The drawing that I chronicle here continues to gain more stuff. I say “more moth,” but it’s really more leaves — though aspects of the moth evolves as well. I see the edges of the moth in relation to the leaves, and it’s necessary to get the leaves in there so that everything can be altered later as necessary. You can’t know what you want to change until it’s there to see.
This 32 x 24 inch drawing is preparatory for a painting. The painting is larger and includes another element not present in this study. I have a second more careful preparatory drawing that’s in the works as well. These are the rehearsals.
A polyphemus moth in real life is large, easily 4 inches across. This moth, of course, is much larger — though not as large as Mothra. And it won’t be transporting any Japanese girls anywhere. Nor is it likely to fight Godzilla — or King Kong — or anybody else. It’s a peaceful moth. The leaves in the picture are metaphors, and I wish I could tell you what they stand for metaphorically — I really wish I could. But I haven’t a clue.
Sometimes the artist is the last to know. I just paint what I’m supposed to paint. It was my idea. But my own brain is very hush-hush and “need to know” about the topic. The conscious me who writes this blog doesn’t possess a high enough security clearance to be granted access to the Top Secret information …. so there you go.
Once all the leaf stuff is in this version of the picture, I can start moving leaves around. It is as self-help guru Brian Tracy wrote, “anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.” Not that I judge my moth and its leaves as bad. Quite the contrary, I like them. But a rehearsal might go really well too. It’s still a rehearsal.
I need my practice moths so that my more deliberate moth can sail through its pictorial night and accomplish its symbolical purposes. And if I do it right, who knows? My brain might even tell me what it all means.
I have been wondering about these leaves. Clearly the scale of the leaves and the scale of the moth are at odds with each other. But I felt from the outset that the leaves should be that way — that they should fracture the surface. And my intuition told me it should be those leaves, too, because the color is right — even though the color is false because I artificially altered the colors of the photograph and now I don’t even remember what kinds of leaves they were.
But the clearest sign I have that the leaves are the right leaves is that parts of the most recent dream comes back while I draw. I don’t recall the dream exactly, but moments of it come into thought where I seem to see the images in peripheral vision. Then the memories scatter as dreams often do.
The dream tone is there. The emotion functions like a rope that you can use to pull yourself back into the outer margins of the dream even though, of course, you’re wide awake.
So if these leaves can evoke the dream tone, then something about them must be right. They don’t have any logic. These leaves have nothing to do with this kind of moth — not in real life. But in terms of some kind of symbolism their convergence makes sense. I’m going to go with that. A picture can have a logic all its own.
I want it to have logic. I want it to cohere. But it has to happen on its proper terms. I don’t feel that I choose those conditions. Somehow I found them and I just recorded them.
This guy was determined to swim in the stars. Call him the “fish that got away.” Big time! He wanted to be a cosmic fish. Pisces. The night is his ocean. His stream is the Milky Way. (Got milk?)
[Top of the post: Crayon drawing of a fish photographed on a black enamel surface with speckles, by Aletha Kuschan]
My fish want to feel they’re important. Of course, they are to me. But they want to belong in the larger scheme of things. I try to assure them they are as significant as one could wish. Still they are skeptical. So, I’ve played around with the image trying to evoke the night of space, and put them into the cosmos more emphatically.
They want to swim out into the stars. (Didn’t Disney do that as a short film?) Maybe my fish have seen the movie? Everybody wants to be a movie star these days ….
[Top of the post: Computer enhanced version of one of the koi paintings, by Aletha Kuschan]
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]
Abstraction is not always as devoid of subject as it appears. There might be something that looks like this. Lots of other artists have made pictures this one resembles. And it resembles other pictures I’ve made that are pictures of something. So, by following a trail of clues, being a visual detective tracking down myself, I might in time figure out what I was up to. One might in time discover what the other artists were up to as well. If I am on the same wavelength as others, what wave is it?
