Koi Silk

koi silk

I just learned that my large oil pastel Koi Silk will be exhibited in the January exhibit at the Art League in Alexandria, Virginia beginning January 9th.

UPDATE:  here’s a link to the installation view

https://alethakuschan.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/koi-silk-at-the-art-league/

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the kois in pastel

Back in September, the koi were everywhere.

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The one on the easel has been pulled from storage and will make the trip to the framer soon.  Hopefully soon.  It needs an application of fixative for which I need to be able to go outdoors, and anyone in the Washington DC area can tell you that we’ve had an unprecedented season of rain.  I have contemplated building an ark.

Last fall I made a lot of koi drawings in pastel.  Other drawings are visible around the sides of the easel. I loved that long session of painting with pastel and am eager to resume using the medium again. Even though many of my life class drawings were made with pastel, I don’t think of those as being the same as these koi drawings since the kois were made on sanded paper.  The sanded surface allows for options that the plain paper doesn’t.  They are both wonderful, though — now I’m feeling guilty.  All art supplies are wonderful, each in their own ways.  But maybe it’s also the control I can exert while working in my own studio that isn’t possible in a life class. Most of my pastel palette had to stay home when I did the life class drawings.

Plus I like working large.  In my studio I was working about as large as is practicable (unless I get a bigger studio).  The largest work (seen behind the easel on its side above, and on the easel in the photo below) was made by taping together two large sheets of sanded paper. When the paper is large, the fish seem more real.  They begin to approach life size.  Kois can get big!

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The board that the paper is attached to is 40 x 6o inches.  But the biggest of the fishes (excluding the ones that got away) are on individual sheets of the large sanded paper.  I put two sheets on a board and would cover up the one on the bottom whenever I worked on the top one to prevent pastel dust from falling upon it. They stay on these boards in storage until they’re ready to be framed.

101_0087 koi tower

During winter with the space being so close I have avoided the big pastel binge, but with the weather improving I long to return to pastel again in a big way.  Need to find these guys a home, and then probably the next up will be flowers.

Another koi drawing

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This drawing in oil pastel is near completion. All the fishes still need a going over; some more than others (like the guy on the lower left who’s only blocked in).  When I see it across the room I love the design and the overall affect of the colors. Partly for that reason I sometimes fail to notice how much is unfinished. My mind jumps to the things I like. Seeing the painting reduced in photography helps me sort out what needs attention.

It’s oil pastel (Caran D’Ache Neopastel) on violet Canson mi-teintes pastel paper. The darkish violet-purple is a wonderful tone to work on, making all the colors really strong, especially the lights.

This one’s going to the framer when it’s complete.  Hopefully that will happen fairly soon.

If it looks familiar, that’s because I’ve also been working on this motif in a painting that’s still in the works too.

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I like doing the same motif more than once. The differences interest me.  I’m not sure why. They become variations on a theme as in music.

Certainly the white ground of the painting verses the violet tone of the paper makes them dramatically different in feeling and mood.

 

talkin’ to myself

Notes to myself, some things to consider

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after Matisse

 

for the next life class.

One is to work smaller. I could do a drawing at a comfortable size (apparent size) from anywhere in the room. Go back to the easel, copying my own drawing (that I just made) make the actual pastel at the easel location, enlarging the drawing to whatever size I want, inventing color based on whatever view of the model I have at the easel (even though it’d be a different view).  Down side is having to move back and forth between the two locations (which would be distracting for other participants). Up side: you’d have to rely heavily on memory and invention, good skills to develop.

Another option is working on smaller versions through the whole session, having less investment in a specific image. (No more larger than life size.)  Spread out the risk, less stress.  If one drawing turns out to be particularly good, you could enlarge it at home. You could, after you’ve done all you can in the pastel, also gather more information using another drawing that you make with pen in a notebook.  Advantage is that you stay put.

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after Ingres

 

Another option is that you can be all que sera about it. If you get the back of the model’s head, draw the back of the model’s head. Let Fate decide. Stay with the larger format, do everything you were doing before, accept whatever you see from your easel’s location. Fully accept the challenge of the uncertainty.

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after Degas

 

Or you could stand holding a notebook (no easel) and work in spaces between other participants’ easels using oil pastel (less messy than dry pastel). Down side: how much space is there, really, between easels?

Invest in one drawing — biggish, though maybe not larger than life size — or not very much larger. You could spend a lot of the time on the drawing as a whole. Working in vine charcoal to get the form right; then do pastel from that point forward.  Would be a way of thinking about the large lines of the drawing (like certain Matisse drawings), using erasure as an effect.  I’m sort of leaning toward this choice.  Thinking of Diebenkorn’s riff on Ingres. However, this option assumes you have a good pose.

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after Ingres, imitating Diebenkorn

Also, giving more attention to drawing (at the outset) means being less spontaneous than what I was being before. The recklessness prompted me to make bolder use of pastel as a medium, but maybe it’s time to move toward getting a core for the motif.  Less about color, more about line.

