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There are days when we want to paint, but do not know what! Times of desire and determination, but no actual inspiration.

That is most apt to happen to me during the winter months, “winter” meaning Wisconsin—where I am not inclined to wander around outdoors in the sub freezing and sometimes sub zero weather—-whereas in spring, summer, and autumn I spend considerable time outdoors. Since most of my inspiration comes from nature . . . well you can complete the thought!

Unlike many Wisconsin people, I am a winter wimp—contented to enjoy the beautiful snowy views from our cozy home rather than on skis, or in an ice fishing shack on a frigid lake.

Of course there is always nature outside our windows, at the bird feeders and across a quiet park to a forest and prairie preserve. But there are still times without a specific subject in mind for painting! And this year the snow and cold came early to our Badger State*. Like in October.

On days without a subject in mind, I simply spray my paper, dab on some colors and let them rip—tipping and bending the paper to see what the paint will do. In the above case, I DID use a brush to create kind of a bowl shape—thinking perhaps the paint (plus a bit of India ink) would decide to make a still life. But that is ALL I did—except to jiggle the paper and then press plastic food wrap over the surface while the colors were still wet.

The next day, when I removed the plastic, I was astonished. There was the face and partial body of a kitty. The colors and plastic wrap had produced a kitty! This is especially amazing to me because ever since last March we have had the most wonderful feline pet—Louie—a precious gift to my husband and me, from one of our daughters.

Our Louie is not blue; he is a gorgeous gray and taupe tabby with black stripes and markings that match on each side of his body—like seams in a well tailored garment. But I have never been much concerned with realism in my art. And I do have a lot of photos of Louie, for realism!

Maybe there is something to our subconscious being involved in our art. But I’m satisfied to believe that the paint, covered with plastic wrap, did the job! Maybe some of you viewers see a canine friend in the rendering, rather than our Louie. That’s okay. We’ve shared our hearts and space with many dogs, as well!

Margaret L. Been — November 12, 2019

*Possibly some readers may not know why Wisconsin is called the “Badger State”. Back in the 1800s, Cornish miners settled here, and mined lead and tin from the hills along the Wisconsin River. Before they built homes, the early miners slept in caves dug into the hills—like the animal badgers prevalent in the area.

Hence, we are Badgers, and proud of it—even though some Wisconsinites cause confusion by walking around with a foam facsimile of a wedge of cheese on their heads. MLB

Summer’s Demise

There is no way I will spend much time indoors when summer is fleeting. Rain or shine I can be outdoors either on our roofed-and-sheltered-on-three-sides patio, or out in the gardens. Every possible ounce of soul food (plus actual vitamin D) is in the process of being stashed

Like our resident chipmunks scurrying hither and thither with their cheek pouches loaded, I am hoarding a storehouse of images with camera and paints. But rather than scurry hither and thither, I move as slowly and deliberately as possible—unwilling to miss any of the fragrance, sights, or sounds of summer’s demise.

This laidback mentality is something I desire to maintain year around, and often succeed—especially at my vintage age when life is carefree and just plain fun! But during summer’s demise, lazing around is no trick. It just comes naturally!

Even my paint brushes are relaxed. They scarcely move—letting the paint do most of the work with a bit of help from me tipping and bending the paper. With lots of juicy watercolor and gouache, the artist is simply a behind-the-curtains director—welcoming the ad-libbing and improvising that occurs on stage.

Such are the lazy days of summer’s demise. ENJOY!

Margaret L. Been — 9/4/19

Rather Funky!

Last week I created the above atmospheric scene and was quite happy with it. So, in the above position I initialed the painting and then realized I had signed it upside down after matting. Not to be discouraged by anything, I covered the initials with my trusty friend, gouache. Then I accidentally dropped a bloop of gouache on the mat.

Next, I decided to simply paint the mat—rather than waste it by removing it, or adding another mat on the top. Also, I added a bit of mystery by gouaching over some of the color with white.

Above is the finale. This may not be a huge hit, but I had a lot of fun messing it up and making a funky rendering. Later in the week I received the following photo from my Granddaughter, Nicole, in Florida, of her daughter—my Great Granddaughter Josephine, using the same technique on a family photo. I decided that great minds think alike. And funky is cool! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — July 23. 2019

Still Here

Regardless of the lure of my gardens, and the joy of spinning Merino wool mixed with gorgeous silk, I am making art. Trees seem to be stuck in my head. Oh well—Monet and haystacks, Been and trees. Not that the comparison goes beyond the fact of repeating subject matter.

In fact, I have a hilarious protection against the plight of the over-padded ego; and I have shared this with countless friends who, like me, are attached to their I-pads. Or phones. Or laptops.

Here is my protection. Just GOOGLE: “Pig Who Paints” or “Pigcasso”. This character never fails to make me smile. And she also appears to be smiling on the several U-tubes that feature her producing art. Which proves that art makes us happy whether we are a person or a porker! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — July 16, 2019


I am a fan of real correspondence, sometimes forgetting to check email for a week or two. To invoke an old saying: “Therein lies a tale.”

Since the beginning of my artmaking passion, I have been creating stationery by scanning or photographing paintings, emailing them to myself, and putting the pictures in my art file, to print out on heavy, high quality photo paper, and paste onto heavy blank stationery—preferably Strathmore’s watercolor blank cards with envelopes, available at most online art stores. (I love DICK BLICK!)

But that era is closing. The USPS is like the “old grey mare” who is not (I hate the word “ain’t” as used in the ditty) “what she used to be”; fat letters sometimes arrive at their destination all shredded and three weeks late, and some letters (fat or thin) never arrive. Our son, Eric, and I have mailed out gift cards which were stolen in the mail process—gone forever, never reaching their recipients.