On the internet once I found a wonderful website set up by two photographers, husband and wife. They took amazing, high resolution photographs of the oddest things — bricks, stones, grasses, tiles, old rusted metal surfaces — anything with texture. Their photographs looked like the most ravishingly beautiful abstract pictures you’ve ever seen. And they invited anyone to use their work for free.
I downloaded lots of their pictures, like a miser at a flea market. Each image seemed more beautiful than the last, and I sat before the monitor for a couple hours, watching each image load and then copying it to use later. My printer could not do the proper homage to their stunning imagery. But I printed out some of the pictures to make a collage. My printer started running out of ink, but I continued printing, letting the vagaries of the machine add a further layer of chance to the mix.
I had cut up some paper bags and glued them together to make a large sheet. Grocery store shopping bags are incredibly strong. Then I glued the prints of the couples’ photographs together into the pattern suggested by the moment. I added a few pieces of gold foil wrappers from Lindt chocolates à la Bonnard, and voilà!
[Top of the post: Collage, La Nuit by Aletha Kuschan, a collage made of borrowed pictures and whimsy]
If anyone recognizes what this is: congratulations! You might have a fine career ahead of you in psychology!
I made this drawing to obsessively reinterate an idea I’ve been working on — relative to a large mural sized painting whose subject I’m frankly at a loss to explain. However, I’ve been around the art block enough times now to trust my instincts and to believe that a picture, whose meaning is baffling even to me, its author, may well hold ideas that can matter to the larger audience of my fellow human beings, 3 billion or so of my closest friends. (You gotta think big.)
It’s a tree. I don’t know why I feel compelled to portray it this way, rather than to make it more conventionally tree-like. But there it is. And let me tell you, your subconscious mind is a fabulous, truly wonderful and remarkable thing! I have stalled on this idea for well over a year, working on other things, and forgeting about this picture.
However, last night as I was driving, I turned a corner and saw a large tractor trailer stopped at a light perpendicular to me at a street onto which I was making a right turn. In the general darkness, as I turned, I noted the enormous shadow of a tree cast onto the side of the trailer. Imagine that huge flat surface being like a canvas, here was the image I’ve wanted to portray in ridiculously large scale, here it was on the side of this truck as on a great, crazy moving canvas! Sometimes you feel as though the great loving God and nature and your own mind are all meeting at the same intersection. It’s a great shot in the arm, let me tell you!
Comments, explanations, psycho-analysis are all welcome.
[Top of the post: the author’s small compositional drawing for a very large enigmatic painting. By Aletha Kuschan]
Night water. What shall we said about it? Large, measuring 50 x 58 inches, bright, lush in many deep blues, it’s about water, dreams, imagination and the interior life. And about night. Where would it look best? Perhaps in a room with colors of pale yellow or warm cream. Being large and dramatic, its scale fits where a bold and striking is gesture is desired.
Its subject is nature — nature as we are least inclined to consider Her today — as mysterious and ineluctable, as something over which we have no power. Nature acts as we sleep. The modern notion of “global warming” reveals our hubris in vague imaginings. Do we control nature? Such a small slice of Nature is even visible to human perception despite our extended, scienced senses. “Nature” existed eons before human beings appeared and will go on eons after human beings are gone.
How shall we recover our sense of wonder? How do we recover a true sense of scale? Who can even control his temper? Yet we suppose we will control the atmosphere?
A pessimist painting “Night” might have portrayed a meteor hurling toward us, earth in its sights! Yikes. More hopefully, I painted birds sleeping in the dark, under a full moon, lolled to sleep upon dark waves that are reverberations of the categorical wave, like the waves of gravity that Jim Gates studies. “Night” in a primordial sense is what I sought. God-created darkness and light, a darkness called “night” and a brilliance called “day.”
Animals sleep and so do we. Do they dream like we do? Night Water is about states of wonder — and authentically so — it began without the waterfowl, without the moon, it began with just waves.
We are fellows of the myriad creatures that Nature sustains– here, enfolded in comforting night.