room of clouds


clouds and hilltopI had to fetch some clouds to decorate the room of clouds. I sought them from the sky.

I climbed the hill and pulled them down.

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I took clouds from the pond’s reflection before the fish could come and swallow them.

fish face

Before the fish could swallow them, I would steal my clouds away.  Thus I gather clouds to decorate a wool gathering room.

In the room of clouds I’ll dream.  In a room of white cotton gauze, in a room of soft reflected light, where white on white reveals the floating thought, I muse.

From a pond of reflection I’ll fish for memories.  In a room that’s like a bright white page


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empty and spacious and bright, I’ll live.

Technicolor Dreams

A reader asked me recently if I dream in color, and I had to ponder the question a bit.  I knew that I sometimes have had dreams that included color, and my dreams as a whole are keenly visual, yet though I often recall images in dreams and might even know in a rational way what colors things are (that “grass is green”) I won’t specifically remember a color perception — and yet, and this is the really puzzling aspect — the dreams are certainly not monochrome either.

I was reminded of this just two days ago when I had a sort of dream that is very rare for me — I dreamt about art.  In particular I dreamt about a very large landscape painting I had made (no such landscape actually exists) and I was looking at it with someone and commenting that the right side of the painting might need repainting because the scenery on that side was flattened out in comparison with the middle where trees and shrubs and foliage were rounded and dimensional and engulfed in atmosphere.  But looking at the right side, I also noted that it was beautifully realized — very flat and subtly painted, with lots of visual incident and beautiful colors — there were various shades of pale rose, and blue and violet.  (I can brag all day about it because it was my dream painting, eh?)

So, yes! That was clearly a dreaming “in color” but what did the rest of the dream look like … that was not quite “in color” but was not “black and white” either?

Colors are sensations, but they are — oddly enough — also ideas.  And in dreams we can have ideas come to us abstractly, in possession of only some of their specific, life qualities while amazingly lacking other essential features, yet we can find that we nevertheless fully accept as somehow just “normal” the dream form of half-rememberance ….

When I woke something of what might be the dream’s meaning came to me.  I was thinking in my “waking up” mind about how lovely the “flawed” part of that painting was, and while my dream self was prepared to repaint it as necessary to fix the errors, my waking-up mind was thinking that perhaps it was best to leave well enough alone.  It’s hard to achieve beauty in art, and sometimes when it happens — even if it is not perfect — sometimes it’s wiser to be glad for what is there and to simply accept beauty’s appearance when it comes.

[Above, a landscape in progress]

Coming up to the surface

My painting of the koi (originally posted on July 14) is coming along.  It’s not finished yet, but the fish are beginning to swim to the top.  I please myself in the discovery that many of my pictures seem to contain metaphors about painting.  (I love the art of painting, and hope that I am and always will be her champion.)

Just as the last layers of paint are the ones that really make the image exist, so the coming of the fish to the surface is like the idea arising into sight. Ideas in art come to us from depths, like images from dreams.  But in the act of painting we bring them toward the light and make them visible.

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]

Collage La Nuit

Abstraction is not always as devoid of subject as it appears.  There might be something that looks like this.  Lots of other artists have made pictures this one resembles.  And it resembles other pictures I’ve made that are pictures of something.  So, by following a trail of clues, being a visual detective tracking down myself, I might in time figure out what I was up to. One might in time discover what the other artists were up to as well.  If I am on the same wavelength as others, what wave is it?

On the internet once I found a wonderful website set up by two photographers, husband and wife.  They took amazing, high resolution photographs of the oddest things — bricks, stones, grasses, tiles, old rusted metal surfaces — anything with texture.  Their photographs looked like the most ravishingly beautiful abstract pictures you’ve ever seen.   And they invited anyone to use their work for free. 

I downloaded lots of their pictures, like a miser at a flea market.  Each image seemed more beautiful than the last, and I sat before the monitor for a couple hours, watching each image load and then copying it to use later.  My printer could not do the proper homage to their stunning imagery.  But I printed out some of the pictures to make a collage.  My printer started running out of ink, but I continued printing, letting the vagaries of the machine add a further layer of chance to the mix.

I had cut up some paper bags and glued them together to make a large sheet.  Grocery store shopping bags are incredibly strong.  Then I glued the prints of the couples’ photographs together into the pattern suggested by the moment.  I added a few pieces of gold foil wrappers from Lindt chocolates à la Bonnard, and voilà!

[Top of the post:  Collage, La Nuit by Aletha Kuschan, a collage made of borrowed pictures and whimsy]

Feeling Arboreal (finding the inner tree)

If anyone recognizes what this is:  congratulations!  You might have a fine career ahead of you in psychology!

I made this drawing to obsessively reinterate an idea I’ve been working on — relative to a large mural sized painting whose subject I’m frankly at a loss to explain.  However, I’ve been around the art block enough times now to trust my instincts and to believe that a picture, whose meaning is baffling even to me, its author, may well hold ideas that can matter to the larger audience of my fellow human beings, 3 billion or so of my closest friends. (You gotta think big.)

It’s a tree.  I don’t know why I feel compelled to portray it this way, rather than to make it more conventionally tree-like.  But there it is.  And let me tell you, your subconscious mind is a fabulous, truly wonderful and remarkable thing!  I have stalled on this idea for well over a year, working on other things, and forgeting about this picture. 

However, last night as I was driving, I turned a corner and saw a large tractor trailer stopped at a light perpendicular to me at a street onto which I was making a right turn.  In the general darkness, as I turned, I noted the enormous shadow of a tree cast onto the side of the trailer.  Imagine that huge flat surface being like a canvas, here was the image I’ve wanted to portray in ridiculously large scale, here it was on the side of this truck as on a great, crazy moving canvas!  Sometimes you feel as though the great loving God and nature and your own mind are all meeting at the same intersection.   It’s a great shot in the arm, let me tell you!

Comments, explanations, psycho-analysis are all welcome.

[Top of the post:  the author’s small compositional drawing for a very large enigmatic painting.  By Aletha Kuschan]

What is your challenge?

     About six years ago, I set myself the challenge of painting a large picture.  I had made earlier attempts, but none that I felt succeeded.  The logical way to learn to paint monumental works (it seemed to me then and seems to me now) is to paint them.  The painting above, measuring 66 x 82 inches, was my first successful large painting.  It’s painted in acrylic paint.

A bunch of intermediate steps led to this picture.  For instance I made a “cartoon” of the whole thing first.   Cartoon refers to an actual size drawing of the subject.  Making the large drawing was an adventure in itself.  The immediacy of drawing and the fact of this thing being so big, it was as if I could physically enter the painting.

The things in the picture played roles in our lives.   My then pre-schooler daughter’s drawings formed the basis for the “stones” of the wall.  The blue lizard was one of her toys.  The picture’s story grew out of one lovely day’s adventure, during our regular walk to the place we call “the stone wall.”  Here, one abandons oneself to the beauty of nature.  We pause and just look at whatever comes our way.  We hunt for lizards and frogs.   We find interesting insects.  We peer into the world of the very small.  Yet in the fantasy of the painting, it’s possible to have a flamingo who watches over you, too.  The fracture in the sky above the dreaming child is like a ladder that Jacob saw with angels traveling between heaven and earth.  It is a passage way to wonderment.

For the artist, a picture should challenge your skill in some way.  What is your challenge?