On words & writing

I write like I paint. I see something, I describe it. Later when a word seems wrong I swap it out for another. The thesaurus becomes a good friend. It’s a field guide to words. Each word, like a familiar or an exotic bird, has its near relations. Follow the word and it will take you to its unique habitat of thoughts. Once you’re inside the habitat, well — there’s no telling what you’ll find. If you’re like me, you may get lost admiring the habitat’s flora and fauna and forget the original thing that was the goal of your search.

What was the question again?

Words are like colors in the artist’s palette, too. Some words are especially lovely just as some colors are keen and bright. When I find a lovely word, one whose meaning rolls out intriguing imagery or whose sounding beguiles, I just want to use it for its own marvelous sake alone. Art for art’s sake … words for words’ sake.

English is a big capacious language — in no small part because its speakers, like magpies, are always stealing. We fold the words of other languages into English, give them hearty welcome, and sometimes use them with such alacrity that they seem to be entirely our own possession. We forget that once upon a time we stole the words from someone else.

Plant words like seeds in a garden and see what sprouts. Give them the warm light of your admiration. Create a fertile soil with much reading and thinking. Even if the produce of your planting turns out to be weeds, know that those native plants are extraordinarily well adapted and hearty.

I began with a metaphor about birds. I didn’t forget. So, there’s a bird above. Exotic bird. Made of glass, “a hard, brittle substance, typically transparent or translucent.” Synonyms are few for “glass,” but it has lots of related adjectival companions: clear, transparent, crystalline, translucent, limpid, pellucid, unclouded.

The picture above is clouded rather than unclouded, but it has its glass-like elements. The water is a mirror that reflects, refracts, echoes the light falling on its moving surface. In life. Of course a picture doesn’t move. And neither do words, once you set them into place.

But thoughts move. Thoughts, restless, are constantly changing like weather. Thoughts and their words move so feel free to chase them. Never know where they’ll lead.

Birds & stuff — just because

bird sheet

I like to draw a lot. Sometimes these days I’m inclined to draw just to be drawing, choosing images somewhat randomly. I decided to draw a blue jay and made four versions of him together.  I think the face was already there.  Flowers came later, and some kind of fruit hidden among leaves. There’s still lots of white space left so other items many join the group.   We’ll see.

Why not?

Making Difficult Pictures

One problem that artists have at the beginning arises from a misapprehension.  When seeing a painting in a museum, people often think that that’s it.  They see a complete, whole and finished thing and mistakenly suppose that the artist just painted it.  Such a task, anyone would acknowledge to be difficult, but to create ex nihilo — which is often what people mistakenly suppose artists do — would be really, very hard — perhaps impossible.  In fact most complex pictures have lots of studies that lie behind them.  Studies can take many forms, but usually they exist.  Typically they are not on display.  They reside in the background.  They lie stored in a drawer in the artist’s studio.

What defines a study?  One might say that it’s any work of art that takes a separate aspect of an idea and pursues it in isolation.  When you study old masters’ techniques, you find many such drawings that rehearse ideas that are later used in completed paintings. 

So, it’s “okay” to take an idea apart and pursue it in bits.  The drawing at the top of the post is that kind of drawing.  I was interested in the drapery and drew it in isolation.  To create this drapery I had first made a photograph — but even the photograph is part of the pursuit of an idea.  I’m still not certain where it’s going.  Or if it’s going anywhere.

The figure has no head or face and hardly any arms.  These details don’t matter at this juncture, and I left them out.  The details here are to drawing what scales are to music.  This is a drawing of riffs and phrases.  Such things have their own charms.

[Top of the post:  Drapery Study, by Aletha Kuschan, colored pencil on Nideggen paper]

Riosriosrios drew Durer’s Owl!

I asked Riosriosrios to draw Durer’s Owl and here it is!  Isn’t this fantastic!  You ask Riosriosrios to draw something, and you get a drawing!  Drawing on demand.  I like that idea!

You may recall that last month I had asked Riosriosrios to draw Durer’s Rhinoceros.  (I’m kind of a Durer fan.)  The rhino was fabulous too!

[Top of the post:  Durer’s Owl, drawn by Riosriosrios of wordpress]

Tropical Mood

Sometimes you paint something in much the same way you’d go for a walk.  You just decide that it would be pleasing to  be occupied with visiting an imaginary place, and in the case of art, one visits by painting.  That’s how this picture came into being.  I think I must have painted it in winter.  I was definitely in the studio and not anywhere near Hawaii.  The river, meanwhile, could be purple in nature by some rare convergence of weather and odd lighting, but chiefly this one is purple because I felt like making it that color.  Also, it’s rather a gravity defying river in its gesture. 

Sometimes you cannot explain why things have to be as they are, but the composition of this picture obeys a chromatic and compositional logic that are necessary to it.  The things that make it what it is increase it’s tropicality, and I wanted it to be very tropical.  Perhaps it became more tropical than nature herself ever is.

[Top of the post:  Tropical Ridge, by Aletha Kuschan, acrylic on canvas]

Koi Mountain

These fish are vying to reach the center.  Something’s going on there.  Others of them swim around this activity, not participants exactly, yet aware in waves of concentric bustle.

Oddly enough, this used to be a painting of a mountain.  Now it’s fish.  The mountain just wasn’t working out.  An artistic real estate transaction needed to take place.  The mountain moved out.  Fish moved in.

[Top of the post:  A Study of Koi Swimming, by Aletha Kuschan, acrylic on canvas]

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]

Computerized

Ever since discovering, by golly, that our computer had photo collage software on it (who knew?), I’ve played around with images by combining things on the computer and then altering them via the computer’s many interesting graphic features.  This “fishwave” is one result.  A photo of a heavy drapery is blended with some pictures of koi swimming and all that has been run through the washer on the permanent press cycle until it looked as you see it above.  Sometimes I paint from images like this that I’ve created on computer.  After they become paintings, they can be photographed and rerun through the same computerized process again to be transformed into something else.   Metamorphosis.

Then, too, there’s the computer between the ears with which we can attempt daring things.

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]