First Versions

I believe this was the first version.  The more detailed version came later (see previous post).  I like this one better.  It’s the more psychological of the two.  Eliminating all the “stuff,” I focused completely on her face.  All the territory I tried to understand could be found around the eyes and nose and mouth and jaw.  Lights and darks appear with the logic of a flashlight beamed toward something.  It is all incomplete.  It’s a random visual journey.  Except that it isn’t random, rather only seemingly so.

When your mind wanders, it doesn’t take a random journey.  It journeys to where the interest lies.  My eyes moved through the picture, and my hand drew whatever had caught my momentary attention.  And my attention kept coming back to the interior of the face, searching out the interior of the woman’s painted thoughts.

Isn’t that the amazing thing about Picasso’s picture, that he painted someone thinking?  And in making a copy of his painting, I caught a few of the lady’s thoughts too.  Her thoughts, Picasso’s thoughts, my thoughts are all somewhere in the mix.

Who says that making a copy is just an exercise?

[Top of the post:  Drawing after Picasso’s portrait of Corina Romeu, by Aletha Kuschan]

Redoing it

The National Gallery of Art in Washington (my favorite hangout) had a fabulous exhibit on Picasso about ten years ago.  The exhibit’s appearance was especially fortuitous for me — and I’ve got to tell you, I love it when the big institutions do things especially tailored to my needs.  I had always been fascinated by certain of Picasso’s early works, and the paintings I loved most happened to be among the ones exhibited.

I went through the exhibit almost daily, for a season, and often I made drawings from the paintings. There were lots of drawings exhibited too, which was wonderful.  Seeing Picasso’s drawings side by side with his paintings gains you insights into how he made his pictures.

This drawing was one I made from a Picasso “blue and rose period” painting.  It’s a copy of Picasso’s Portrait of Corina Romeu, which you can find at a comprehensive website of Picasso’s works.

When I made this drawing, I wanted some memory of the light and dark relationships between her face and the background.  In a later drawing, I focused solely on the face.  I’ll post it up next.
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[Top of the post:  Drawing after Picasso’s portrait of Corina Romeu, by Aletha Kuschan]

Influence

Influence is something that sneaks up on you.  Where do your ideas come from?  Do you know?

I’ve looked at my daughter’s painting of a tree many times.  For a long time it sat on the kitchen table and we saw it daily.  It has the big plain features characteristic of children’s art, a bold simplicity that modern masters like Matisse and Picasso found compelling and used as visual sources in their works.  I like my kid’s painting.  Not just because she made it.  Certain works of hers I have already copied directly into paintings of mine, when they fit into the scheme of a painting.  She draws really well (though it’s not obvious in this particular image) so I’m accustomed to using her ideas and of being “influenced” by her. 

But the similarity between these two paintings, hers of the tree and mine of the honey jar, didn’t strike me until they just happened to be sitting in accidental proximity.  From across a room, the resemblance is especially evident.  The cradling branches of her tree become the wooden honey ladle balanced on the lid of the jar.  The trunk becomes the jar itself.  The dark shadow cast by the tree occupies the same area as the path of white flowers of the patterned cloth in my picture.  The green boughs are folds of jade cloth in mine.  And the litle cloud becomes the ribbed end of the dipper.

I cannot say for certain that my daughter’s picture affected mine.  But influence is something like that — a quiet affect of images remembered.  Lots of other influences, no doubt, also found their way into my little picture.  I have been looking at still life a lot lately and found many artists whose works I love that I’ve spent serious time enjoying — a feast for the eyes.

The surest way to teach your visual sensibility is to just look.  Pick strong, beautiful paintings and just look at them.  A lot.  The understanding of how the best artists compose their pictures comes to one silently through long observation.  An ordering principle works its way into your mind through such a process of looking.  It is never a matter of rules.  A strong sense of how things fit together doesn’t come through a conscious process of following instructions, but through a kind of visual osmosis that is the result of looking and staring.  The best instruction comes through the manifestation of your own longing when you see something and think, “Wow.  I wish I’d painted that.”