that’s dark back there

seashells on the shelf

House cleaning changes have exposed these still life items once again, which were formerly behind a humongous, large board that held a large drawing.  Now that I can see them again, I want to draw them again.  I had begun by merely storing them, but discovered they make a nice still life in that arrangement — until the clutter had hidden them, buried beneath the layers of good intentions, as sealed away as a mummy in King Tut’s tomb.

I feel like an archaeologist.  House keeping does that to you when you have neglected it for too long.

There’s a kind of drawing where you just talk to yourself.  People learning to draw get hemmed in, sometimes, in believing that the drawing has to represent the whole whatever-it-is.  But I always sought my advice from the old masters and in their drawings, the old masters often studied certain qualities of a scene while ignoring others. Drawing was frequently used as a tool rather than as an end in itself.  It’s purpose was to gather visual information for paintings.  Some drawings are very fragmentary.

And I seek to do that here. Except this drawing is more fundamental still. I haven’t seen the still life in a while. I look at it and feel rushed. It’s as though I need to draw all of it quickly.  So I tell myself what shapes things are (or seem to be).  I realize that the first contours get the proportions wrong, I draw over top them.  I realize that the sizes of the shells don’t match up relative to each other.  More drawing over. I look at the light/dark pattern — “how can I simplify it?”

I tell myself, “it’s dark back there.”  Do I have to describe in minute detail how dark exactly?  Of course not.

seashells on shelf photo
A scene impossible to photograph in the available light, and one’s eyes see much more light dark variety in the objects and their background  — the photo exaggerates the differences in tonality.


It’s just one drawing.  It’s a mood as much as a drawing.  I feel in such a rush.  Been reading a book on mindfulness too.  So, okay, I am noticing that I feel in a rush.  So I hurried.  Maybe the shells will move.  Maybe the big drawing will jump back in front of the still life and obscure it again.  I have so many things to do. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Whatever.  If life seems to rush you along, as an artist, then just draw faster. Not always, not everyday, but simply now that you feel rushed.  It gets you to draw fast — which is a useful tool also.  Draw fast before everything changes!

Sometimes the voice says “this is in front of that.”  “The pointy end of the shell sticks out about this far.”  “It lines up with the other shell’s bottom edge, here.”  Listening to myself think, I slow down a little.

Later you can draw slowly.  Once you calm down.

dancing to wild open music

I started another koi pond at the secret bunker studio.  This one is darker from the dark blue of the paper on which it’s drawn.  In the past I have sometimes used lines from poetry as titles for pictures.  I decided to use lines from Paul Squires‘s poems for the titles of the koi pictures as a remembrance of this great poet whose untimely death occurred on July 27th of this year.

The title for this picture “dancing to wild open music” comes from a line on page 33 of the first edition of The Puzzle Box.

These dance to music that only fish can hear.


landscape conifers 1

landscape conifers 2

Sometimes I take my trusty Caran d’ache water soluable crayons out on the road, and I confront Nature face to face.  (She has such a pretty face.)  I have a few places that have become favorite haunts, and I revisit them and produce different versions of the same motif.  The wonderful thing about drawing is its spontaneity.  The world’s oldest medium is highly portable.  To draw all you really need is a stick and a page. 

Well, my sticks are elegant modern inventions, and while they’re not super expensive, they are pricey enough to brag about, and certainly worth rooting around in the grass to find the ones that one has accidentally dropped.

Comparing old and new



I just posted some little flower drawings I did today.  It’s interesting to compare these small drawings with some very large drawings that I’ve done in the past.  These are the older, large drawings above.  If you click on the blog heading you can see these in comparison with the new drawings I did today. 

I guess I must really like flowers.

Being Studious

Today was drawing day.  I made three studies for the koi paintings.  The freedom of drawing is exhilerating.  Beginning an idea from the blank page always delights me, but I am supposed to be finishing paintings.  Well, this way I get to eat my cake and have it too.  I am “working on” the painting — indirectly.  I am trying out ideas, rehearsing my lines, all of which gives me necessary practice for the painting.  But I still get to begin from blank.

The version above is a compositional sketch for the whole painting.  In the next couple posts I make studies of the group around the dark fish.

Why crayons are wonderful

The close up view of the drawing reveals the hatching and cross-hatching that I wrote about a few posts ago.  The technique is a lot like what you get from traditional pastels except that there is no dust. 

This is like your traditional kids’ Crayola crayons except with a very rich, heavily pigmented and highly workable texture.  As a drawing medium it is extremely responsive and flexible.  As a consequence you can fully enter into your idea without any hassle about the medium.  And you can find a kid-like joy in this portable, scribbly crayon. 

They’re a little on the expensive side, though.  If one rolls under the couch, it’s worth diving under there to retrieve it!

A Scribbly Drawing

I have to figure out the reflections around the fish in the top corner of the larger of the two koi ponds.  So I began this drawing today.  The initial lines are totally scribbly.  And there’s a great sense of freedom and enjoyment to be got from a drawing like this.  I will fill out much of it to gather up the detail I need to solve my problem, but I took the photo before continuing just to make the point about how free one’s gestures can be.

Drawing the Koi

I’ve gone back to a drawing that I began back in July, and I’ve been working on it some more.  It helps me think through the painting I’m making of the same motif.  Drawing adds another level of intimacy since each line and each scribble takes me into the image is such small and close steps. 

Colors take on an entirely different character when they are the effects of hatching.  “Hatching” refers to the parallel lines that artists sometimes use to create tones in drawing, and with a colored drawing like this one above (made with Caran d’ache water soluable crayons), the hatch marks can be used to create “transparent” color effects — where one set of colored parallel lines overlays a different set until the several layers produce a color mixture that is the sum of all the combinations.

The fish are very abstract still.  They dart here and there.  They are too intent on their travel to be stilled in our gaze.  They streak through the pond and leave beautiful, shining waves and ripples behind their path.

Thinking Big

To enlarge a small, jewel sized non-representational image into something of the scale of this drawing is quite a project.  I had fun.  Pure fun.  The kind of fun children have. The detail that appeared in the previous post comes from this large drawing, that measures 52 1/4 x 60 inches.  It’s based on a little collage (next post) that is half the size of a standard sheet of typing paper.

[Top of the post:  Large Little Collage by Aletha Kuschan]