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Archive for the ‘Art Teachers’ Category

Here is another British watercolorist who inspires me again and again through her books and DVDs.  Ann Blockley creates unforgettable, unique scenes which are, in her words unlike the “candy box scenes” we are accustomed to seeing.  Rather they are imaginative, and deeply personal—inspired by sights, sounds, and fragrances of familiar places around Ann’s home in the Cotswolds.

While demonstrating techniques for using watercolor in tandem with India ink, water soluble crayons and ink sticks, salt, plastic wrap, texture and granulating mediums (employed with a relaxed realization that the tools and techniques may decide their own path on paper, different from that which the artist has foreseen) Ann has challenged me not only to experience nature with all my senses, but also to take a deeper look at my photo books and computer files of favorite places I have lived:  to let the essence of these scenes penetrate my mind and heart, with the goal of more effectively expressing beloved places in my art.

The photos recall a lifetime of favorite places including:  my small-town Wisconsin  childhood home with a quiet stream at the base of our apple orchard; the Wisconsin Northwoods and waters where we vacationed when our children were young and where Joe and I lived full time for eight years beginning in 2001; my “home away from home”, Colorado where I spent a year at school, where Joe and I lived during his stint at Ft. Carson, and where we have visited many times since; more western vacation areas—Northern New Mexico and the farthest NW corner of Washington State; and our present home in Wisconsin’s Southeastern  Lake District:  a pleasant blend of small communities northwest of Milwaukee with lakes, rivers, woods, and a few remaining farms.

I will never live long enough to even begin capturing on paper the abundance of beauty which has underscored and punctuated my 83 years.  But I’m making a start, greatly motivated by the work and encouragement of UK artist Ann Blockley.  Here are a few of many scenes which I’m studying with a mind to painting—not with photographic accuracy but rather in response to their essence, in the coming year:

my-childhood-river

my-prairie

goldenrod

autumn-bog

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under-our-windows

river-bank

gorgeous-clouds

Margaret L. Been — 1/22/17

NOTE:  If you GOOGLE Ann Blockley’s website, you are in for a TREAT!  MLB

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out-for-a-stroll-2

In upcoming blogs I would like to share helpful lessons I have gleaned from books and DVDs by contemporary professional artists.  One (among many) who has inspired me greatly is British watercolorist Jean Haines.  If you just GOOGLE her name and access Jean’s website, you will undoubtedly be as awestruck as I am by her amazing art.  I have three each of Jean Haines’ books and DVD tutorials, which I read and play again and again.

Jean teaches what I will call her “principle of three”:  When painting a subject in three parts make one the star, one less prominent, and one nearly obscure.  I am happy with the above rendering, “Out for a Stroll”, in which I applied the principle of three.

Jean frequently introduces a wash of one color on damp paper from an upper corner, followed by adding another color or colors—often contrasting—in the opposite corner from the first wash.  She leaves a space of white paper between the washes, and then dabs that space with a wet brush—inviting the colors to mix and do their own thing.

In her books and DVDs, Jean stresses the need to avoid meddling and fiddling with these first washes.  Instead, we can benefit by sitting back and basking in the beauty as the colors “fuse”.  How refreshing to forget about control, and just let the colors flow.  Later, when the initial paints have mingled and dried, details may be added—but very carefully so as to preserve the freshness of the work.  Thank you, Jean!

Margaret L. Been — December 7th, 2016

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White Roses 3

What do St. Bernard dogs, 911, and gouache have in common?  You’ve got it:  RESCUE.  The above rendering was rescued by gouache from having an unsightly case of the speckles, kind of like art measles.

A rescue job was necessary on this floral because whenever I love something I tend to go over the top, refusing to quit.  This characteristic has resulted in nearly 63 years of a great marriage, a lifelong addiction to maple sugar candy (those little maple leaves obtainable from the Vermont Country Store), and whatever painting trick has captured my heart.

I’d read about “color sanding” in books by Northern Wisconsin fine artist, Karlyn Holman but I only tried it recently.  The trick requires watercolor (or ink) pencils and sandpaper or a fingernail emery board.  When a colored pencil is shaved over wet paint, delightful speckles form—delightful that is until the entire page is covered with speckles.  I managed to do this on the above painting until suddenly the piece was (no kinder way to put it) butt ugly.

Of course great professional artists such as Karlyn Holman always recommend circumspection and moderation when it comes to tricks.  And let’s face it, the great artists don’t even need tricks; they only use them cautiously for a bit of extra fun.  🙂  Just leave it to me, to carry the “fun” to extremes.

But then, there’s always gouache to the rescue!

