The first lines of my canvas look somewhat like these dream scattered lines of my notebook. In the morning over tea I drew my still life from memory. Now at the end of the first day, I realize that the first lines I drew with paint were rather like these precursors.
First lines are the gathered essential thoughts, the first impressions, the longed for idea bundled up like flowers. In their still vague dress of make-believe they merely point towards hopes and longing. I will love this painting once it’s underway. I am already enjoying work. Looking into the depths among my objects I find the hints of so many possibilities. One small corner of a room can contain radical amounts of color and tone, shape and meandering line, hidden questions and enigmas to satisfy the needs of a hundred painted pictures. Yet soon after I had finished assembling my still life I found that one core set of forms had drawn my heart into this idea, so I’m inching along, laying down lines, trying to gain enough ground to see the first reward.
Perhaps hiking a mountain is like this? There’s a lot of work with your head down before you get to enjoy the view.
My first fumbling sketches are a crude map toward my destination.
Back in May, I posted a still life I made many years ago of a cabbage and potatoes. This drawing is its distant cousin.
I drew this from a photograph, and like the lake of two posts ago, I find it provides a good practice for some drawing outdoors that I’m hoping to do — en plein air. But it also has the same basic forms as the earlier still life. Indeed, I was thinking of getting some potatoes and inventing a landscape from a still life perhaps?
One of the wonderful things about drawing is the way it lets you take imaginative journies. I can vicariously visit the rocky outcropping by drawing it from a photo. And I can travel there even with some potatoes too? I don’t necessarily need a travel agent to find a locale that’s very bucolic and peaceful where I can bask in the warmth of the sun.
The folds of the cloth in the previous post have become a true mountain here. You could almost just invent a landscape from start to finish by laying out some heavy cloth on a table, letting it pile into a crest, watching the daylight from a near by window carve out its fissures and cliffs while changing the colors a little to something stony and grey.
The forms of nature bear resemblances that are more than just skin deep. In the mountain as well as the drapery, what the artist really draws is gravity and light!
[Top of the post: Mountain of Imagination, by Aletha Kuschan]
Every once in a while here, I post a collage or a “cartoon.” This cartoon (large compositional study for a painting) belongs to the Big Tree idea that I posted in mid-June.
Other collages I’ve posted include this abstract image, this idea for a child’s mural, and this study of a detail of a painting. It’s fun to organize them so that they can be compared. I’ve never seen them together except here on line.
For almost every subject I undertake, I do studies. Some of these studies take the form of collage. Collage is such a free and expressive media. You can organize large areas of a picture in one swoop.
I like to explore the possibilities and details of the images I design. Often these studies vary enough from the original to suggest new projects. This particular collage was supposed to help me figure out the tree idea, but became more about the fish. It takes on a new interest for me now as I embark on a new round of paintings of fish swimming. Meanwhile the fish in this collage have found themselves quite a nice little pond where they bob up and down like corks.
[Top of the post: Cartoon for the painting “Big Tree,” by Aletha Kuschan, Xeroxed pictures glued to paper with crayon drawing]
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]
If you copy something in order to learn to draw, it’s best to copy something by a great artist, for the great artist has more ideas and better ones than a lesser artist. So you’ll learn more. We tend to think that visual materials render transparent representations of things, as though the artist just presents what is there. But it is, in fact, visual ideas that the artist creates. They are ideas about appearances and of course they vary tremendously from artist to artist and from culture to culture. Edgas Degas expressed it well in saying that “drawing is not form, but a way of seeing form.”
Copying a drawing is like doing a brief apprenticeship with its author. He tells you what he noticed and what he ignored. What he noticed is the drawing itself. What he ignored you have to figure out for yourself by comparing his drawing with life. Engaging in a conversation of this sort means being able to choose your teacher from any artist that ever lived — so long as you have access to his or her images!
I copied Matisse’s 1901 painting La Coiffure in a sketch book while visiting the National Gallery of Art. It’s not the first time I’ve done so. One earlier occasion I was visiting the gallery, plodding along a bit sleep deprived from a late night the night previous. Sitting before Matisse’s picture I just relaxed and gazed admiringly at it. The afternoon was growing late. I had to go. But some impulse prompted me to make a fast drawing — just 5 minutes, I told myself. So I began to draw with a pencil in a little notebook. And then — amazing thing — it was as though someone were shining a flashlight beam at the painting upon each contour where I drew. As I copied the line, my brain lit up that part of the painting.
I was perfectly sober. I’m a tea loving, tea totaler. Sleep deprivation can have its own intoxicating effects. But I want to give some credit to the pencil and my hurry, also. And to Matisse, of course. And to an over-worked, but grateful imagination.
[Top of the post: Copy after Matisse by Aletha Kuschan, crayon on paper]
The same fry, that was drawn a post earlier, came from this momma fish made of paper mache. She looks one color when swimming left. And ….
This little guy spawned in a notebook. He is a drawing of an imaginary fish composed of paper mache who sometimes swam one direction and then swam in the other direction.
He is an idea of a fish.
The little blue fish: I copied him from somewhere … I don’t remember the source, which I changed so much that I can no longer recognize it. He didn’t start out life being blue. He evolved. He borrowed something blue, as well as something old. It was a marriage of minds.
I liked the eye. When my daughter was a baby, I used to make drawings of animals like this. I would sit on the floor drawing while my baby crawled around. And she would pick up a pencil and scratch up the eyes. I don’t think she liked the drawings looking at her like that.
But this is (of course) the Proverbial Fish. The one that got away!