This is the place I imagine my koi inhabiting. This is what the linear realm is like, what the world looks like when you’re two dimensional and occupy width and height without depth. Did you think I was referring to the koi pond? The real one? Ah, but my koi are drawings.
My kid made this picture, or rather she began it and I finished it. Children are always the first ones to learn some new thing to do on a computer, just as those who are young at heart are the ones who invent all this stuff. So, the kid started just twisting the mouse back and forth on the “paint” program and made a beautiful black and white sheet of lines. When I came along, to whisk her off the computer so she could do her homework, she said “we need to add color.” And that’s how I became the “second shift,” not being one ever to pass up a chance to put colors down onto a page (of whatever sort).
This is the great cosmic pond — that’s how I think of it. Here the lines are light, and they just go crazy.
The definition of art is a somewhat amorphous thing. Recently I chided someone for identifying “art” with whatever will challenge me, make me feel uncomfortable, touch me, transform me. I suggested that some things will have these qualities and yet will decidedly not be art. Driving in rush hour, doing taxes, taking a standardized test, getting a root canal — all are challenging. I guarantee the root canal will make you uncomfortable. Perhaps a dentist will argue that root canals are art. But, for goodness sake, let’s let the dentist make the argument. Artists don’t have to do it for them.
What is art? In the era when drawing doesn’t count, art has morphed into namelessness. Everyone is an artist now. Art is whatever you want it to be. And still life beckons.
Let me suggest that art’s definition be reserved for the hard stuff. Let an old master’s skill be an ingredient. Better that we be striving toward it than grinning and slapping our own backs in self-congratulation.
Life still beckons. I say art is a mystery, and I will pursue it. Better to ever pursue and never reach than to cheapen the journey with goo-gaws and touristy nick-nacks. Can I persuade you to share in the longing?
Okay, I don’t usually rant. But the ubiquitously recited litany that art will challenge me, make me feel uncomfortable, touch me, transform me — it’s so “me, me,me”! When did we lose our bearings? When did we leave nature aside? When did we lose our capacity to see inside the veil?
I copied Ingres (who knew what art is) and left the face blank. I think she makes a nice metaphor for Art. Art is she whose face is hard to see, the mystery that beckons, the life that needs transcription, a line suspended in air, a thought held in a breath, a definition that defies.
I think the great Aussi poet Paul Squires read my mind.
Perhaps because paper was once in short supply, we note that the old masters drew on their rare pages with more joyful abandon than is typical of artists today. And they were more thrifty. Often a page of old master drawings will have several subjects on the same page, and they will not necessarily have anything to do with each other. Often they are at right angles to each other. And sometimes artists (like Ingres or Rubens) would even put more than the correct number of limbs on their figures — all presumably in the interest of deciding what the pose should be. Four armed ladies? Let’s not go there. Save that for another occasion.
In our era of anything goes, it’s interesting that this conceit — this putting lots of things onto the same page hasn’t caught on as a revivified trend. Heck, a lot of artists could do it and suppose that they were inventing something brand new (the ones who have not studied history, that is).
Besides things that happen to rent space on the same page are the colors that halo objects. Everything in the world is colored and if you look really closely at all the color, it can drive you nuts! There is so much of it to notice. I didn’t peer too deeply in this drawing, but just enough to put some blue on top and green on the side of the marigold.
[Top of the post: Studies of Plants by Aletha Kuschan]
Colored pencils are something that you love for themselves. Even before you draw. They look so great sitting there colorfully arrayed, row upon row, in their neat little box. Traveling has awaked my appreciation of this studio in a box.
Of course you have to think a little differently when you’re making your picture with these. Everything becomes a line. You cannot work the masses of an image with the big dollop of color. Or, let’s say, you can dollop, but you’ll do it with lines. You can scribble a mass, you can rub the color into a continuous tone, but you will have massed it particle by particle.
So, of course hatching is what you do. I love hatching. You can lay line beside line in a wonderfully monotonous way. It’s hypnotic — like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes, except more colorful.
This subject lent itself to colored pencils as it seemed to have been composed of lines itself! Lines of calcium threaded together, in three dimensional contours, that rolling in upon each other formed — poof! — a fossil shell.
The legislators of my state have managed our lovely Maryland so marvelously that they have hardly anything to do now, and so they’ve gone way beyond state flowers and state birds. We’ve got a state fossil. And it’s at the top of the post.
[Top of the post: Maryland’s State Fossil: Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae by Aletha Kuschan]