Feeling Catty

Sometimes (as now) a blog is a good place to gripe.  Imagine me on the other side of your fence.  You ask me how I’m doing, so I decide to give you an earful.  (Nice weather we’re having, though.)

Yesterday I saw a spread in a North Carolina newspaper (I’m still here, but should be getting home soon I hope).  Anyway, it was a whole page devoted to art events.  It consisted almost entirely of photographs.  One particularly caught my attention, and if it didn’t bring out the nicest side of my personality — well, perhaps I can be forgiven.

A fashionably dressed young man was posed sitting in a wingback chair.  Behind him stood his even more elegantly dressed and very attractive wife.  The two were pictured inside the premises of what the paper said was a “cutting edge” gallery in town.  And to one side, one could partly make out portions of the young man’s “art.” 

My first thought was “congratulations to him for what must obviously be some exceptional marketing skills.”  My second less kind thought bubble was: “too bad he can’t paint worth a damn.” 

It grates on my nerves (might as well be honest over here at the fence) that I feel an unseemly bit of disgust at a young artist-in-quotes getting this kind of attention when quite clearly (to me at least) his “work” doesn’t merit it.  Work.  Geeze.  It was the old cliche of “I could do that” and then some.  Anyone could do what he does.  Take heart all ye beginners!  That’s assuming his “work” has anything in it worth emulating.

Few of us get our pictures in the papers. (Didn’t I just moments ago say artists are shy?)  I’ve been in the newspaper once, but in my case, thank goodness, I actually had to compete with my painting for attention.  We were posed together like sisters.  But even then, it was the subject matter of my painting that got the attention not the art of my painting.  I’m still waiting on the art thing … I’ll let you guys be the first to know when my ideas are getting the publicity.

So, why does one feel a grudge?  Sour grapes?  I don’t think so.  It bugs me not because the young man is doing well.  It bugs me that he is doing well when so many more deserving artists are being ignored.  It bugs me his not having to pay any dues.  More than that — it bugs me that he evidently has no interest in the dues.  I would never have consented to have myself and my painting prominently displayed in a newspaper if my paintings looked like his.  Sometimes it is meet to be demure.

The whole point of art is the art.  The artist is the first and chief beneficiary of that, let’s be honest.  What you learn in looking at the world, what you learn in making the true attempt to record life (regardless what your level of ability), what you get from the act of seeing and drawing, all those things become products of your mind, parts of your soul.  They compose the memories you will carry around with you in life.  They are hardly trivial!

But what, I ask you, is the point of anyone’s striving when the trivial attempts are trumpeted abroad? 

Well, what you see is what you get.  Quite literally.  Though the papers be filled with the cheap and easy products of fake effort, no one who really loves art should ever lose heart.  What you see is what you get.  And the seeing of it — that’s life — that’s the living of it.  In art you can live ideas.

Art is not for the faint of heart.  If it matters to you, go blindly down the road.  Just do it.  (Not like a shoe commercial, but for real.)

Meanwhile, here at the fence, do you think we’re likely to get any rain?

Second Resume Bullet:  I griped to my neighbor and drew a picture of an annoyed cat.

Paths, paths to everywhere

I found a quote by Yogi Berra saying, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  My sentiments exactly.  Life presents us constantly with paths, so many that one must always be choosing something.  Does an hour go by without presenting possibilities?

A painting with a path depicted in it is as enigmatic as a Yogi Berra quote, since of course you cannot really take such a path very far — only as far as what you see.  A painting has no path in it at all.  It’s just a flat surface with colors.  And yet it tells you about a path you see in imagination.  And, of course, you’re free to take that one.

Night Squares

This sketch for a painting is more about night (and squares) than about fish.  (It’s a sketch for a painting.)  But, lo and behold, the fish snuck in.  I count five, maybe six along the bottom.  This is hardly more than a scribble, but I love this.  If somebody calls me on the phone and takes up a whole bunch of my time … friends … this is what’s taking place on my side of the conversation.

[Top of the page:  Study for a painting, by Aletha Kuschan, ballpoint pen]

Digital Study

I have been making sketches for the second of the koi paintings, redoing the same motif over and over as a way of thinking about it.  I am like an actress learning her lines.  The lines I learn, however, are the ones I draw.  I rehearse the gesture of making these lines, of thinking about the composition as a whole, of thinking alternately about the shapes of the fish and about the shapes of the water in which they swim.

One morning while working at the computer, I thought:  what the heck, and I did this digital drawing using a paint program.  The motif is copied from the oil painting, which is still just blocked in.  So this computer “study” postdates the actual painting and develops simultaneously with it.  I’ll post the canvas in a bit.  Since beginning the lay in of the picture I’ve also made two drawings of different sizes.

It is much harder for me to control the lines on the computer, yet it’s interesting and challenging in ways that resembles playing a computer game.  I find that doing a picture in a paint program has a “technique” just as do other media.  I haven’t begun to master the use of the paint program with its switching between tools by grabbing them with the touch bars.  I didn’t always have the tool icon that I thought I had and was “undoing” as much as I was doing — something that not even the use of an erasure quite matches.

In the traditional media of the artist, there is usually not much of undoing that one can do — just a going forward or a beginning again.

Dream Fishing

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]