Since I am still stuck in the Jane Austen era, I continue to write long letters and have discovered that gluing a picture—printed on heavy quality photo paper—onto a heavy quality note card, and mailed in a heavy quality envelope, is subject to: 1) two ounce mailing, meaning extra cost—although the recipients are worth it, or 2) possible shredding in the Post Office machines, or 3) being deliberately torn open and consequently trashed by some thief who thinks there might be a gift card within.

So “it is what it is”. In order to adjust to what may seem like old age paranoia but is indeed current age realism, I am cutting down the bulk of my letters, and making individual note cards by decorating the paper with Sharpies Ultrafine Markers, and skipping the extra weight of a glued-on heavy photo paper print.

My new stationery involves less heft and a lot more fun, as you can see above. I paint designs on the front and back of the blanks; long letters require an insert of an extra piece of lightweight computer paper. I use the logo, “Boho Designs”—since I have always been a bit BOHO, as anyone who has seen our home, or the contents of my clothes closet, will readily affirm.

I create these gems at night. We go to bed early, not to sleep but to read, listen to music, and in my case decorate the blank stationery. I do one or two in an evening, and my production is fast surpassing the output of Jane Austen style letters.

What a life! Artmaking at the end of a full day, while entertained by Van Cliburn or Joshua Bell, with my man at my side, and another “man” sleeping at my feet.*

Louie is one of the most precious gifts we have ever received. Recently our oldest daughter, Laura, moved back to Wisconsin after forty years in Bellingham, Washington. Now she lives about seven minutes from our home. Laura settled into her new-to-her condo, with Louie who has been her pal for eleven years.

After bringing Louie to our home for several visits (one an “overnight), Laura surprised us by announcing that she was giving Louie to us. From his first visit, Louie had claimed our four rooms as his very own—plus our cabinets and closets which he deftly opens and investigates. He also claimed our bed, our laps, our hearts, and (excuse the pun) a “lion’s share” of my attention. Louie is the sweetest little lion I have ever known.

Laura had mulled this gift over for months before moving here—knowing Joe and I had a huge four-legged void in our home, ever since our corgi, Dylan, reached his maximum life span and died. I am still stunned by our daughter’s kindness and generosity—a picture of sacrificial love!

Now I know I have lost all but the die-hard readers who love their dogs and cats. So here is a return to the main subject: note cards created at the end of the day!

Happy Letter Writing!

Margaret L, Been — May 6th, 2019

My friend, Gini Waltz, took this gorgeous photo on a trip to Ireland. I have been inspired to paint the venerable old tree, but began with many unsatisfactory attempts.

Photo realism of a natural landscape is out for me. In one of her books, American fine artist Barbara Nechis wrote: (I will paraphrase) “If we try to compete with nature, nature always wins.”

That quote is etched in my head, and I believe it with both head and heart! I can only do “impressions”—the start of a term famously attached to artists far beyond me in excellence and scope.

After several pencil sketches and trial runs with paint, I sat down and contemplated. Exactly what did I want to capture in my rendering of this scene? I came up with two priorities: 1) the TREE-NESS of the starring tree, and 2) the GREEN-NESS of the scene, photographed in the land of “Forty Shades of Green”.

With that analysis, I was on my way—and here is the result:

Very predictably, I love to do TREES!

Margaret L. Been — March 9th, 2019

Many Mutations

It’s that time again—when it’s all about flowers and most anything green. Spinach salads, trips to the local garden center to find more INDOOR PLANTS, dreaming of the outdoor gardens while the temperature beyond our doors and windows hovers below freezing, and frequently below zero.

The end of our lane contains a pristine white mountain, where the plow has heaped snowfall after snowfall so that we in our condo community can get out of our garages. This is Wisconsin, USA, and that snow mountain may be with us for several more weeks. But all I can think is FLOWERS.

The above allusion to flowers has seen many mutations since its beginning in late January. Several times it almost got pitched in the recycle bin, but with each frustrating session I came back with renewed vigor and determination. I simply had to have something to show for the New Year!

This painting is 16″ x 20″, and is now framed in a lovely antique wood frame, on the wall beside my piano. I like the rendering, but up until a couple of days ago I definitely did not! Here is why: It started out with a photo realism approach—something that normally doesn’t work for me! The flowers were a dark magenta, with blobs of yellow here and there and something that was supposed to represent sky—in overly predictable blue.

The magenta was overpowering. My well educated husband walked by my art table and preempted my thoughts by commenting, “It needs some white.”

So I attacked the magenta flowers with white gouache (always my friend in coverups.) But somehow the white took over. More yellow. More magenta. Then some alizarin crimson to deflect the winey magenta.

Then more yellow to light it up even more, more blue to anchor the piece to the table—but this time aqua blue, always a winner. This all sounds fast and frenzied, but it took weeks punctuated with days for drying (I tend to gob the paint on thickly), excursions to our local medical clinic where our body parts are kept in running order, and time out to eat and be sociable. And sometimes I slept.

Finally the paper was so clotted with layers of watercolor and gouache IMPASTO style, that I had a fleeting sense of nausea. “You are going to have a bath,” I almost shouted at the paper which was actually curling up on its edges from the barrage of paint.

A bath indeed. Not a shower, but a soaking in our kitchen sink. I brought the dripping mess back to my table and plunked it down thinking I would attack it once again, as it began to dry. But then the magic appeared.

The gross top layers of paint were gone. Somehow much of the yellow had turned to a soft green when blending into the aqua. The magenta/crimson combo had turned a light lavender when confronted with shades of blue. While the paper was still damp, I covered it with plastic food wrap and squished the wrap with my fingers to create creases.

When I removed the plastic the next day, I felt like apologizing to what I found—a lovely bit of art for which I could hardly take credit. As is so often the case, the paint knows best! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — March 2nd, 2019