en plein neighborhood

red zinnia from cap hill (2).jpg

My daughter and I set out for Capitol Hill yesterday in the late afternoon, she to walk and me to draw.  Someone has a beautiful garden right off East Capitol Street, full of zinnias.  I had noticed the flowers on a previous walk.  So I tossed the old aluminum easel into the back of the pickup, assembled some oil pastels and off we went.

The mosquitoes didn’t start biting until really near twilight so I wasn’t munched too much.  However I was concentrating so much on my drawing — how hard do YOU concentrate on your tasks? —  that the whole bottom of my right leg was soaking wet before I realized that the gardener’s sprinkler was reaching my location.  Is that concentration or what?  Maybe it’s possible to concentrate a bit too much.  A little less concentration and I might have avoided the soaking …

That discovery seemed like a good cue to switch motifs.

yellow zinnias from cap hill (2)

I drew the yellow ones until the mosquitoes started dining.  Then it was clearly time to quit.  We took a bit of a walk afterwards for exercise, my daughter and I, and I staked out some more locations to draw.

Capitol Hill residents are assiduous gardeners.  There’s many lovely places to choose from — almost too many — it makes the choices harder.

These are drawings I may use in something or other, but I make them just to be outdoors drawing.  I have been buying flowers for still life.  And I have some lovely fake ones that I use also.  Sometimes I take a flower from a photograph or an old master image.  It’s fun to mix it up.

If I decide to do dog portraits, Capitol Hill residents are prosperous in that department too.  While I was drawing, every manner of canine imaginable was being walked in a kind of impromptu, nightly, canine parade.  That would be fun — not sure the owners would have the patience to wait for a full portrait though …

Flowers, on the other hand, are very patient.

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finding butterflies

butterfly picture sitting on the table (2)

I’d like to find some real butterflies.

For now I’m satisfied being reunited with the butterfly drawing.  During my Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 (about which I’ve written extensively), I sorted through some large oil pastels and retrieved this one — which I’ve begun reworking a bit.  And now it rests some atop the desk where a collage sits.

Putting it on top of the collage gives me ideas — or glimmers of ideas.  I may do something else with this butterfly at some juncture.  For now, though, it exists as a drawing.  I was thinking of treating its companion, the spider, in some larger way too.  Dare I exhibit the spider again?  Is it too scary?

Oh, not for brave readers!  Here it is again.

black-and-gold-garden-spider-21-x-29-inches

I’ve been wondering how I could do something grander and more elaborate with the spider as well.  And I might as well just do it.  Some counselors have told me that you can’t sell a big picture of a spider.  I think to myself that if the butterfly and spider are showcased together, perhaps the similarity of color and treatment will tell people that if the butterfly is beautiful, then the spider is too ….

They are similar works, but I could make them even more similar. The question of how to market spiders has weighed on my mind.  But they make movies about monster spiders!  Of course I’m not sure that those movies make very much money or have particularly large audiences, nor do they communicate a strong societal message ….

Big Ass Spider was a good movie.  Just saying.

However, the spider can also be a serious subject — without necessarily being a scary one.  A spider can be beautiful. It can be done. I’m sure of it.  Perhaps it’s my special mission to do it …?

I’ll keep you posted.  For now you won’t find my spider drawing on my Fine Art America site.  I don’t want a spider to scare all the customers away!  When it’s time to include the spider in my grand marketing scheme, we will have figured out something that has thus far eluded most creative projects and that is: how to make (certain) spiders wonderful!

And everyone is going to want one!  You’ll see!  Just wait …

 

 

 

living the rough and tumble life

bouquet drawn from lifeI’ve been living the life of Indiana Jones — or maybe it’s Walter Mitty — I don’t know, I get them confused.  I live the feminine version, of course.   I could hyphenate and become Ms. Jones-Mitty.

I have been cutting brush, building and unbuilding things, having adventures (mostly mental) and working hard.  And only recently I have begun to resume making artworks.  The household reorganization that has consumed so much of my time has come a long way.  My work is far from complete, but I’ve reached a point where things have begun to come into balance.   It’s a great feeling.

I discovered that getting the house right means getting the yard right too.  Shrubbery had grown so much near my windows that it blocked light from entering my studio.  Cutting down limbs and piling them up, carrying them off to the county’s “convenience center” (curious name), hauling a couple truckloads, has given me a great feeling of self-reliance and well-being.  I’m a regular lumberjack!  And trees respect me now.

But Nature is hard to put down.  As soon as you do a little yard work, she says “back at ‘ya.”  A little rain, a little sun, it’s a veritable jungle.  And Nature asks, “Who’s your daddy?”

Mother Nature can be a real smart aleck sometimes.

In between taming nature, though, I have managed to resume drawing and painting.  I got a bouquet of flowers a couple weekends ago from the farmer’s market and drew them with oil pastel.  The drawing above measures 15.5 x 24 inches.  The flower scene changed many times during the course of my drawing.  I saw light effects that Claude Monet would have struggled to capture.  But it’s good to look at the scene even when you cannot get all its features because the looking is itself so marvelous.

