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

thoughts, words, but no picture

I believe in opposites (a thing and its foil) as a good principle for learning.

crying gal
Updated with a picture: there’s no use crying over Negative Space.

 

My first drawing of the still life naturally focused on the objects. You see the stuff. You draw the contours around the stuff. But I was wondering now if maybe I’d get a better handle on the idea of the painting by looking more closely at the negative spaces. The only problem is that there are no negative spaces to look at — or maybe it’s ALL negative spaces ever since I disassembled the still life.

It’s a small room. Anyway, I didn’t want to be too dependent on the actual still life this time. And I wanted to travel in hero Pierre Bonnard’s shoes a bit.  More about memory.

I guess now’s a good time to look at Bonnard again with the negative spaces particularly in mind.

I just wrote a post about that sort of thing – the spaces between spaces — a day or so ago. That’s probably why I’m thinking about it now. I was looking at the sketch for the still life and wondering how it would be to think about everything that I wasn’t thinking about when I drew it. The task is greatly complicated by the absence of the actual still life!

Nonetheless (never one to be deterred) there are other ways to think about the spaces between things, even when drawing from memory. I can put parts of the still life together temporarily. I can also just have a whack at drawing the stuff between the stuff (even from imagination) and see what new stuff emerges.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

narrating

The leaves on the tree outdoors

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or the panes of glass considered individually, seen in late afternoon. This painting with a window has so many possible ways of being taken apart, with each section of the image being like a portal that one can enter.

When did my fascination with still life begin? Maybe it was in childhood when I would stare at the row of figurines that my grandmother collected that lined her front windows, row upon row of strange curiosities in her narrow little house in southeast Washington.

The owl is a big figurine and the bird on the bud vase is another feathered companion. I’m not sure why they’re in the painting. Central casting sent them here. What am I supposed to do with them?

An earlier version of the owl looks like this:

owl in watercolor

I’m going to figure out how to get the pattern across the vase, particularly along the edge. I’m going to keep drawing it until I can find a version that’s flat and right in tone and color.

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more notes to self/early stages

The color contrast in the photograph

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of this watercolor in its initial stage brings a violet into the picture that isn’t actually there. I wonder if I shouldn’t put violet into the wall of actual painting. Wouldn’t violet be better, and probably truer, to the light effects at dusk? Since the room’s interior is lit with warm yellow light, it’s hard to say what would be going on around the edges of the window, whether those passages would be yellow or violet, warm or cool.

There have been a bunch of things that I’m aware I need to solve. The falling off of the table was a question from the outset, when the still life was actually assembled. I was seeing the motif from two different angles. Now I’m trying to figure out how to split the difference.  The pattern of the cloth logically follows that decision. And how is it to look down at the cloth as it falls away when the painting is hanging on the wall?

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I was also just now wondering if the painting could reflect, could be about, a state of innocence. That possibility immediately brought to mind Fra Angelico’s San Marco frescoes. But I was also just thinking about the parlor of elderly woman whose home I visited thirty years ago, the woman who lived across the street from the church. The loveliness of that room was a microcosm of a whole civilization.

It’s such a beautiful day outside. The cool weather comes inside through the open windows, giving the rooms an oceanic feeling. We could be on a great ship sailing toward some magical place. The slow pace of life, awareness of the weather outdoors, shifts of light, movement in the leaves, interior and exterior meeting at the window are all qualities I want to materialize in this still life.

The flowers on the table. The flowers patterned on the cloth. The space that extends outdoors with the tree that’s visible on the other side of the glass, and also the reflections on the glass that are like a crystalline barrier. The panes of glass at the hour were reflecting the images of things inside the room. There were so many intersections of images meeting at the window panes.

An earlier version:

flowers window

Things I forgot about

Behold the roses I completely forgot I had painted.

roses

I had arranged a bunch of things, which I photographed and posted on facebook. I found them a short while ago when I went there looking for the earlier version of the owl.

It’s a strange thing to paint pictures and then utterly forget that they have even existed.

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I remember painting the doll, but not the fruits. I wonder where this stuff is now …

the wise old owl at midnight

I drew the owl late last night.

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In dark owl time I drew him darkly to begin thinking about his wise place under the flowers in the large still life in front of the window at twilight. These are not the colors of the picture. They are the colors of the corner of the room at that comfortable hour. For the quiet nocturnal enjoyment of drawing inky shadows, I arranged him in a mantel of blues and blacks far removed from the light and airy pictorial table under flowers.

