dancing to wild open music

I started another koi pond at the secret bunker studio.  This one is darker from the dark blue of the paper on which it’s drawn.  In the past I have sometimes used lines from poetry as titles for pictures.  I decided to use lines from Paul Squires‘s poems for the titles of the koi pictures as a remembrance of this great poet whose untimely death occurred on July 27th of this year.

The title for this picture “dancing to wild open music” comes from a line on page 33 of the first edition of The Puzzle Box.

These dance to music that only fish can hear.


Swimming in the adjoining ponds of imagination

The koi fishes of the latest large koi drawing (bottom picture) have friends in the earlier drawings.  I’ve never seen the drawings together — except here on my computer.  My studio is too small for me to look at the other koi while I work on new ones.  But I have to wonder how big my koi pond has gotten … if I put all my koi pictures together. 

Suffice to say I’ve used up a bunch of blue crayons of various shades.  And I work so much and yet I hardly ever get wet.   And saying that, I realize now that I really need to get myself to a swimming pool.  It’s mid-July!  But I love my fishies almost too much to take time away from them. 

Life’s a beach koi pond.

Koi …. continued

lastest version of large koi drawing

My large drawing of koi continues. 

Deep blue/green paper.  Smudgy crayons.  Bright colors.  Memories of water.  Static photo.  Interpretation.  Hallucination.  Sore arm muscles.  Contemplation.  And Michel Petrucciani playing on the stereo for good luck.

The supplies in the foreground belong to the artist who shares the studio with me.

This sheet measures 45 x 60 inches.  (114 x 152 cm)


In my continual quest for the perfect fish, I consult the masters.  This little guy jumped out of Hokusai’s pond.  Or was it Hiroshige’s (is there an art historian in the house?) — well, out of the pond of one of those great old Japanese guys.  The old master was playing some scales.  Obviously he loved this fish’s scales — those beautiful scales rendered into refined patterns.

[Top of the post:  Leaping fish, after a Japanese master, by Aletha Kuschan, colored pencil]

Koi on the Move

I’d like to go to the beach for real.  Or I’d like to dive into a pond somewhere with my friends the koi.  Can’t do either of these things right now.  Well, actually I can’t try door number two ever — unless I’m willing to get arrested by the National Park Service.  But I am up to my eyeballs in water.  And I’m not referring to my afternoon at the pool.

I’ve been working on koi paintings.  Will be making drawings of koi, too, because painting takes too long and I need instant gratification.  I remember how much I enjoyed making the drawing above, which is fairly large, made on two sheets measuring 60 x 88 inches overall.  I have an idea for a new koi drawing so I’m beside myself with eagerness to get started.  At some future time, I’ll post them.  But for now I present these little teasers!

Work of this sort has its own frustrations, of course.  “Painting” with crayons means having to scribble or rub colors into shapes.  The upside is that it’s very energetic and provides good exercise for the forearms.  Whatever frustrations to instant gratification exist, however, are more than made up by the delight in making lines.  Lots of ’em — over very large sheets of paper.  It’s great to be an adult and still have so much rationalization for long episodes of play.

[Top of the post:  Last year’s Koi drawing, by Aletha Kuschan, crayon on Canson paper]

Mirrors into Thought

I’m busy painting koi these days, doing my own version of Monet’s Nympheas idea, living as it were in imaginary pools of water, becoming it sometimes seems a fish myself, so immersed I am in a world of blue.  So, it’s intriguing to reencounter a work like this drawing of flowers and to find so many similarities in it to the fishes and the pool.

Though the colors are entirely different and the associations are quite opposite, this picture bears a mirror likeness to the koi ponds.  This similarity is made all the more mysterious by their oppositions.  One takes place outdoors, the other inside the house.  One is natural, the other is civilized and artificial.  One is vertical, the other horizontal.  But inside both pictures are formal means of ordering the visual idea.  Both images have a “swirl” of sorts as its schematic center.  The implicit visual movement of the flowers in their design, both the flowers in the vase and the ones arranged on the design of the cloth, echo the swimming motions of the fish in their pond.

I’ve noticed this kind of visual metaphor before in my paintings.  I have no idea what it means.  Beneath the subject matter lies a process of ordering and arranging that is as much the subject of the painting as are the objects depicted.  Somehow in the precise ways I order things, my personality lies hidden.

It might seem that a person’s way of ordering ideas would be the last thing about themselves that they would “hide,” and yet I only discover these facts of self-hood for myself by this very indirect means.  And without even realizing I was doing so, naturally I reveal something of myself to others also by these tacit devices.

We project ourselves outwards upon the world in myriad ways.  Just that sense one has of knowing people, of taking the measure of them, even of people that we just meet when we make those crucial “first impression” judgements — all these effects are signs of the self that is foisted out.  Even a shy self is thrust onto the stage of life despite one’s efforts to seek shelter.

We are all actors on the stage as William Shakespeare once keenly observed.  For the artist the picture is but another kind of garment one wears to demonstrate and manifest the self to the world.

A picture is a strange mirror because it distorts as much as it reveals, pressing ideas outward into the world in a thousand disguises.  Yet behind all forms of concealment, one person peeks through.  Paint.  Do paint, and I guarantee you’ll gain self-knowledge though you may not always recognize the face you see in painting’s strange mirror.
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[Top of the post:  Drawing of Flowers in a Vase, by Aletha Kuschan, Caran d’ache on Canson paper]