I have begun posting finished works at the Fine Art America site where they are available for purchase as reproductions.  You can see them here:

https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/aletha-kuschan.html

shifting points & points of view

shell inverted shell

The queen conch shell is essentially radial.  It has these spokes that go outwards from its folding calcite structure.  You could think of them as shapes somewhat like volcanic cones, and they sprout along the undulating surface of the shell, forming its outer layer.  Inside, the shell rolls in upon itself creating inner chambers where the animal has lived during different phases of grow.

That’s the shell.

The background is a very dark blue cloth.  It might be reminiscent of the sea, which is after all where the Queen Conch lives.

Above that imaginary horizon … I’m not quite sure what these other things are — triangle wedges.  They are dynamic shapes.  They echo the spikey-ness of the seashell.  But beyond that, they (I refer to the negative shapes) have yet to be identified.

first rehearsals

cartoon for painting

Often before I begin painting I will draw the motif, and sometimes I draw it with freedom and total abandon as in the drawing above. I love the scribbly effect available when drawing with crayons and oil pastel.  And something of this quality I sought to incorporate into the final painting — because Nature has a lot of texture in her outdoors.

 

the kitchen chaos

 

kitchen drawingThe view between the arching flower stems is what caught my attention, but afterwards I tried to put as much stuff of the chaos onto the page, knowing that parts of it would be out of proportion.  I decided to tackle something that I figured would be impossible really to depict accurately, especially in the time I was allotting.

The dark light of an overcast spring day made the (ad)venture doable.  So off and on I’ve been gazing at a jumble of things on the kitchen counter. (Remind me I need to clean that counter.)  It would be an interesting motif to do at night too with the overhead yellow of interior light casting down on the objects in that way that Bonnard taught us to love.

I’d love to do the view from the arching flower stems again in the future.  I’ll need more flowers.  These have already surpassed their prime.

drawing at the Museum of American Art

after thayer

I had about 15 minutes and then I had to leave.  So I did my drawing after Abbott Thayer’s painting in warp speed.

It’s a huge painting.  Mine’s a small drawing.

My_Children_(Mary,_Gerald,_and_Gladys_Thayer)_1897_Abbott_Thayer (2)
Abbot Thayer’s “My Children (Mary, Gerald, and Gladys Thayer) 1897

 

my new hero Childe Hassam

hassam whole copy

Sitting in front of Childe Hassam’s painting “Tanagra, the Builders” at the Museum of American Art, I made a drawing in oil pastel. It measures 12 x 16 inches.  This is the largest drawing I’ve made there to date.

I’ve been studying the painting each time I visit the museum.  And Childe Hassam is my new hero.  The painting is huge.  My drawing is a portion of it.

Tanagra Am Art Childe Hassam

I’ve made a little sketch of it too, once before.

hassam drawing 2 (2)

Recollected Ocean

DSC_1102 (2)

A small queen conch seashell, portrayed life size, sits on a still life table where the surrounding colors recall the sand, sea and ocean air. The elongated shell rests on its side.  A great variety of colors mix to recreate some tropical weather far from the seashell’s sea depths home. A evocative, poetic image of island life that a seashell carries around by virtue of its stunning shape can deposit island longings into the mind of an artist stranded in the suburbs.  And through a picture perhaps the island whimsy reaches even other farther shores.

The center of the shell is a rich and warm orange red, made more vivid by the contrast of nearby tones of pale and dark blue. Marks of the drawing are plainly visible and at the same time the illusion of the picture is strong in an impressionist way, most so when the oil pastel painting is viewed from a little distance.

Recollected Ocean is an oil pastel drawing on tan paper that measures 10 x 7 inches.

Tropical Flower from the Sea

Conch seashells are beautiful

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and conch seashells are complex in form. Drawing them offers a consistent and wonderful challenge.  They have many irregular properties; for instance their shapes are complicated, no matter from what angle one looks. Turning the seashell round and drawing it from various aspects provides an artist with a delightful drawing challenge and offers the viewer an intriguing visual spectacle.  Also their surfaces have varied textures — one side is polished and subtle in hues, the back is more chalky and rough.  All the surfaces are covered with ridges and the spindle of the shell is circled by radiating points.  Undulating like a pleasing mountainous landscape, the  queen conch shell has patterns of variegated light and dark from its convex and concave surfaces.  Certain shells are also amazing for their lovely pearlesque colors.

I love to place the shells into differently colored still life settings.  In the picture Tropical Flower from the Sea a beautiful queen conch in profile is set upon a tabletop with a pale violet cloth and against a dark background where a deep red flower design abuts one curved edge of the shell. Shapes throughout the whole picture lock together like puzzle parts in a design with strong abstraction.

Tropical Flower from the Sea is an oil pastel painting on toned paper measuring 12 x 9 inches