Flowers future

If you can imagine it, you can draw it.  Took me many years to realize this fundamental fact about drawing.  Much of the work of becoming an artist is caught up in learning how to “imagine it,” — in even recognizing what “imagining it” means.

I was looking at these flowers when I drew them, but the whole act of looking involves an imaginative gesture too.  The image of “what you think you see” as it organizes itself in your mind.

Thinking small

Began another honey jar painting.  Feels like I’m beginning to paint for the first time, as though I haven’t done still life painting in eons, though I began one just a couple weeks ago.  I have many questions as I look at my little set up.  What a confusing, rich and complex cosmos a still life is.  Got so thoroughly befuddled that I had to make a second smaller painting (above), focusing on just the jar alone, and find that even just the jar has so many baffling features.  Elipses and corners and curving-away-from-you highlights …. While I figure out the small theatre stage of my complicated still life actors, I need to eat some honey.  Need something to soften the shock!

So much to look at in so small a space.  How did Chardin manage?  It’s all I can deal with to attempt painting just a few little things.

Crayon Burn

All in a rush about work!  The morning begins with drawing and the evening ends with drawing.  I have to make several paintings this week and next, and the only way I can do it is to draw.  First I draw, and I can develop ideas without having to think very much.  And at the moment I do not wish to think!  I haven’t the time!

Some of the drawings I made today might reflect a bit of intellection.  But mostly, it was see, point, shoot.  Still — even just looking can become wearying even when it makes one feel delightful and buoyant!  Though I am tired, I have to keep running!  So, I made these drawings to be quicker than quick, drawings which I can attest are completely devoid of any thoughts at all!

Van Gogh says something that describes my day and its speed, though he was less lifted by it:

I’m also utterly incapable of judging my own work. I can’t see whether the studies are good or bad. I have seven studies of wheatfields,5 unfortunately all of them nothing but landscapes, much against my will. Old gold yellow landscapes — done quick quick quick and in a hurry, like the reaper who is silent under the blazing sun, concentrating on getting the job done.  [To Emile Bernard. Arles, Wednesday, 27 June 1888]

He felt, for the reasons of his time and circumstances, that he must judge his work and not being able to do so was wearying.  For me, however, modern girl that I am, not judging is part of my whole goal for these drawings.  Merely to draw, to draw a lot, to draw quickly, to get down many things, to pass through many images, to keep my fingers moving, moving, moving.

Quick, quick, quick!

Return of the Dundee Jar

My little white jar of Dundee Marmelade has returned.  Don’t know why I love it so.  Love is just that way.  Fickle, you know.  When I cast about for something to draw, sooner or later my eyes land upon the little jar, and I feel it beckoning.  Smooth and white like porceline, heavy with marmelade, subtle in its whites that softly reflect every adjacent object in muted tones, I just cannot resist.  And the name “Dundee” printed so magestically, confidently.  It was the constant object of my admiration today.

The ways of drawing cylinders is something that every art student encounters eventually.  Some rules of perspective provide a recipe for a cylinder that will always receed properly, whose top will form just the right oblique oval to tell how a little jar stands with respect to God and gravity, that will make it seem as properly symmetrical as in truth it is. 

But do the eyes see this symmetry?  Or, at least can we question whether we see it all the time in its rationality?  We have two eyes, and each one sees something slightly different, and between the two of them a highly inquisitive and perceptive viewer can detect the deflections of thought between right and left and this way and that.  Perhaps unconsciously we note the discrepencies between our two eyes and catch glimpses of the irregular cylinder presented in stereo to competing optic nerves?

I like to think that my cylinders are not incorrect, just lovingly observed twice.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this jar, but these drawings are like casting actors for roles.  These are the auditions.

And finally, below, we see the jar as it is — in itself — not in character but in ordinary life.

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]

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]

My Cezanne

There’s no better way to understand an artist than to walk a mile in his shoes.  This is one of many studies I’ve made of Paul Cezanne’s Vase de Fleurs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

I have written about art before

I’ve written two previous blogs.  One here and one here.  I originally wrote these other blogs anonymously, thinking that it would get me more freedom not to be linked to my comments.  Now I look upon that as writing anony-mousely and have decided to be bold.  I’ve also written one other place, but am not ready to be bold about it just yet.  I withhold the last for the sake of suspense!  My needle in the haystack has some surprises ahead for whenever someone discovers me!

There are some wonderful blogs being written by artists today and someday perhaps a great many of the best of them will be linked together.  I think there’s some technologically-minded people working on finding the gems among them.  Until that time I shall have to depend upon chance!  But I linked to as many good blogs as I found on my other sites.

This blog will begin as my stroll down memory lane as I search for the ideas that led me to make various pictures.  I’m trying to find the meanings hidden in them, after the fact.  I am just learning to sell now after having spent more years (than I’m comfortable admitting to) learning to paint.

This drawing was a study for a painting.  Studies do not always precede the painting as, in art history classes, one is sometimes led to believe.  This study was made from the painting I was working on.  If you’re an aspiring artist yourself, take note!  When I’m stuck on a painting or just want to reacquaint myself with it — from the start, as it were — I draw things like this.  However, on this particular drawing I had help.  My then infant daughter decided to get in some licks of her own.  Those would be the scribbly lines that go this way and that.  How I love them!  They enliven the image richly.  It just goes to show the affects of bravado in art!  (Infants are not timid.)