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Archive for the ‘A Passion for Life’ Category


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

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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

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An inventory of what I have done in my studio over the last year has proved a bit surprising—or maybe not!  For 8 months out of the 12, I have been gimped with ortho issues. A shoulder replacement in late 2017 had only just begun to heal when a hip kicked in saying, “Hey, it’s not fair. I want some of this attention.”

Two major hip surgeries later (the 1st, a total hip replacement and the 2nd, to repair a severely fractured femur with screws, metal hooks, and wires that make me think of civil engineered bridge construction) I am still hobbling and spending much of the time off my feet.

For several weeks it was 1 leg only, to navigate this “kid in an old body” to and from a cozy living room couch (my 24/7 hangout) to a bathroom (about 5 yards away), my piano right behind my couch, and an extra art studio which my wonderful husband set up for me at the nearby end of our dining room table.

Books, limited piano practice which—although done sitting down—wore me out, my French tutorial apps and a Public Television app on my I-pad (I re-watched the entire DOWNTON ABBEY), serial-shopping on Amazon (FUN/FUN/FUN!), Van Cliburn and other geniuses streaming through my devices into our fine speakers day and night (1 of which speakers was conveniently located beside my ear on my 24/7 couch), my knitting (how many cowls does anyone need?), and ART made up my life for much of 2018.

Who needs to cook, scrub floors, vacuum, and dust anyway?

I normally avoid medical discussions except with those professionals to whom Medicare is paying me to complain, but the above diatribe is to demonstrate how life can be a lot of fun under rather strange circumstances! And how art can thrive, when pain and disability prevail. One’s pain can literally be “drowned” in paint, especially the wet into wet method of working which I prefer.

Anyway, my inventory yielded a surprising 35 paintings that I actually like. (There are always the “duds” which get stashed on a shelf for possible reworking or salvaging parts; or sometimes they are so outrageous that I trash them.)

The keepers range from (3) 20″ x 24″ biggies, a 16″ x 20″, a handful of 11″ x 14″ renderings, and a preponderance of 12″ x 16″ paintings—obviously my favorite size. The paintings are predominately woodland scenes and funky individual trees—with a smattering of flowers, a sailboat in trouble, some landscapes with distant castles, a still life (my least favorite), and a huge, totally abstract on Yupo Paper which I LOVE most of all.

Although my inventory preferences are not exactly written in the proverbial stone, they are indicative—and it was fun reviewing a year of art making, body disability notwithstanding.

The year’s earnings amounted to $700.00 which constituted a donation to, and sale at, our local art group’s annual fundraiser. My dislike of office type stuff is such that I can find no record of which paintings I donated. I believe they were “masterpieces” from former years.

Also, I give paintings to interested friends and family members. As with club donations, my right hand (very happily) does not know what my left hand is doing.

I share many of my favorites via prints glued to notecards, thus bragging about my art while facilitating my passion for writing actual letters as opposed to emails.

Above are the end of 2018 renderings, hardly even dry when I photographed them with my I-phone camera. They tend to make me think of Spring, and they are my HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!

Margaret L. Been, December 31st, 2018

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How good that our celebration of Christmas falls at the darkest time of the year.  Granted, the timing falls in line with ancient pagan celebrations.  But the birth of Jesus Christ is the birth of the One True Light of the World.  And the darkest days around the winter solstice signal the gradual ascent of the sun back to our hemisphere.  

Meanwhile Psalm 139:12 tells us,“Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You,” NKJV

In our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no darkness.  When HE decrees darkness on the earth, through the rotation of our planet around the sun, life continues to thrive in the secret darkness beneath the earth.  And out of that darkness, comes new life—the flowers of spring.

We have an abundance of florists and greenhouses to span the darkening days of the year; yet there is nothing like the real thing—-blooms and greenery bursting forth from warm soil.  Fortunately for the artist, a semblance of new life in spring can prevail throughout the year!

Merry Christmas, to you readers who are literally all over the world, in case I cannot get back to this blog until next year.  I appreciate you so much!

And may you always have flowers!

Margaret L. Been — December 16th, 2018

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Throughout weeks of laying low after surgery to mend a broken femur, I have nestled close to 1 of 2 speakers which stream the finest music of the Western World from my I-Phone to my ear.

Among my favorites are Brahms’ incredibly stirring Hungarian Dances.  I have all 21 of them on my phone and pad, performed by the Berliner Symphoniker—and they make me want to fling myself around the room in wild abandon*, gimpy leg notwithstanding.

But in lieu of flinging, I have been painting—between earfuls of Brahms’ haunting Gypsy style refrains.  And the resulting art?  Well it has been wisely said that music is never neutral.  It pervades our psyche and helps to make us whom we are!

In my case, a Boho soul.  I have named the above renderings my “Boho Trees” series.  If you think the trees are strange, just blame Brahms.  Or better yet, stream his Hungarian Dances and get with the flow!