Margaret L. Been  —  March 5, 2016 

 

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Wisconsin Winter Dogwood 2

All the years (nearly ten!) that I’ve been making art have been satisfying, but without a doubt 2015 has been the most productive for me so far.  I’ve done more experimenting, begun to work larger (20″ x 24″), and enjoyed the privilege of exhibition opportunities including changing and hanging art four times a year at a restaurant, bank, chiropractic clinic, and hospice, and currently displaying twenty-nine watercolor and gouache paintings at a fun and trendy local restaurant.

I’m in awe of this, because it has simply “happened”.  I never dreamed of being able to display my work, and never pushed in that direction.  When we moved to the Lake Country Northwest of Milwaukee six plus years ago, I joined a group which features all artistic disciplines—mainly to get acquainted with writers and poets and find opportunities for poetry readings.

For one meeting of the group (the Pewaukee Area Arts Council) we were asked to bring visual art for a kind of “show and tell”.  I really stressed out about this.  Should I or should I not even dare to bring a few paintings to share?

For several years I’d studied via books and DVD tutorials.  I’d absorbed some basics.  I’d spent countless hours every week playing with my paints and brushes, because making art had become an overwhelming passion for me—as it continues to be today, ever-green and ever-growing.  I had consistently challenged myself with goals for trying new ideas and a variety of different methods and materials.  I’d embarked on a study of art history and past artists—an ongoing, fascinating research of which I never tire.

But no, I hadn’t considered that I’d ever share my work beyond a circle of family members and friends who would encourage whatever I do simply because they love me.  I was making art because it brought joy to my heart, beyond my ability to express.

With misgivings and absolutely no positive expectations, I did decide to bring three framed paintings to that meeting.  In retrospect, I was something like Hans Christian Andersen’s UGLY DUCKLING.  I saw the swans and they were so beautiful that I was inexplicably drawn to them, even though, in a metaphorical duckling’s motif they might “kill” me.

Well, my fellow artists did not “kill” me; they responded with enthusiasm and encouragement.  Suddenly I realized that even though inexperienced and limited, I might also be some kind of a swan.

While ever mindful that these new and exciting opportunities are Heaven sent—pure grace to a lady of advanced years—I can definitely say that 2015 has been a very good year for art.  In retrospect, all of my years have been good in one way or another—dating back to 1933.

MC 3Meanwhile:  Happy New Year to you from Joe, Margaret, and the sweetest corgi imaginable—Dylan Been.

Margaret L. Been — December 29. 2015

NOTE:  The above painting is titled “Wisconsin Winter Dogwood”.

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A Quiet Place

Our oldest daughter, Laura, took a watercolor workshop a few months ago with a friend whom she was visiting in Texas.  After they had applied some color in an initial wash the instructor said, “Listen to the paper.  The paper is talking to you.”

I love that, and think of it constantly.  When wet watercolors hit wet paper, the paper does indeed “talk”.  This is the stage where beautiful things happen, if we stand back and let them.  It’s human nature, at least my human nature to get involved, and try to fix things.  As a child I was diligently taught to think before doing—a survival skill necessary, or at least helpful, in most areas of life.  But when painting I still want to blunder in, and superimpose some preconceived concept on the wet paper.

Meanwhile, Laura’s workshop instructor and many other artists realize that each painting can be unique and exquisite if we just let the paper talk.  The delicate feathers and cauliflowers that form on wet paper were once spurned by watercolorists; now those same marks have come into favor.  They are treasured.

In her books and DVDs, British fine artist Jean Haines stresses the fact that many beginners tend to race into a painting with an agenda in mind, failing to relax and let things happen.  Jean paints practice washes on small scraps of watercolor paper at the beginning of every day in her studio.  She experiments with different color combinations and observes the hints of a possible subject created when the colors blend.  Sometimes these “practice” washes morph into a finished painting; otherwise, Jean saves them as inspiration for her larger work.

So I am learning!  After all, it is enjoyable to relax and let the paper talk.  And this one-way conversation in never boring.  Unlike some people, paper and paint never say the same thing twice.  They always have something fresh and spontaneous to share.

The above rendering is an example.  While the paper was talking I sprinkled salt in the sky area, knowing that the salt would enhance rather than interrupt the spoken message.  With my rigger brush, I lightly dropped colors into the foreground—letting them bleed onto the talking paper—and I streaked the point of a wooden knitting needle through the wet foliage which was forming on the lower left.  Then it was time to retreat to the kitchen, and hit our Keurig for a cuppa Joe.

When all of the above was dry, I seriously thought of trying to add more—perhaps a tumbledown fence in the foreground, or traces of a castle in the clouds.  But NO!  The paper had spoken, and I had nothing more important to say!

This painting, “A Quiet Place”, has been framed for the next exchange of work in local exhibits.  Now you are thinking, “She was supposed to be displaying winter scenes.”

Yes, but “A Quiet Place” will be hung in a hospice.  If I were in a hospice (as any one of us may someday be) I most certainly would not want to view any art depicting winter!

