fish like food

fish like food

but are like emblems/ as symbols or digits of encryption/ for bold vigor, a shimmering shiny idea/ such swift action, delicacy, grace, gregarious garrulousness or volubility

you could draw the folds of the bed covers and find ripples and waves that resemble currents in water/ and the dreams of your sleep move like the fish/ at the bed’s edge you peer forward to see better, they swim into your angle of vision/ a glimpse is just a fragment/ the whole pond holds all the fish

the fish swim in and out as fleeting thought do/ hold the attention a moment then dissove from sight/ folds away into another narrative

thoughts that dart, dive, are gone/continue swimming somewhere below the surface/ felt pushing heavy curtains of gravity forward/ forward only alas

Puzzling over the Box and finding some enlightenment

Reading parts of The Puzzle Box again. Wish I could have read with this sort of understanding while Paul Squires, the poet of Gingatao, was still living.  Read just now the Tiger Meditation near the end.  I had felt something very similar only it was the spider in the web waiting in poised stillness that I felt, a spider that would always be waiting, alway just before the moment it seizes the bug, the moment just prior.   Strange too it was the spider because I’m afraid of them, yet that’s where I saw it most clearly — in the beautiful orb of the spider (and her descendants) that have built on the porch summer after summer. 

The Tiger Meditation

One night when I was becoming increasingly frustrated with a Scott Joplin waltz that just wouldn’t swing she appeared beside the piano having just despatched some troublemaker and told me this story.  I went in search of the earliest religious rite that is still actively practised and I came across this along the way.  Imagine you are the top predator in your area, in this case , a tiger.  But you are not a hungry, angry tiger.  You are a satisfied, content tiger asleep, yet tiger-like, still somehow alert.  Asleep in a tree on a branch which overlooks the only path to the only water for miles around and it is a hot, dry afternoon.  Asleep but aware, alert for the first trace of scent or snap of twig, the first vibration of the approaching, thirsty weary creature in need of a cool drink.  And in that moment just before the first trace, immediately prior to the first vibration and alive to its inevitability, in that moment remaining.  And looked back over her shoulder as she swung and waltzed away.

— Paul Squires, The Puzzle Box

The spider’s web is the work of art or is the fabric of consciousness, is the sense of the self existing, having identity, knowing oneself as an “I” — or as Paul might say an i.

I understood it prosaically, but got the message too — and from the source (was the spider taught me).  Just a different animal.

When your eye focuses on the web, the world beyond and around it is blurry.  When your eyes are focused on the world, you miss seeing the web with the spider in it.

The tiger is a strong meditation, the spider a small one — abstract, theoretically, without emotion, more naturally machine-like, emptier, compact, quick, easy to disappear, ultimately spiders hide and are hidden, they are more anonymous, small black or bright ball with legs, with most spiders the venon is harmless.

Paul was more a tiger, whereas I have wanted to weave and hide unseen, in invisible orb web, but sticky and catches things, flying things, winged flying things.

Wild flowers growing indoors

I was going through a pile of drawings at the secret bunker when I rediscovered this one.  When my daughter was a crawler, she often scribbled over drawings as I was making them.  I drew on the floor so that we could work “together.”  Or else I taped my paper to the wall at a level she could reach.  Lots of drawings on the floor we made during that all to swift and brief season (she’s almost a teen now).  I think her scribbles always livened things up.  Sometimes it seems like they were the best part of the drawing.  And not in an “abstract” sense — not at all.  Her scribbles had the force of real ideas to them, which is very different from adults trying to be “random” or whatever.  It’s just that these were two-year-old’s pre-speech rigorous gestures and their meanings are rather opaque though forceful in grammar.

I was reading another of the late Paul Squires’s poems and it fits this picture so marvelously well that I republish it here, though you can find the original at Paul’s gingatao blog and get the total Paulesque experience.