Margaret L Been — December 11th, 2018

*Flinging myself about a room in wild abandon is what I did regularly, as a young child.  My mother was a classical pianist.  She played the Hungarian Dances, and many other selections which motivated me to bounce from couch to chair, whirl in circles till I was dizzy, and then fall on the floor.  So maybe you can view the art and blame Mom!  MB

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British fine artist Ann Blockley advocates picking an art subject about which one is passionate, and then building a file of photos, sketches, word descriptions, etc. dealing with the topic.  Eventually this resource will continue to seep in and ultimately create significant art.

I love the concept of building the resource file.  One subject very dear to me, a place where I spent some beautiful university and early marriage years, is the state of Colorado,  So I have been building a file of pleasant memories, focusing on that drop dead gorgeous part of the USA.

Specifically prominent in my memory is the environs of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs—where my husband, our first child Laura, and I lived in 1956.  Our home was four rows of cottages up from Canyon Avenue on a foothill looming over stately Victorian mansions, where the wealthy of the late 1800s and early 1900s gathered to drink the allegedly-healthful waters of Manitou Springs.

In 1956, Colorado Springs was a sleepy Southwestern town of about 27,000 people—only slightly disturbed by the presence of the military, of which my husband was a part at Fort Carson.  Construction of the Air Force Academy began about the time Joe left the army for civilian life, when we returned to our native Wisconsin.

When we lived in Manitou Springs we were a young family, and we had only a primitive box camera in our limited stash of possessions—plus just a bit of extra cash for buying film.  I have only a few snapshots from that era, and naturally they are closeups of Laura—our darling first child.

So to resurrect the familiar scenic views of our neighborhood, I resorted to GOOGLE, and “he/she/or it” referred me to everything I could recall and more—views of Williams Canyon, The Cave of the Winds, the charming adobe houses and motels along Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City, and of course The Garden of the Gods which we could see from our high-on-a-foothill bathroom window in Manitou Springs.

I printed out a stack of the online photos for my file, and added a string of my own sketches, rough watercolor and colored pencil renderings, plus word impressions—samples of which are pictured above.

The above drawing of a building is noteworthy—not my crude sketch but the history of the Colorado Springs area landmark, a mini castle called Glen Eyrie.  Glen Eyrie was built in 1871 by General William Jackson Palmer—the founder of Colorado Springs.  “The Glen”, as the castle is frequently called, is set on 750 acres.  There are 97 rooms of scenic Old World ambience, now tastefully refurbished with every modern convenience.

I recall this building to be dark and mysterious in 1956, and I always wondered about it when we drove by.  Whether or not refurbishing by new owners as of 1953 had begun when we lived in the neighborhood of The Glen, I cannot recall.

But if you GOOGLE “Glen Eyrie” as it is today, as well as it was before remodeling, you will see an amazing transformation in keeping with the castle’s Old World charm.  The “new owners of 1953” were and still are a Christian Campus and Community Ministry, THE NAVIGATORS* with a combined emphasis on evangelism and Biblical discipleship.

Glen Eyrie serves as a year-round NAVIGATORS’ conference center, especially meaningful to me as two of our six children were successfully “navigated” through the University of Wisconsin system via the NAVIGATORS.  Both our son, Karl, and daughter, Martina, have spent fruitful times at Glen Eyrie.

Thus my art file is building.  I am still waiting for some fantastic art to emerge, but oh what fun anyway!  Thank you, Ann Blockley.

Meanwhile, since all of Colorado and New Mexico are special to me, I do have a backlog of paintings inspired by vacations in those states.  Come along and see for yourself.

 

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And more!

Margaret L. Been — November 14th, 2018

*THE NAVIGATORS MINISTRY was founded by an evangelist, Dawson Trotman (1906-1956).  Trotman died while rescuing a young girl from drowning in a water-skiing accident, in New York State.  Since then, the ministry which Dawson Trotman began has resonated world-wide.  The Navigators Ministry has been used by God to save countless individuals from spiritual drowning. 

A beautiful picture of the truth of Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

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Two Rivers Paperr 1

. . . the art must go on.

I am currently a one legged wonder, due to surgery upon surgery.  In 3 plus weeks I hope to be able to stand and paint but at the moment art has become a sit down affair.

Very fortunately this hiatus has included something wonderful:  handmade papers from a company called Two Rivers, deep in the British countryside.  This amazingly textured paper is produced in the centuries old pre-industrial revolution method of paper making, and it is beautiful beyond description.

I have a sketchbook of heavy watercolor sheets, and have indulgently ordered two more books.  The Two Rivers Paper is making convalescence a joy.  I feel my art does not warrant the quality and expense of the paper, but hey.  If I could, I might consider traveling to Britain to see the locale of such a delight as this handmade paper.  Since personal travel is out, I am letting the paper travel to me.

The textured paper goes well with my assortment of mixed media materials–in the above sample:  Van Gogh Oil Pastels, Elegant Writer Pens, Derwent Inktense Sticks, Derwent Watersoluble Ink Pencils, Sharpies Ultrafine Markers, and a few dashes of Da Vinci Professional Grade Watercolors.

Each evening I render an addition to my sketchbook.  While I am looking forward to standing again and working on the full sheets of paper, also from Two Rivers, the present is GOOD–making art Wherever, However.

Margaret L. Been — 11/09/18

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