The more things change, the more they stay the same — a good saying for artists who are practicing in the way that Degas advised them to do: “you must redo the same thing ten times, a hundred times.”
I made this little koi pastel above so that I could be often practicing the colors and positions of the koi fishes. It measures about 12 1/2 x 11 inches. It’s practice for a painting measuring 40 x 60 inches.
These are guppies for the big pond.
I have redrawn this motif again and again. Sometimes it transforms.
A kind of drawing of the water – as of that pool at night — in tones — abstract but describing the surface of the water in its forms. Da Vinci did this. What did he say about such drawing?
But Bonnard is the one who teaches how to simplify a complex thing and the value of observing the details even without a context. To understand the thing, to fix it in memory, to savor and live with it. A part that adumbrates the whole. Or that longs for it
I have wanted to stay on vacation forever! But I am getting back to work.
For days I have not drawn, have not written, or read anything. I have walked. I have stared at the walls or at the clouds. I have watched time float by like time was a cloud. Delicious doing nothing. Oh, I will miss you, sweet nothing.
I had a big piece of canvas draped over an empty stretcher for a long time. Well, finally got the staple gun loaded and got to work. The canvas was stretched, the idea was laying there ready to begin, and I’ve begun work on the last large koi painting of the season. I know that I’ll want to do others, maybe next year or a few years hence, but for now I’m in finishing mode. All the koi are coming up to the surface — so to speak — getting their last layers of paint. The pond will be stocked. The fish can just swim. And afterwards I’ll begin a new series on some other topic.
The last koi picture has perhaps some added allure for me. Call it the finale. Accordingly, for me, this canvas feels most like a dip in the water. The innate beauty of the color blue captivates me now while I work. This picture is one in which the water and its fluidity will provide the central theme. Added to the indulgent pleasure of the motif, I’m using acrylic paint this time so that the work goes much faster. Usually I love oil for the exact opposite reason — its slowness, its nuance — but I’m dolloping large puddles of color, pushing loaded brushes at this canvas, letting the shapes happen fast, thinking and reacting in one gesture. It’s really a lot like swimming — which seems just about right.
The painting is still new, lots of work ahead. It sits at the end of a long gallery of fellow fish. It’s my delight to see in the morning. It reminds me why I first began painting. This big pond will, I hope, make the spectator feel as free a fish! Oh, may we truly know the delight of life on our blue planet.
I’ve been playing around with a certain idea for a long time without making a painting of it. It’s based on a dog we had — now deceased for several years — he was — how should I put this? — athletic. So I had this idea of Spottie Leaping Through the Forest. His name was Spot. (For Star Trek fans he was named after Commander Data’s cat.) And he leaps through the forest because he’s hunting. Our dog loved to chase squirrels, and a couple of unfortunate squirrels got caught too. Spottie was fast.
It was to be my version of Henri Rousseau. However, it still hasn’t quite made it into paint.
Nevertheless, I’ve made a bunch of sketches and even made a computerized collage from photos collected from the internet. Evidently I printed out a postage stamp-sized version of the computer collage and pasted it into a notebook below a pen and ink sketch. Funny the idle things you do, that you forget about, and then later rediscover one day while cleaning.
In the miniature version above a whitish layer of something photographic seems to create a water’s surface as though some of the image is above the water and some things are underwater. I never noticed this before today. I don’t remember noticing this quality in the computer collage when it was printed full size. So, sometimes the endless fiddling around that one does while playing with images creates new possibilities.
It’s a slight thing, but I like the idea that I could portray the surface of the water and things underneath it.
Color conveys mood. One question I begin my koi paintings with is what color blue will predominate? For this particular painting my studies help me decide whether one fish (now in a leading role) will be a soft pale orange or a richly saturated orange. The color of the fish is especially important since orange and blue are optically opposite. If the fish is richly colored he will stand out in a maximal way, and if he is a quietly pale orange he will make a much less forceful impact.
I’m thinking this little fish deserves a big personality, but I’m trying to make certain the whole painting will balance. This study tries the quieter color. It’s also the first time I’ve dealt with the dark fish who dives downwards.
Today was drawing day. I made three studies for the koi paintings. The freedom of drawing is exhilerating. Beginning an idea from the blank page always delights me, but I am supposed to be finishing paintings. Well, this way I get to eat my cake and have it too. I am “working on” the painting — indirectly. I am trying out ideas, rehearsing my lines, all of which gives me necessary practice for the painting. But I still get to begin from blank.
The version above is a compositional sketch for the whole painting. In the next couple posts I make studies of the group around the dark fish.
My painting of the koi (originally posted on July 14) is coming along. It’s not finished yet, but the fish are beginning to swim to the top. I please myself in the discovery that many of my pictures seem to contain metaphors about painting. (I love the art of painting, and hope that I am and always will be her champion.)
Just as the last layers of paint are the ones that really make the image exist, so the coming of the fish to the surface is like the idea arising into sight. Ideas in art come to us from depths, like images from dreams. But in the act of painting we bring them toward the light and make them visible.
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]
When artists go fishing, it’s a little different sort of thing than when most people fish. I’ve begun a series of koi paintings that occupy most my time. Of course, the fish in the drawing are obviously not koi. They are just fish. They’re friends. My generic fish that swim in the notebook in search of a fine blue stream. They are rambling fish of imagination and dreams. They come to cheer me on in my larger project that I’m just now beginning.Come visit my store on CafePress!
[Top of the post: Swift Swimming Fish of Dreams, by Aletha Kuschan, drawing in a notebook]