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Archive for the ‘Abstract Expressionism’ Category

Waiting for spring. Meanwhile, ideas keep surging through my head. Art concepts are ever stretching.

Since Joe and I no longer need a vehicle, we gave our well-used Honda van to a grandson who is a seminarian at a local theological center, and his wife and two year old daughter—whose name happens to be, believe it or not, Margaret Been.

A garage only has to sit empty (except for all the garden and home maintenance junk lining the walls) for a couple of days before brain seeds sprout. An outdoor room! An outdoor studio for art making and spinning gorgeous fibers into yarn. A place where kindred souls can visit, and neighbors can pause. Ever stretching!

This IS Wisconsin, which means the feasibility of enjoying a garage room is limited to the three summer months (given reasonable summer weather) and a few days at each end of the spectrum (given some surprise weather in spring and fall).

We put a small mock fireplace in the room. The decorative fireplace uses one light bulb to simulate burning logs, and a fan to blow a bit of hot air when desired—mainly for ambience, and not sufficient to handle our weather in a garage. (Indoors maybe!)

But dreams persist. Every day I linger for a few moments in this bit of summer heaven, just dreaming and thinking about family members and friends whom I will invite for art and fiber days.

I have two permanent art-making corners indoors, and I produce in these studios non-stop. Two spinning wheels, plus baskets of merino and silk in a riot of colors whirl constantly in our living room where the resulting skeins of yarn dangle from hooks and surfaces.

Art displays, a table on which to work, an area for storing brushes, paints, papers and additional art tools, another spinning wheel, and a (possible) lifetime supply of additional fibers join me in anticipating warm weather in the garage room.

My art goals are ever stretching as well—including a return to collage art between actual paintings. A few years back, I did a lot of collages from random materials and whatever abstract inspiration blossomed moment by moment.

Collages differ just as every artist is unique. Some are decidedly geometric; some feature words, photos, images of people and buildings, or symbols such as numbers. Others are more organic, kind of like an unkempt garden of color and flowing shapes. Or a messy landscape with tangled trees or turbulent seas. And mountains, plenty of mountains.

The materials are legion: gorgeous Oriental papers—Kozo, Mulberry and Rice Papers, and Japanese Lace; common old cheesecloth, tissue paper, and gauze; aluminum foil; ribbons, greeting cards, pieces of musical scores, and decorative gift wraps; wool fleece, yarn, string, and bits of fabric; seasonal and party napkins—with the backing papers torn off so the napkin design is translucent and delicate; acrylic and gouache paints—metallic and otherwise; dried leaves, flowers, twigs, and herbs; templates and stencils; poems; torn up bits of my paintings that didn’t impress me very much—-yet didn’t warrant the trash bin. Some of my kitty Louie’s fur from his grooming brush—with Louie’s permission of course!

And mediums: molding paste, gloss, matt, sand, glitter gel, gesso, bead gel, crackle gel, YES paste (although anything acrylic such as the above listed mediums plus acrylic paint acts as a glue).

Above is a sample of my collage art from a few years ago. It reminds me of some favorite things, and still hangs in our living room.

And finally, a collage of various paints and textured mediums.

Maybe our new summer garage room will facilitate the creation of more way out art! Meanwhile, Happy Stretching

Margaret L. Been — April 3rd, 2020

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Memories of Manitou Springs, Colorado

We have nearly made it through another Wisconsin winter. Not a rough one, simply a bit long!

I began the new year with a passion for creating texture in my art. The above was one of the first renderings of 2020. It hangs over our piano, beneath a huge painting of rugged cowboys rescuing cattle in a crevasse—a treasure which I found at a thrift store years ago for little more than the proverbial song.

The mountains in my (16″ x 20″) “Memories . . . .” were formed with heavy modeling paste on YUPO paper which is not really paper; it is a kind of plastic with a slick, shiny surface.*

Then I added—almost dripped—the paints in various spots, jiggled the YUPO around, made a “cuppa Joe” in our beloved Keurig, and sat down to spin beautiful silk and merino yarn on one of my two Jensen spinning wheels. (Fibers—as in spinning and knitting—are another of my many passions.)

I love just letting the surface and paint do the work, with very little interference from “moi”. The results are frequently more delightful than products of obsessive meddling with brushes.

But I do use brushes also, and they can do wonderful things, especially with florals. I begin with watercolor, paint the flowers, and then add the background.** When this dries, I go back in with GOUACHE.

The gouache builds texture and dimension similar to the effect of oil paints. Sometimes I get carried away and the textures are layered so deeply that I spray the finished painting with an acrylic fixative, as the chalky gouache is otherwise apt to crack and flake away over the years.

Probably that would not happen to paintings immediately secured under glass, but the majority of my renderings live in protective plastc sleeves until switched around with framed works, given away as a gift, or (once in awhile) sold. When I paint on gallerywrap canvas panels, I always spray with a fixative because these are never framed.

Below is an example of a floral done with watercolor and many layered gouache accents.

Again and again, I paint flowers. I think of flowers day and night. Soon we will actually see them, springing from the ground! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — March 19, 2020

* Artists either love or hate YUPO. Often the “haters” are the purists who seek detailed perfection. I do not care for detailed perfection, so I am in the group that LOVES YUPO. Good thing I don’t hanker after perfection; I am incapable of achieving it !!!

**Watercolor rules (which I am very fond of breaking) dictate BACKGROUND FIRST. I normally do BACKGROUND LAST, having been greatly inspired and influenced by fine artist Barbara Nechis who usually paints the background last, because until her piece is finished she doesn’t know what kind of a background she wants.

Good reasoning! The color of the background is most compelling when chosen from colors in the completed subject. Seeing is deciding! Plus, it is so beautiful when damp background colors subtly phase into the body of the painting—either a still life or landscape.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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