But this drawing is for getting better acquainted with the owl, not for figuring out the specifics of the painting — which is still a plan for a painting, not an actual painting.

I took some photos of the set up, back when it existed. It’s long since been disassembled. The camera distorts all the relationships between objects so that they don’t conform at all to the large cartoon I made for the painting. But the mind distorts things, too.

And yesterday I added the window behind the flowers using the blue pastel made at twilight, added it in a pen drawing, the first version of the altered idea.

The idea of the owl in that sketch is fuzzy and scribbly. The scribble version by its incompleteness can offer suggestions of ways to go forward with the idea. Indeed that is the chief virtue of scribbles, their openness to suggestion, the ways that they reveal possible paths without insisting on any singular interpretation.

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And now it’s sunny outdoors, a lovely bright and warm spring day.

UPDATE: In response to Judith’s comment I’ve included a close up of the owl in the drawing (the ability we have now to enlarge digital photographs this way is marvelous).

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The owl is an inch high in the actual drawing. You can see if you look closely that his body was longer at one point and that I just indicated his face and the holes for the candle light in his body by a few marks then sort of scratched over the whole to make him dark. The whole concept is gestural and quick.

There’s a kind of drawing where you just record your ideas and you don’t fuss over them. Imagine how many drawings one can make in a day — when there are no worries. And if you are, nonetheless, being specific about the thoughts then the drawing still records a lot of information. Think of it as like taking notes.  It’s not a kind of drawing to submit to “critiques” (you would never invite someone to critique the notes you take at a meeting, would you?) and yet sometimes such drawings will turn out to have a delight all their own.

 

plans postponed

We’ve had a lot of rain.

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I began a little still life from the objects stored on the shelf. They were not set up to be “the still life,” I just store them on the shelf. But each time I look at them, their arrangement beckons. The other day I started a drawing in low light. The photograph below shows the objects but not the lighting which is too slight for my photography.

shells on the shelf

I love being in a slightly darkened room, drawing things I like. But the rain has taken away so much sun that I cannot work on this any further today.

studio today

I even had a still life I was doing from life in sunny light and I haven’t worked on it in weeks. All the still life objects have a layer of dust on them. But as diligent as one would like to be, you cannot fight Nature.

She has set her heart on rain, so rain it will be. Perhaps I should start portraying landscapes of rain.

As for today, and its faintly realized still life, the other thing I like is the arrangement of things as they’re stumbled upon. To discover the composition while making it, while looking at it — while staring over a length of days of idle thought. I picked a sheet of Canson pastel paper. It is the size it is. I had no idea how much of the scene even to include, had no notion where the edges would be. I just began drawing that first sea shell that I particularly love and let the other things gather round it.  I didn’t even know where to place the sea shell on the sheet. I just began.

I don’t know what it will all look like when it’s finished. And of course I don’t know when it will stop raining, when the light will come back.  This is why it’s good to have many projects. Eventually one will come off.

 

pastel experiment continued

pastel still life

In anticipation of the pastel class that I’m going to be teaching at McLean Project for the Arts in the fall, I’m experimenting with pastel materials for newcomers, and because the sanded surfaces are so marvelous to use, I’m trying to find a way to make-your-own so that students can enjoy the process without buying expensive sanded papers. I’m fully persuaded that a solution is out there, but I haven’t found it with this first trial.

I got some Golden pumice mix and it turns out to be a little too sandy for my task. It will eat the pastels up thoroughly and given the cost of pastels, that’s not a happy development. It’s a wonderful material such as it is and so I’m trying to figure out what I’ll do with it.  It might be better used with a composite technique of some sort.  For now, though I push on with my search.  Golden makes a “pastel” surface too.  I guess I’ll try that one next.  Maybe I should have trusted the label that said “pastel.”

In the detail below, you can see the surface effect more vividly. It’s not unattractive, but it’s not the thing I’m looking for which is a moderately toothy surface that holds pastel without eating the pastels up.

pastel still life detail

The little object outlined in the foreground is a clay whistle shaped like a bird with its wings outspread.

 

Far from sea

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I put the shells onto many different kinds of backgrounds, backgrounds that are not ocean, not sand. The olive ground is earthy, almost like grass.  The shell has a sort of wing, like a stone bird. Drawing the sea shell launched it into a sort of motion that I never intended.  Drawing often leads to various surprises. Draw to learn, draw to see, draw to think.

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The little sea shell is dwarfed by koi.

The pastel is dust.  Shell of dust, colored like earth and sky.