I’m in a drawing mood today and in a mood for dreams. Vicariously I go back through bits of the past and visit also (who knows?) bits of future too. With snow still on the ground, I enter the spring and even the summer. The birds are making noise and insects congregate in clouds. The air is mild. The sun scatters light through leaves and sunlight prints leaf shadows across the lawn.
There’s a sign at the National Arboretum beside the koi pond telling visitors that the koi are “shy” in winter. They descend to the bottom of the koi pond where the water is very cold, but not frozen (that would be very bad for the fishies), and they just hang out down in the depths and dream their way through the cold months.
I’m being rather koi-like myself this December, having travelled to North Carolina where my mom has begun the first half of cataract surgery. Happily I can report that her first surgery has gone splendidly. We were to have returned to Washington, DC, where she will be our guest for a while, except that two feet of global warming has slowed things down in the US capital. Thus, far away from my computer (the post comes to you via the local public library), I have been virtually incommunicato in this Internet age. But, actually, it’s not so bad to revert to doing things the way that I always used to do them — writing in a notebook. Those of us who are middle-aged have one foot in the habits of old and new technologies. Herein lies the advantage of middle-age (yes, there actually are advantages): one occupies the fulcrum point of the era.
Anyway, at the bottom of my winter pond of dreams I see tall pines and blue skies filled with puffy clouds. North Carolina is wonderfully mild in winter, cold enough to tell you it’s December, though not the least bit harsh. Since I will probably not return to regular blogging for a while longer, let me use this occasion to wish all my past and future readers, a Merry Christmas. May you find inspiration in this season of introspection to light your New Year. — Aletha
Back in May, I posted a still life I made many years ago of a cabbage and potatoes. This drawing is its distant cousin.
I drew this from a photograph, and like the lake of two posts ago, I find it provides a good practice for some drawing outdoors that I’m hoping to do — en plein air. But it also has the same basic forms as the earlier still life. Indeed, I was thinking of getting some potatoes and inventing a landscape from a still life perhaps?
One of the wonderful things about drawing is the way it lets you take imaginative journies. I can vicariously visit the rocky outcropping by drawing it from a photo. And I can travel there even with some potatoes too? I don’t necessarily need a travel agent to find a locale that’s very bucolic and peaceful where I can bask in the warmth of the sun.
Alice is doing well in the first rounds of Cat Fishing Competitions at Beijing. As you probably know, the cats have to climb down the ropes, catch a fish at the rope’s end, and successfully carry the fish back up the rope to the end. So far Alice has only dropped one fish and hasn’t fallen into the water even once. (Cats hate that, you know.)
She’s been doing fabulously well at this Olympics! I’ll keep you posted on her progress.
[Top of the post: Summer Olympic: Fishing Competition, by the young artist of the household]
Mouse tennis is not an Olympic sport with which most people are familar. The name may mislead you. It’s not a game for mice. It is a game cats play with mice. (Poor mouse!) It is very much like regular tennis, only some unfortunate mouse has to be the ball. Alice has made a very strong showing from the beginning, but had to earn her triumph.
Alice the Cat beat Miss Callico and won the match in an 8-6 nail-scratcher. The match started slowly, with Miss Callico going up three games to none, but Alice the Cat came back to tie it 4-4. Afterwards they traded games until Alice finally won two in a row to take the match. As you can see, the crowd went wild. Congratuations Alice!
For mouse lovers in the audience, you’ll be glad to know the tennis mouse escaped before the traditional, triumphant mouse “snack” could take place. Consequently Alice celebrated her win after the game with a bowl of dim sum over at Sagwa’s house.
[Top of the post: Alice’s Mouse Tennis match at the Beijing Olympics, by the young artist on the premises]
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]
I found a quote by Yogi Berra saying, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” My sentiments exactly. Life presents us constantly with paths, so many that one must always be choosing something. Does an hour go by without presenting possibilities?
A painting with a path depicted in it is as enigmatic as a Yogi Berra quote, since of course you cannot really take such a path very far — only as far as what you see. A painting has no path in it at all. It’s just a flat surface with colors. And yet it tells you about a path you see in imagination. And, of course, you’re free to take that one.
It is impossible to paint something like this without reference to Matisse. Still I think one can evoke Matisse while being fully oneself, idiosyncratic and contemporary. It’s also quite possible to find a little El Greco in one’s desire to make an image like this one. I like conversing visually with old painters translating their notions into my era’s slangy modern idiom.
This landscape is a retrospective glance. I first painted this motif many years ago, so many years ago I’ve lost track. However, this latter day version is quite different while simultaneously being quite the same as its older counterpart. It is as though one strolls through a landscape that one has known all one’s life. But then isn’t painting always like that?
Sometimes I think that I am just painting one picture. It is merely the seasons that change.
Some complicated things are quite easy. Interesting paradox. In the previous post I wrote about my dream of a drawing discipline that seeks complexity. I’m looking for a Few Good Artists!
Well, I’ve got to tell you my reader stats fell into the basement. Readers, come back! I’m not talking Everest here. You already do a highly complex eye/hand/brain coordination task that has become so easy, you hardly notice that you do it. You write!
Cursive. Beautiful cursive. Don’t the words alone transport you back to second grade? Cursive involves eye/hand and small motor coordination that is far more demanding than what an artist uses in a typical drawing.
You’re already doing really hard stuff, guys! So, now I’m sending you on a new mission: a Mission Possible!
Draw. Draw wonderful and challenging things. Draw, darn it! (And that’s an order.)