There aren’t enough hours in the day! I am beginning to paint the fishes up close. And the paintedness of the picture is my daily delight. The image is settled, yet everything is up for grabs! For the way of painting this “everything” is wide open. And this is the part of painting that I love. The gesture, the stroke, the decision, the changing my mind, and the joyful making of marks!
Would that I’d had a model, but I couldn’t afford to hire someone. So, I became my own model for hands too. I sometimes used a mirror and sometimes photographs. Regarding these drawings, I don’t post them as exemplary of good drawing, but as instances of everyday ideas being tried like scales and riffs on an instrument. They were casually and quickly made. And they, too, offered me freedom.
I was painting a commission, the kind of thing that pays bills. But in the studies, I could explore ideas.
[Top of the post: My hands, by Aletha Kuschan, pencil]
Art happens as a consequence of many small decisions laid out over many days and years. I was doing a historical portrait for a commission and needed some feet for one of the subjects so I became my own model. This isn’t the only drawing I made of me wearing my nice shoes.
This was actually very enjoyable to draw, too. I found freedom in the drawing that wasn’t available in the commission (for fairly obvious reasons).
I think the shadow served to give me some ground to stand on. That’s always a good thing to have when dealing with feet and shoes.
[Top of the posts: Drawing of My Taupe colored Pumps, by Aletha Kuschan, pencil]
I used oil pastels for this one, messiest medium in the world, but great smudgy tool for creating color that is solid at least. In each iteration of the motif, I find I have moved things around. I’m still searching for the placement of everything that feels right. I want my fish to seem to move. But in fact they must stay forever still (wonderful paradox of art), and in that eternal stillness, I want everybody standing (swimming) in the right spot.
I have been making sketches for the second of the koi paintings, redoing the same motif over and over as a way of thinking about it. I am like an actress learning her lines. The lines I learn, however, are the ones I draw. I rehearse the gesture of making these lines, of thinking about the composition as a whole, of thinking alternately about the shapes of the fish and about the shapes of the water in which they swim.
One morning while working at the computer, I thought: what the heck, and I did this digital drawing using a paint program. The motif is copied from the oil painting, which is still just blocked in. So this computer “study” postdates the actual painting and develops simultaneously with it. I’ll post the canvas in a bit. Since beginning the lay in of the picture I’ve also made two drawings of different sizes.
It is much harder for me to control the lines on the computer, yet it’s interesting and challenging in ways that resembles playing a computer game. I find that doing a picture in a paint program has a “technique” just as do other media. I haven’t begun to master the use of the paint program with its switching between tools by grabbing them with the touch bars. I didn’t always have the tool icon that I thought I had and was “undoing” as much as I was doing — something that not even the use of an erasure quite matches.
In the traditional media of the artist, there is usually not much of undoing that one can do — just a going forward or a beginning again.
When artists go fishing, it’s a little different sort of thing than when most people fish. I’ve begun a series of koi paintings that occupy most my time. Of course, the fish in the drawing are obviously not koi. They are just fish. They’re friends. My generic fish that swim in the notebook in search of a fine blue stream. They are rambling fish of imagination and dreams. They come to cheer me on in my larger project that I’m just now beginning.Come visit my store on CafePress!
[Top of the post: Swift Swimming Fish of Dreams, by Aletha Kuschan, drawing in a notebook]
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]
Squaring up: the technique of copying that uses a grid. Comparing the squares of the source image to the drawing underway helps an artist draw the relationships between visual elements correctly. It’s especially useful when an image needs to be enlarged.
And that’s why I used it. I was painting this bridge into a large portrait and needed to get the architectural structure right. I made this little version from a photo, then enlarged this image by making a similar grid on the canvas I was painting. So it had this very practical purpose.
Still I think the gridded drawing has a unique charm of its own. It turns each square into an abstraction and heightens the abstraction of the image as a whole. The order that it imposes is also comforting somehow. Having these grid lines here, I feel confident that this little bridge isn’t going anywhere. It’s locked down on the page.
[Top of the post: Little Bridge by Aletha Kuschan, colored pencils]
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]
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]