Under Cover

During the late eighties I took a figure painting class with an artist whose work I found interesting, Ken Marlow.  I already possessed then my own ways of painting, but I wanted to learn how Ken painted.  Granted the public character of a class would reveal only certain aspects of his approach.  Still, his class was there to take, and so I signed up.  He was a wonderful teacher, and had I been looking for instruction I couldn’t have recommended anyone better.  But as it happens, I had arrived merely to satisfy curiosity.

In the course of things, we did a nude figure.  Mine was painted on the small canvas above.  I cannot remember what it looked like or even whether it was a man or a woman.  At some stage Ken came round and offered suggestions, and he also offered to make some corrections himself to which I acceded.  Afterwards, though, the picture bothered me.  I can’t remember exactly why, but it had something to do with his having changed it.  It had stopped being my picture at that juncture. 

Had I been more mature … hmm… perhaps I would have kept it as a souvenir — after all Ken’s paintings command hefty prices now.  But I wasn’t interested in a souvenir.  I had gone there with curiosity only and persisted in curiosity only.  So at some later date, I decided to reuse the canvas, and I painted this bird’s nest over it. 

Now, maturer still … er … I’m glad I painted over the Me/Marlow life study.  I love this bird’s nest.  It is a testament to my other “teacher” of the time, Vincent Van Gogh.  As you’re probably aware, Van Gogh painted a series of bird’s nests early in his career during that period when his pictures were dark and overtly “Dutch.” 

When I painted this still life, I felt so much as though I was apeing Van Gogh that I was a little uneasy about it.  However, seeing it now I realize how thoroughly it was and is mine.  The round white stool was a regular bit of my life’s furniture, evocative of such personal memories.  The way that the bird’s nest sits on it, laying on a cloth (actually a piece of artist’s linen) is so much a gesture of presenting the nest — and animals and wildlife were a big deal in my formative childhood experience.  

That it covers over a different picture, one with interesting credentials, also fits in with the painting’s gesture.  I asserted my own life’s very different trajectory.  This painting was raw and unstudied — more a rough and rude Van Gogh idea than a smooth salon-inspired idea of art out of which Marlow’s visual sensibilities evolved.

Different strokes for different folks.  I realize the wisdom of that saying now more than ever.  The whole point of making pictures is to create something individual.  How else can one accomplish this except through the individuality of the self?
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[Top of the post:  A Bird’s Nest, by Aletha Kuschan, oil on canvas, c. 1988]

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]

Riosriosrios drew Durer’s Owl!

I asked Riosriosrios to draw Durer’s Owl and here it is!  Isn’t this fantastic!  You ask Riosriosrios to draw something, and you get a drawing!  Drawing on demand.  I like that idea!

You may recall that last month I had asked Riosriosrios to draw Durer’s Rhinoceros.  (I’m kind of a Durer fan.)  The rhino was fabulous too!

[Top of the post:  Durer’s Owl, drawn by Riosriosrios of wordpress]

Alice wins at Mouse Tennis

Mouse tennis is not an Olympic sport with which most people are familar.  The name may mislead you.  It’s not a game for mice.  It is a game cats play with mice.  (Poor mouse!)  It is very much like regular tennis, only some unfortunate mouse has to be the ball.  Alice has made a very strong showing from the beginning, but had to earn her triumph. 

Alice the Cat beat Miss Callico and won the match in an 8-6 nail-scratcher. The match started slowly, with Miss Callico going up three games to none, but Alice the Cat came back to tie it 4-4.  Afterwards they traded games until Alice finally won two in a row to take the match.  As you can see, the crowd went wild.  Congratuations Alice!

For mouse lovers in the audience, you’ll be glad to know the tennis mouse escaped before the traditional, triumphant mouse “snack” could take place.   Consequently Alice celebrated her win after the game with a bowl of dim sum over at Sagwa’s house.

[Top of the post:  Alice’s Mouse Tennis match at the Beijing Olympics, by the young artist on the premises]

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.

Great News! Alice is in Beijing!

Did you even know there was a Cat Olympics?  I didn’t.  We were aware that Alice is much traveled, and even that she speaks Chinese.  In fact she was in China when the PBS television show  Sagwa was being made.  Actually she and Sagwa are pals!  Imagine, Alice nobnobbing with celebrities!  But we were not aware of her interest in athletic competitions or that she had qualified for the Cat Olympics.

Well, in the first competition, Alice is a winner!  For those who don’t know, the Cat Olympics preceeds the Human ones.  And Alice’s first competition was Marathon Tree Climbing, where each cat must climb 26 trees!  As you can see above, Alice was in an early lead.

I’ll try to keep you posted how Alice is doing.  We’re all so excited here with our amazing toy — oops — sorry, it’s just slipped.  Officially speaking, Alice is not a toy.  (She’s very sensitive on that issue.)

[Top of the post:  Alice’s First Event, Marathon Tree Climbing, by the younger artist]

Summer Reading

Just finished reading Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  Won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but it’s kind of like Moby Dick — only a whole lot shorter!  It is really extraordinary what a great writer can do with a little bit of theme.  Basically a fellow goes fishing, in Hemingway’s story, and yet the tale reveals bits of an entire life.

Also in recent weeks, I’ve read John Hilton’s Lost Horizons and Ursula Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven — both wonderful stories.  I had not meant to become seriously diverted with reading, but I’m on a roll.  One trip to the library netted me a pile of books (still thinking in fishing terms), and they chanced to be so good that once I began a story, I couldn’t quit!

Back to Hemingway’s tale though, if you’ve read it you know it’s very visual.  And if you’ve read this blog, you know that I’m often preoccupied with the topic of fishes.  So, diving deep into this story I was confronted with some issues of my own life.  Was beginning to wonder if I’d need to illustrate something from the story. 

I like monumental art.  But would I really do a fish that large?  Are all fish stories questions about magnitude?  Does my fish affectionately named Pixel need to grow?  And would my apartment studio accomodate him?  Would anyone ever purchase his picture if I did it?  Or would I live with a giant painting of a fish the rest of my life?

Got to mull over these and other questions.  Meanwhile, I’m moving on to the next book.  My next Hemingway selection will be Moveable Feast.  I can manage that much.  Food. Still life.  Been there, done that. 

Meanwhile, wishing you safe seas.

[Top of the post:  Two Men in a Boat, by Aletha Kuschan, aquatint]

Tree at Night

Taking walks at night has sometimes provided my summer form of exercise.  The heat of day has dissipated.  City crowds have dispersed.  A few lingerers provide a companionable backdrop without interfering with one’s desire for solitude.  Appearances change.  The shadows of evening going into night, added to a city’s desire for constant illumination, make for interesting contrasts.  Trees usually lit from above in the sun’s brilliance are lit from below or from other odd angles, which makes for unexpected shadows and textures.

This painting arose from memories of walks I used to take when my daughter was little.  Some evenings I was able to slip away for a brief interlude of exercise and quiet thinking while she slept and was watched by others.  We have some enormous old trees in the city and I had a favorite which back then I sometimes drew.  Revisiting it now in memory adds something also, a touch of nostalgia and meaning that comes with the passage of time.  Reflection and reverie have changed the tree from a real one into a dream with branches.

While on a spider theme

While on the topic of spiders, I should mention that I like to insert them into pictures (when they fit).  Here’s one that crawled into a children’s mural.  She is named Charlotte, just like the spider in the famous book by E. B. White.  And I can happily report she was based upon an actual spider that we (the child and I) found somewhere out in the garden, captured and photographed.  Afterwards, she was released back into the wild, and thus no spiders were injured (only temporarily inconvenienced) for the making of this painting.