the artist’s studio at rush hour

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Traffic is kinda backed up in the artist’s studio — too many flowers — it’s wall to wall paintings here in the artist’s studio traffic jam.

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flowers in the darkness

bouquet still life with striped cloth

Black can be a particularly challenging color to use.  It is very bold and rich.  It’s so absolute in value that it’s hard to create an atmospheric effect using it.  The black in this painting is mostly composed of dark browns made from burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.  It breathes a little.  But I want the mystery of the very darkest background.  In this painting and in some others, I have explored the sensation of an atmospheric deep shadow.

All the other elements serve some role in striving after that effect.  Its size also participates in the experiment.  It’s a largish picture, measuring 44 x 34 inches.  I want to create a life-sized feeling of the space.

Golden: Two Bouquets on a Table

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Two vases of roses sit on a honey colored wooden table.  The far edge of the table is visible on one side and the rest is covered by a shimmering yellow-gold cloth.  Behind the whole scene is a violet colored cloth.  Both vases are abundantly stocked with roses.  One bouquet sits in a clear glass jar. The other, a white pitcher, is also filled with numerous roses of many colors.  One single spent rose lies flat on the table.  Beside it sit three bright orange persimmons.  In between the two vases sits a blue pedestal bowl. A few other objects of ambiguous identity sit behind or beside the white pitcher.

This is one of the most complex still lifes I’ve ever painted so far.  While it is challenging to capture the flowers since they soon perish, it’s also important to make something of all the relationships of all the things.  The design on the cloth, its fold and foreshortening are the gravity of the picture. Everything has to sit upon that gold field and seem to belong there, and to seem as if it might always be there in that forever sense of art.  Long after the real flowers have faded and disappeared the appearance of the flowers can still last.  And the picture has to hint in the direction of that poetry, has to become a memory of things seen.

Golden: Two Bouquets on a Table is a pastel painting on sanded paper measuring 18 x 24 inches.

seashell blue

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When an artist paint things, she always hopes that others will understand the thing the way she understands it. The little seashell painting (9 x 12 inches in size) catches a mood for me (who am far from the sea) of water, waves and wind.  The conch is a tropical animal and even the warmth of a faraway place comes to me when I portray the shells.

The nervous brushstrokes are the way I experience drawing the object whose forms are so incredibly lovely and complicated.  I love following all the passages of color than I can manage to imitate.  I am always longing to imitate all of it, everything that I see, and I don’t know if that is possible.  But the longing is an end in itself.  I cherish the longing that the beauty of the seashell evokes.

color scheming

seashell red and yellow backgr 2

Sometimes I put the seashells into color environments that recall their ocean homes.  Sometimes I plunge them into a set up of bright colors that I favor.

Here the seashell is not ocean artifact — it is still life object, sitting on a tabletop covered by a yellow leaf and floral patterned cloth with brilliant red and bright violet backgrounds adjacent.  I realize now that some of my paintings record the evolution of still life table changes, that the different colored backgrounds feature a succession different objects as I cycled through various color and pattern choices, using them for various different objects.  Thus the same color scheme used for this seashell appears also with one of the flower pictures.

The still life table is like a theatre stage and the still life objects are actors that appear in different scenes of the drama.

Green Pitcher with Flowers

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Visits to the thrift store are staples of an artist’s still life experience.  I like thrift shops not merely because they are thrifty, but because they are the opposite of trendy.  They preserve the past, and often that past they preserve is a peculiarly ordinary and everyday past.

Finding the green pitcher was one of those wonderful thrift store discoveries that every flea market aficionado loves.

The pitcher has no value in a monetary sense, but it is visually rich.  It’s one of those objects that lends itself to numerable interpretations. Placing it into this still life gave the flowers a new character.  I had been portraying the same hardy flowers over the course of several days (it is amazing how long well-tended cut carnations will stay fresh).

The green becomes a factor.  The green of the pitcher, colored like a grassy lawn, brings its own associations of spring, evoking the sense of a landscape where flowers bloom.  Of course this vase has its own porcelain flowers, too, ones that decorate its waist.  A bright gold-yellow cloth and variegated violet and pale linen-colored cloth behind the flowers create a light-filled scene.

Green Pitcher with Flowers is a pastel painting measuring 15 1/4 x 21 inches.

 

Teaching drawing at MPA soon!

MPA refers to the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, Virginia, and I’ll be teaching drawing there during the winter session.  Here’s some of the things that class participants can look forward to doing.

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Continuing Drawing
For both beginning and continuing students seeking to improve their skills. Hone your drawing and observational skills in this dynamic class as you draw from life and subjects of your choice. Gesture, line, proportion, mass, volume, value, tone, perspective, and shading will be covered. This class will provide a strong foundation for any level. Optional prerequisite: I’ve Never Held a Pencil: Drawing for Beginners.
Instructor: Aletha Kuschan
9 lessons @ 2 hrs, $260/235 MCC district residents
6607.317         Tu, 1/17-3/14              4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
The class features a systematic and fun introduction to many, varied ways of making drawings.  We’ll draw things from life.  We’ll draw things from memory and imagination.  We’ll make quick adventurous, exploratory sketches and we’ll do sustained and probing drawings of things.  We’ll create tableaus of objects to discover the theatrical side of art.  We’ll look for ways to reduce inhibitions about trying new things, and we’ll talk about how artists get new ideas for their art — both technically and narratively.  This class is the big buffet table of drawing, and I guarantee it will be a lot of fun.  Beginning artists will dive into a ton of interesting things to explore and experienced artists can find ways to advance their own goals by a careful reassessment of the foundational skills.
Some features of the class are outlined in more detail at this post, including what materials artists need to will need to have.
https://fantabulouskoi.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/everything-about-continuing-drawing-at-mpa-this-winter/
Here’s a link to MPA’s website.  Class registration opens on December 12!
https://mpaart.z2systems.com/np/clients/mpaart/event.jsp?event=279

again, the fish vase

 

101_8955 (2)Today I’m making an oil study of the fish vase and have just begun indicating the object that’s beside it — the frog tea pot.  An earlier post showed the fish vase in watercolor and again in oil pastel.  This time I’m using oil paint.  Each medium helps one think about visual features in different ways.

All that plus they say that practice makes perfect.

I like looking at the changing lights across the surface of the vase.

An earlier version of this oil study looked like this:

fish vase oil