Those who say that flowers have no sound have never heard the generousity of tulips in your smile nor watched the synchronicitous flight of gulls like white orchids at the whisper of your touch. They have not been released into the world of sunflower splendour or tiny blue delphinium delight nor set the direction of their dreams by the scent of apple blossom on a chilly night. They doubt the giggle of gardenias when I demonstrate my geranium brain again and are blind to that outrage of yellow hyacinth in the corner of your eye that warns of lightning strikes. I thought of them again this morning when I heard you laugh circus pink camellias into an azure sky and I hope that if they are reading this they experience now as I did then a truly gypsophila anticipation.

Paul was not afraid to depict beauty, as you can see.

Tree Cartoon, the School of Fish

Every once in a while here, I post a collage or a “cartoon.”  This cartoon (large compositional study for a painting) belongs to the Big Tree idea that I posted in mid-June.

Other collages I’ve posted include this abstract image, this idea for a child’s mural, and this study of a detail of a painting.  It’s fun to organize them so that they can be compared.  I’ve never seen them together except here on line.

For almost every subject I undertake, I do studies.  Some of these studies take the form of collage. Collage is such a free and expressive media.  You can organize large areas of a picture in one swoop.

I like to explore the possibilities and details of the images I design.  Often these studies vary enough from the original to suggest new projects.  This particular collage was supposed to help me figure out the tree idea, but became more about the fish.  It takes on a new interest for me now as I embark on a new round of paintings of fish swimming.  Meanwhile the fish in this collage have found themselves quite a nice little pond where they bob up and down like corks.

[Top of the post: Cartoon for the painting “Big Tree,” by Aletha Kuschan, Xeroxed pictures glued to paper with crayon drawing]

Bonnard’s Marthe

In an earlier post, I wrote about making a copy of an orange jug from a Bonnard still life.  At that same Bonnard exhibit, I also made this small sketch/copy of Bonnard’s Nude in the Bath and Small Dog (Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh).  I was amazed by the color in the actual painting, which was quite different from what I found in books on Bonnard.  The lightness of the palette is had to describe, particularly as projected into the scale of a work as large as this painting, which measures 49 x 59 1/2 inches.  I tried to condense the essence of all that into my small notebook.

[Top of the post:  Notebook drawing after Bonnard’s Marthe in the Tub by Aletha Kuschan]

Children are naturally conservative

Life is precarious sometimes.  Whenever I feel a bit stressed out, I look around.  That’s right, I just look around — the way children do.  Children have a natural responsiveness to whatever just is.  A bored child will start paying attention to whatever is outside the window as the car sails along the road, just because the vista is there.  And the “what is” of life is rarely scarey to children.  Even in difficulties and privations, a child will find times to play.  Beauty and delight are parts of our nature.  It takes a lot to shake that up.

So whenever things get dicey, I try to look.  To watch, to stare, to look at things without insisting that they mean this or that.  I merely take them in.  This is the world around me right now.  It’s interesting.  It has all kinds of crazy details.  I like that.  And it calms a person right down.  We should be more conservative about this: we should appreciate reality — because it is.

The Spaces between Spaces

A simple arrangement of objects can have profound significance, as I endeavored to suggest in the previous post.  What then of the structure of the picture itself?  From a particular angle we are faced with all kinds of mysterious accidental spaces. These interstices are the famous “negative spaces” of art school.  Strange appellation, for these are some of the most riveting, jewel-like moments in a work of art — equally they represent the most “signature” elements of an artist’s style, for they are unconscious and very direct expressions of thought.  The artist’s act of looking is spread out over time.  No one is aware of directing this kind of thought.  It isn’t directed.  It’s just one’s mind noticing first this and afterwards that.

And of course the little spaces between things must be rendered if the objects are going to materialize as a picture.  But after that, there is no rule.  One could use one large mass of paint to represent a patch of cloth lying between two potatoes.  Or one could use three brushstrokes. Or one could use fifteen.  Or a hundred.  Or even a thousand very tiny, intimate brushstrokes.

The spaces between things, as well as the pictorial spaces that are things, are the fabric of the image.  They are meaning ordered into shapes, lines, tones, colors.  They have as much reality as the notes in music.  They are utterly abstract.  And into them, all meaning is poured.