Alice, Olympic Yarn Ball

The stands are crowded to capacity!  Yarn Ball is the big event for Cat Olympics!  Indeed, not only are the stands filled to overflowing; security is very tight too.  You have no idea how hard it is to keep the fans out of the game.  When you’ve got yarn rolling in front of  150,000+ cats, you know the tails and whiskers are twitching!

Alice has gained an early lead, but there’s still a lot of yarn on the ball.  This is anybody’s game, and this year’s contenders are fast cats.  We’re rooting for Alice, of course, and it looks like she’s got a great shot at the title.

[Top of the post:  Alice and other Olympic athletes in the Yarn Ball Chase at 2008 Cat Olympics in Beijing, China as drawn by the younger artist of the household]

From that Nest Hatched These

I guess the nest pictured in the previous post hatched these.  (Making imaginative allowances for time.)  After I became a mom, actually some many years after I painted the bird’s nest, my daughter drew these baby birds.  I assembled them as a trio and put them into the nest she’d made.  A xerox version of them now appears in a collage I’m using for a picture I’m painting.  It’s the same collage of the “weird lizard.”

One Weird Lizard

There are many paths to invention.  My daughter made this lizard by one of them.  Let me see if I can recall the details because it was a complex process. 

I made a line drawing based on a photograph in a book that sort of resembled this guy to click.  Then I xeroxed the drawing I’d made and cut the xexored copy into several same-sized squares.  I reassembled the squares in random order as individual blocks and taped them down onto some pages.

All together they composed a “drawing test.”  The objective was to redraw each, now very abstract looking individual square, using a set of blank squares (the test paper) the same size as the originals. 

My daughter took my “test” and afterwards we reassembled her lizard “copy,” putting all the boxes into their proper order.  Then she made a new drawing that copied the newly assembled lizard made of little squares.  (Are you still following me?)  The lizard above was the result.  We rexeroxed him to have bragging copies, one of which I put into a collage that became a detail a large painting.  That lizard in the collage is the one pictured above.

I think he’s a perky looking little guy!

You know, funny thing, but I don’t get a lot of people asking me for driving directions.  I wonder why ….

[Top of the post:  Very complicated reconstruction of a Veiled Chameleon, by Aletha Kuschan and daughter]

Alice at Beijing: Fishing

Alice is doing well in the first rounds of Cat Fishing Competitions at Beijing.  As you probably know, the cats have to climb down the ropes, catch a fish at the rope’s end, and successfully carry the fish back up the rope to the end.  So far Alice has only dropped one fish and hasn’t fallen into the water even once.   (Cats hate that, you know.)

She’s been doing fabulously well at this Olympics!  I’ll keep you posted on her progress.

[Top of the post:  Summer Olympic: Fishing Competition, by the young artist of the household]

Our Adventure and His

We rescued a rabbit yesterday.  It had gotten caught in the chain link fence.  He was trapped at the hips and lay upon the ground suffering from worry with his eyes bugging out, as rabbits in stress will do.  Fortunately, my daughter heard the rabbit’s struggle and alerted us.  Necessary tools were located, and the fence was cut above and around his position so that his bands could be unravelled, and he could be released. 

Evidently he was uninjured, because feeling the pressure gone, he bounded swiftly and surely away — white tail in the air, and in seconds he was gone.

Would have loved to have painted the little guy, but he was ever so much less calm than the rabbit above painted by Albrecht Durer in 1502.

Beginner’s Luck

Certain kinds of beauty come when the artist is a raw beginner.  I’ve pulled out old drawings and appreciate anew the memories they evoke.  I wish I had drawn more.  Would that I had drawn tirelessly.  Lack of confidence trips up too many young artists.  But the drawings I made when I  knew comparatively nothing have a raw, innocent candour.  And now I find I reseek the beginner’s mind.

I began drawing some years ago using my left hand (I’m right handed).  I wanted to get the awkwardness back, wanted it to slow me down and trip me up, and make me think harder about where my hand’s lines would go.  I have loved the wavy line that is the consequence.  The two kinds of drawings, right and left, seem to have slightly different personalities.  It’s like finding your alter ego.  There you are, long lost twin!

Do not have preconceived ideas about what drawing should be or how it should look.  Sometimes be an explorer of the uncharted world. 

You are living your life for the first time.  It’s all new.  Even when one is old, one has never been old before. 

[Top of the post:  the author’s high school drypoint of her Momma, scratched on plexiglass plate, based on a photograph from the 1940s.  Aletha Kuschan]

Finding Treasure

What I’ve discovered about fortunes and getting them is that, just as in wise fairy tales, the fortune is always located right under one’s nose.  It is in managing one’s surroundings that one finds one’s purpose.  Mind you, I’m not arguing against travel or change.  I’m just asserting, as Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz, while clicking her heels, that “there’s no place like home.”

Recognize that the seeds of even the wildest ambition begin humbly at your own front door.  Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson became an astrophysicist in potential at age 9 in the most brightly lit city in the world, home to just “12 stars.”   So it turns out all the stars he needed were found in books and in the Hayden Planetariun.

I have a secret house in one of the mid-Atlantic states that has a secret closet.  I have a secret garden, too.  And at the Arboretum and Botanic gardens, I own great and vast estates. 

Look beneath the soles of your feet.  Search the clouds over your head.  Look to your right and to your left.  Your treasure is right before your eyes, and has been there all along.

Choosing Color

People wonder how to put colors together when choosing furnishings for their home.  While you can find many books on the topic, I want to add some advice that’s very compact.  Go out into the garden and gather some flowers that are in bloom together and plop them into a vase without a whole lot of fuss.

The colors that we find in nature look good together.  The quantities, the varieties, the degrees of contrast as well as the degrees of commonality produce a lovely effect.  Too often people succumb to rules to bolster a choice.  Too often the rules lead to a sterile sameness.  The commonplace notion is that colors should “coordinate.”  But in nature we find plenty of contrast.    Often the most beautiful spectacles in nature arise amid great contrast such as the colors of a landscape under an approaching storm.

Think of the dark cloud, the pale blue-green cerulean of a luminous sky, the rich dark green of shadow and the lush powerful verdant of a brightly lit lawn.  Imagine the mirror reflections of a landscape seen from the water’s edge.  Imitate the dapple of the shadows from a tree’s thick foliage.  Let the bright tones of a bird’s wing alight in your mind, and you’re well on your way to finding the color scheme for your life, your rooms, your home.

Arrange a little still life with flowers and let it be a microcosmos for your color ideas.  Imitate nature and you cannot go wrong.

[Top of the post:  Bouquet of Flowers by Aletha Kuschan]

A Path Leading Somewhere

Some people complain about the summer heat.  I’m not one of them.  I bask in summer heat like a turtle.  For me summer has always meant freedom.  It began, no doubt, with the childhood experience of being released from school.  But it culminated with the myriad experiences upon which a summer is actually composed.

In childhood I had my backyard to explore, but fittingly too I had at the beginning and end of every summer the experience of traveling to visit North Carolina relatives to the rural south, where I could explore wild nature.  Mostly I climbed a single chinaberry tree, which was universe enough for an eight year old girl.  To this day the branches of a tree seem like welcoming arms, and a tree is almost as good as a person for company.

And so a path through foliage or trees marks out for me life’s great events.  A path tempts you to take it.  Walk this direction, oh brave ones, if you will.  Who is the adventurer to take this road and see its great delights?

[Top of the post: Great Oak, by Aletha Kuschan, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 44 inches]