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/

finding the fish

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A close up view of the fish drawing is pure abstraction.  You can hardly tell there’s a fish there except for a bit contour — that along with being told — does vaguely produce a minimum of fishiness.  I am an abstract artist — in some respects.  Someone told me this, one of my insightful students.  I wasn’t even aware.

Why do I like the scrawl of the crayon more than the specific features of the fish itself?  Well, I only like them better in some pictures.  In other pictures I’d be quite content to imitate the look of a koi sliding through the water. But here the energy of crayon markings in bright colors has gotten the better of me.  The markings capture some of the alacrity of koi energy.

There’s still fish there.  And it matters too that they’re fish.

This detail occurs in the giant rehearsal drawing.  I reworked it based on some random lights and shadows that fell on the drawing when I was outdoors photographing it.  Here’s a picture of it indoors with the tool box and step stool to give a sense of its actual size.

drawing indoors

koi variations

The big koi drawing got a rework.

 

big koi april 9 drawing state 2 (2)A few days ago (April 2nd) I posted a large preparatory drawing that I have used to rehearse a large painting that’s in the works.  The drawing is 50 x 42.5 inches large.  One challenge an artist faces making large works is photographing them.  In my case there isn’t enough natural light available in the room where I work to get a good photograph.  Doing photography outdoors, of course, introduces its own challenges (not the least of which is how to drag the drawing and its huge heavy drawing support outside).

Well, I got the drawing and its heavy support outside. But then I had to locate a place with indirect light because the first and easiest location for my photo shoot produced the image seen below.  Very charming, but not descriptive of the drawing.

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The photo did however prompt a wonderful idea: the photograph with its “clouds” was so lovely.

 Why not make those effects part of the drawing itself?

And I have since altered the drawing (new version at the top of the post) to introduce some of these lights that remind me of cloud reflections floating over the koi pond.  The over-exposed sections of light, made more dramatic in contrast to various shadows, are not real clouds, but they’re close enough to push the picture in that direction, and do note that these effects were still natural ones.

These were lights and shadows I found in nature. I’m still imitating nature here.

Certainly it’s possible to continue a process of this sort, I’ve taken the reworked drawing outdoors again and repeated this process.

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New lights and shadows in new locations on the reworked drawing.

Portraying Nature is a complex endeavor.  Nature is everywhere.  It’s in your head as well as “out there.” Time is a part of Nature too.

The stages are part of the lovely game of painting. Taking the picture into this direction is, granted, not the same thing as making a faithful representation of the motif en plein air.  But it is nevertheless a kind of naturalism and a kind of fidelity too.

Big and bigger

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I like to paint big pictures. One way that I rehearse images before painting is by making large drawings. In that way, I also have twice as much fun because I make two big pictures — the preparatory drawing and its related painting.  The two works are not necessarily in a one to one relationship though.  This drawing, for instance, measures 50 x 42.5 inches but is a rehearsal for a painting measuring 60 x 40 inches.  However they are close enough together that making the drawing offers genuine preparation for painting.

Someone told me that opera singers rehearse their parts in sotto voce to avoid straining their instrument.  Maybe these big drawings are to the paintings what sotto voce is to the opera singer’s full throated singing.

I have another 60 x 40 inch canvas waiting in the wings.  And another large sheet of paper waiting to be made into drawing.  Seriously good fun is just around the corner because this artist likes to paint and to think BIG.

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.

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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.