings like this by now.  Well, I really love to draw.  And you learn a lot by copying the old guys (and gals).

[Top of the post:  Drawing after Chardin’s “The Young Governess,” by Aletha Kuschan]

Even though I have a cold, I don’t look like this

I’ve been pouring through notebooks looking for drawings to post.  This is a self-portrait from a few years ago.  However, I don’t look like this.  I don’t think I looked like this then either.  Perhaps on a really bad day, I bear some resemblance to this if I am having a serious state of the blahs.  Even now, in the grip of my cold, I look much better.  It matters not.

Indeed, I post this as an example of the virtues of self-portraiture, benefits that transcend likeness.  You can use yourself to try out ideas, to make emotional statements —  or just to model funny hats — it worked for Rembrandt  (though I prefer to use squirrels for that).  The drawing doesn’t have to look like you to be a provocative drawing.  It just has to be what it is.  And it communicates what it will.

What I like about this drawing, though (and what I hope it reveals about me) is its economy of line.  That constitutes (I hope) my “portrait” in it.  Like the line that describes the top of my head — that’s got some punch.  It’s bold drawing.  (One wants to be bold.)

[Top of the post:  Self-portrait in the pose of Melancholia, by Aletha Kuschan]

Strange Happenings

The squirrels are into the tequila again.  Actually this is a drawing for a painting.  I draw things that I’m going to paint.  It helps me think the image through.  It’s also very enjoyable to rehearse the idea.  And naturally having rehearsed the idea, it develops more readily in its painted form.

But the differences in drawing and painting are quite plain.  All the small lines and textures that you can capture in a drawing have to be sacrificed in a painting.  Well, each has its own charm.

[Top of the post:  Squirrel as Carmen Miranda, by Aletha Kuschan]

Alice Wins A Gold Medal!

Congratulations Alice!  This pretty much raps it up for my coverage of the Cat Olympics.  There are still one or two more events, but none that include our Alice.  And, naturally, the whole Cat Olympics is now being eclipsed by the human version.  But I’ll keep you posted about Alice’s other adventures.  She always has some.  She’s quite a cat.

[Top of the post:  Alice with her medal, as drawn by the young artist.]

I hope everyone’s having a nice summer

I’ve had a cold!  I’ve been much too busy searching for the Kleenex box to write blogs. And we’ve been making preparations for a little trip.  And I’ve been rather busy just being mom.  Can’t complain, though.  Well, I could complain a little about my cold.  But regarding the last item in that list, I’m grateful for the opportunity.  Being mom is great, of course! My kid keeps me well entertained.  But being mom always been an great kick-in-the-pants artistically too.

I’ll get around to posting more frequently when the young one is back in school.  And of course, I have my koi painting on the back burner.  It’s been going really well.  I’m anxious to unveil it here.

Funny, we haven’t heard from Alice though ….

And then there’s tea

A certain kind of drawing is fast and free.  If you were trying to think out loud about something, you wouldn’t worry about eloquence.  And in a certain kind of drawing you don’t worry about eloquence either. 

It’s like writing a “to do” list for yourself.  It’s like quick catching a first impression.  It’s a form of play.  You create your own coloring book drawing, rapid-fire lines that you fill with color — or that you leave empty — it doesn’t matter.

It’s like mumbling to yourself.  Hmm … this goes over here.  This goes over there ….

It’s really not a big deal.  That’s a kind of drawing, too.  I drew this tea pot as casually as I would drink the tea.

[Top of the post:  Tea pot and Cup, by Aletha Kuschan, pencil and watercolor]