Inching back

I have wanted to stay on vacation forever!  But I am getting back to work. 

For days I have not drawn, have not written, or read anything.  I have walked.  I have stared at the walls or at the clouds.  I have watched time float by like time was a cloud.  Delicious doing nothing.  Oh, I will miss you, sweet nothing.

My Compotier

When I found a blue compotier at a second hand store I felt as though perhaps I might bump into Bonnard in the next aisle.  It’s not often that buying glassware feels like fate, but then most people buy a compotier to use rather than to paint.

While I am doing koi pictures, I post other things and this image is another where I discover that the subject matter has elements in common with the fish I paint now.  The cloth on this table is one that I’ve loved ever since I first saw it, and it reappears time and again in my pictures.  Perhaps it is not odd then that its big roses spiral in waves of floral pattern like my koi in the water.  My koi are roses swimming in water.  And my roses are koi dancing across a table cloth.

Sometimes it seems that one repaints the same picture over and over in many disguises.

[Top of the post:  Floral Still life, by Aletha Kuschan, oil on paper]

Tree Cartoon, the School of Fish

Every once in a while here, I post a collage or a “cartoon.”  This cartoon (large compositional study for a painting) belongs to the Big Tree idea that I posted in mid-June.

Other collages I’ve posted include this abstract image, this idea for a child’s mural, and this study of a detail of a painting.  It’s fun to organize them so that they can be compared.  I’ve never seen them together except here on line.

For almost every subject I undertake, I do studies.  Some of these studies take the form of collage. Collage is such a free and expressive media.  You can organize large areas of a picture in one swoop.

I like to explore the possibilities and details of the images I design.  Often these studies vary enough from the original to suggest new projects.  This particular collage was supposed to help me figure out the tree idea, but became more about the fish.  It takes on a new interest for me now as I embark on a new round of paintings of fish swimming.  Meanwhile the fish in this collage have found themselves quite a nice little pond where they bob up and down like corks.

[Top of the post: Cartoon for the painting “Big Tree,” by Aletha Kuschan, Xeroxed pictures glued to paper with crayon drawing]

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]

Beginner’s Luck

Certain kinds of beauty come when the artist is a raw beginner.  I’ve pulled out old drawings and appreciate anew the memories they evoke.  I wish I had drawn more.  Would that I had drawn tirelessly.  Lack of confidence trips up too many young artists.  But the drawings I made when I  knew comparatively nothing have a raw, innocent candour.  And now I find I reseek the beginner’s mind.

I began drawing some years ago using my left hand (I’m right handed).  I wanted to get the awkwardness back, wanted it to slow me down and trip me up, and make me think harder about where my hand’s lines would go.  I have loved the wavy line that is the consequence.  The two kinds of drawings, right and left, seem to have slightly different personalities.  It’s like finding your alter ego.  There you are, long lost twin!

Do not have preconceived ideas about what drawing should be or how it should look.  Sometimes be an explorer of the uncharted world. 

You are living your life for the first time.  It’s all new.  Even when one is old, one has never been old before. 

[Top of the post:  the author’s high school drypoint of her Momma, scratched on plexiglass plate, based on a photograph from the 1940s.  Aletha Kuschan]

Recapitulation/ a theme and variations


I keep painting the same picture over and over.  And I don’t even know I’m doing it.  Here’s an instance.  I discovered quite by accident, as I was photographing one painting (posted earlier) that another painting, portraying an entirely different subject, looks rather like it.

Here details of both paintings with their edges juxtaposed.

In moments like these you realize that the meanings of paintings go deep indeed.  The forms as well as the content reveal aspects of the self.

Would you know thyself?  Take up a paint brush.


       Before I got a cat with an attitude, I used to make small paintings of bouquets like this one.  Even in the case of these flowers the green fond that hangs over the edge of the glass got partially eaten.  My parents’ cat.  I had to paint the tip of the fond and its shadow from memory.

What is your challenge?

     About six years ago, I set myself the challenge of painting a large picture.  I had made earlier attempts, but none that I felt succeeded.  The logical way to learn to paint monumental works (it seemed to me then and seems to me now) is to paint them.  The painting above, measuring 66 x 82 inches, was my first successful large painting.  It’s painted in acrylic paint.

A bunch of intermediate steps led to this picture.  For instance I made a “cartoon” of the whole thing first.   Cartoon refers to an actual size drawing of the subject.  Making the large drawing was an adventure in itself.  The immediacy of drawing and the fact of this thing being so big, it was as if I could physically enter the painting.

The things in the picture played roles in our lives.   My then pre-schooler daughter’s drawings formed the basis for the “stones” of the wall.  The blue lizard was one of her toys.  The picture’s story grew out of one lovely day’s adventure, during our regular walk to the place we call “the stone wall.”  Here, one abandons oneself to the beauty of nature.  We pause and just look at whatever comes our way.  We hunt for lizards and frogs.   We find interesting insects.  We peer into the world of the very small.  Yet in the fantasy of the painting, it’s possible to have a flamingo who watches over you, too.  The fracture in the sky above the dreaming child is like a ladder that Jacob saw with angels traveling between heaven and earth.  It is a passage way to wonderment.

For the artist, a picture should challenge your skill in some way.  What is your challenge?

Art is all about mystery

Why are you attracted to one object and not another?  One sight catches your attention, and something else passes by you as though it were invisible.  I have never known why I paint and draw water.  I love the color blue.  Blue has its own built in mysteries, quite apart from what it attaches to.  It is the color of the sky, and it pulls us into a sky hidden inside the heart.  Blue is an expansive color. It stretches away and above us.  And it’s altruistic.  People who like blue want things to be clear and straightforward.

But the pond has a particular meaning for me.  I have been drawn pondside at meditative moments in life.  Once I took an unscheduled, unannounced long drive in the morning (this was many, many years ago).  No one in the household was awake yet.  No one knew I had left, and naturally therefore they could have had no idea where I went.  But then I did not have a planned destination.  I just decided to go for a drive in the country,though the roads of the place were not well known to me.  Mine was random wandering launched by mere whim.

At a certain juncture I decided to stop.  A branch of a local river was supposed to be nearby so I decided to park the car and walk to what I thought would be a creek or stream.  I didn’t know my location when I descended down a dirt road through pine woods early that morning.  At the end of the walk, I didn’t find a creek.  Instead I found a pond (fed by the creek?) that was absolutely isolated and still.  It lay upon the ground like an enormous mirror aimed at the sky.  I walked right to its nearest edge and looked down and realized that I could not locate the water’s surface.  All I could see were the seemingly endless depths of the morning sky reflected back at me.

In retrospect it seems almost as though I was magnetically drawn to this water as by a mysterious fate just so that I could see magnificient liquid light.  I have drawn and dreamed about ponds in the intervening years.  I don’t know what they mean, but they are reservoirs of more than just water.  They are filled with resonant, echoing thoughts.  They are mirrors reflecting the depths in life above and below.  And of these depths — whether of love or friendship, a desire for purpose or direction — the edge of the surface is similarly hard to locate.  It could be measured in a few breaths or in distances of long years.