(Paintings from life classes long ago.)

What to do, what to do ….

UPDATE: just saw this on twitter and am thinking now that if I put my own background behind the model (imaginatively) it matters less what the pose is.  So there’s another possibility.

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Albert Herter “Woman with Red Hair,” 1894 detail

 

More drawings of faces

I draw faces with a pen.101_8650 (2).jpg

It helps me get ready for the life class. I like scribbling and trying to create the face evocatively, pulling it out of the darks. I love making the dark areas using hatching lines. I love the deep blue of the bic cristal pen’s ink and the way that you can smudge it subtly with a paper towel.

Then there’s oil pastel. Drawing with oil pastel helps me even more directly, helps me think about how I’ll use color in the life class.  Copying the Victorian photos using fauvist colors provides practice thinking about color as a form of invention. And it’s nearer to what I  do in the life class where I’m using dry pastel as my tool. The pen drawing above and the oil pastels below are more inventions based on Julia Margaret Cameron’s Pre-Raphaelite photographs.

 

101_8652 (3)These oil pastels are small drawings, on Canson mi-teinte pages measuring 9 x 12 inches.

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drawing the model in life class

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— near the end of the session I made some small sketches. The one above is about 4 inches in height.  I had drawn the head in pastel, larger than life size, on a standard sheet of Canson paper. I had been looking at the pose for most of the three hour session and I could no longer see my drawing.  The drawing was right there. My eyes were working fine.  Glasses, clean. But my brain was “give out” as my relatives used to say so I made some sketches to address the questions that lingered.

I was sitting in front of other artists. To avoid blocking their view I was sitting on the floor and the model on the stand was slightly above me so I saw her head slightly at an angle, slightly foreshortened.

I made the first of the sketches in my pocket calendar. This drawing is about three inches high.

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This smallest of the drawings felt most connected to my large drawing.  It’s rainy today so I’ve just photographed the pastel on the easel in the present light, such as it is. At least the easel communicates some of the scale of the drawing.

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I see now that I forgot to take the manufacturer’s sticker off the sheet of paper!

My other little sketches are less structured, yet each one seems to get some little bit of information. After a while I was tired but it was still pleasant to think with the pen.

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Even an inaccurate drawing communicates a bit of mood sometimes.  Ideas sneak in.

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The proper structure of the underside of her jaw was a big question. The other special challenge was getting the left side of her face since in the course of posing it would wax and wane as the model shifted slightly.  She was an amazingly disciplined model. No one can sit perfectly still.  Her left eye wasn’t even visible most of the pose but it appears in my large drawing so perhaps it was visible at the beginning.  I’m not sure …

(Some of the other drawings from the life class are here. And the first ideas for the series, here.)

my super fast flower drawing

quick drawing

I have to leave for the life class soon. But it’s still possible to draw something.  So oil pastel for freedom, small notebook (8 x 10), little bouquet of fake flowers quickly assembled and then “draw fast.”

I love oil pastel’s freedom. So direct: think the thought, make the mark.

drawing is a way of thinking

I draw all the time now.

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I have notebooks of every size. There’s always some kind of notebook in my purse, but if somehow my notebook has escaped from the purse, there’s always something else to draw on — a calendar or a scrap of paper.  I didn’t used to draw as much and as freely as I do now. I regret that lost time since I get so much enjoyment from drawing, and the only reason I didn’t pursue it constantly in the past was inhibition.

The sooner you rid yourself of that inhibition, the better.

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Notebooks are for thinking. The thoughts can be careful. Or they can be spur of the moment, stream of consciousness, blurry, furtive, haphazard, tentative, carefree, rapid, or exuberant.

Some of my favorite drawings are hidden inside notebooks.

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A lot of wonderful memories are hidden there too.

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Recapitulation

Even as I’m working on koi paintings, I think ahead to new projects.  One of those projects will be flower paintings.

Some years ago I began doing flower bouquets that ranged in size from about 30 x 40 inches to 36 x 48 inches large.  It’s a size in which the flowers can be portrayed life size, and the scene as a whole can have some real punch.  I wonder to myself how an artist can make flowers iconic, and what do flowers mean when one tries to put them into a spotlight like this?  Is it the transcience, the beauty, the delicacy of flowers?   It’s subject that I’ve wanted to come back to, and I’m thinking now’s the time.

And as I prepare to begin this motif again, I see similarities between the koi and the flowers.  How strange is that?  Have I got fish in my eyes? Yet, the formal similarities relate to the positions in the canvas where one tends to place things.  Thus, the flowers on the cloth seem to me to “swim” across it just as the fish swim through the blue paint that pretends to be water.  The way that flowers dangle or splay away from each other is also like the koi scattering out into different directions.

Both subjects have wonderful abstract possibilities — flowers perhaps more than fish — for you can put almost any color you want into the canvas and still create something that is “real” and plausible.  By arrangements of cloths and the selections of flowers you can devise any color harmony you like.  Flowers are truly a form of pure painting.