And you can be certain that as soon as my winter display quota has been filled I’ll go back to painting flowers, patios, ice tea pitchers, green mountains, and castles in the clouds—preferably after the paper has had a chance to talk.

Margaret L. Been — October 28. 2015

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NIght Blooming 2

. . . is SPRING!  That is enough to spring most anyone out of bed in the morning!!!  When daylight saving starts in a few days, I’ll think I am home free—bounding into my favorite half of our Wisconsin year. 

I have a goal in mind.  I love to walk; my desire is to carry a sketch book, and sketch along the way.  Also, I want to take more photos in my gardens—catching new spring buds, mature flowers, and later in the season those beautiful seedpods.

Suddenly flowers are dominating the art corner in our bedroom.  I’m extra-inspired to do flowers thanks to Ann Blockley’s exciting book, EXPERIMENTAL FLOWERS IN WATERCOLOUR.  For breathtaking views of Ann Blockley’s art, you can GOOGLE “UK Artist Ann Blockley”.  Her blog can be accessed through the website, as well—and it’s delightful to read. 

Along with a focus on flowers, Ann has inspired me to sketch and photograph subjects for painting—landscapes as well as close-ups.  I’ve read the same protocol from other artists, but finally the idea is beginning to make sense to me.  I’m also beginning to keep a log with each painting, listing the colors I use plus additional mediums such as acrylic ink, acrylic paints, water-soluble colored pencils, etc.  You can detect a desire for more discipline in my approach to painting.  Access to galleries has motivated me to make more art more efficiently, while growing and learning.

As for the sketching, I know that I can’t get any worse than I am now at it—so some improvement is bound to follow.  The strolling will be a joy in itself.  And I already have a lot of garden shots to pore over for inspiration.

Below is a favorite one, and someday I hope to be able to paint this little fellow:

Little Treasure

He must have been just out of the nest, with absolutely no fears in his head.  I stroked his back; his fur was like silk.  He sat docilely, as if he enjoyed the stroking.  Then I ran indoors to fetch my camera.  When I returned to the garden he was still there waiting to be stroked again.

Our neighborhood prairie preserve:

My Prairie

And a character who came calling one Sunday afternoon when we lived up north:

DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t try to pet that guy.  I took his picture while sheltered by our living room window.

Anyway, if I choose to render any of the above on my Arches or Saunders Waterford paper, the subjects won’t look anything like they did to begin with!  🙂  So why not just dive in?!

Margaret L. Been, March 2015

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Swamp Fire

Awhile back I experienced a kind of “painter’s block” where I felt like I would never again be able to paint anything which might serve to slightly elevate my very low blood pressure, let alone anyone else’s.  This has happened to me fairly regularly over the past six years in which I’ve been making art.  Because I love art with a passion, I refuse to give up where my painting is concerned and I’ve discovered ways to boost my psyche out of any potential creativity block.

Along with “keeping on keeping on”, it helps immeasurably to add a new medium or avenue of expression to the art-making so that the process never becomes routine.  I have no desire to become stylized by reproducing cookie-cutter, look-alike work; hence I’ve added gouache to my watercolor stash and periodically I produce collages from a large collection of saved “everything” in terms of visual appeal, textural quality, and treasured memorabilia.  A new-to-me paint color, often from a new-to-me manufacturer, is another exciting form of recharging my art batteries and crashing through the artist’s block.

DVDs and books by artists are an ongoing source of inspiration to me.  I view and read them over and over, constantly finding something fresh and applicable.  Hence I have not one but many teachers.  Recently I received an absolute no-fail “block-buster” via a new-to-me DVD, by a new-to-me artist/art instructor:  British watercolorist, Ann Blockley.

Ms Blockley’s love for nature springs to life through her exquisite paintings achieved with a variety of methods.  She uses acrylic ink, oil pastels, and other materials in her work, reflecting a vitality and sense of beauty in the smallest details of nature alongside a background of landscape bordering on abstract forms which I find tremendously compelling.

Ann’s color choices leap over any possible boundaries which might threaten to confine a painter enamored with, or driven by, objective realism.  Much as I appreciate the incredible skill represented in realistic art, my head and heart are stirred by work that overcomes those boundaries—work that embodies mystery and stirs the imagination.  If I want realism, I enjoy photography—another fantastic art.

In her DVD, Ann Blockley stresses what most artist’s value:  painting what we love, from our experience.  Although Ann paints in her studio (a charming antique outbuilding surrounded by her lush garden on her English country property) she gathers inspiration in time spent outdoors with nature in all seasons.  She sometimes sketches details which capture her interest when walking, and gathers information concerning subject matter to develop in her studio—along with branches of seed pods, leaves, and flowers which bring nature indoors.

I feel akin to this artist, as I never never can go for a walk without bringing in something:  pine cones, some fallen nuts (even just nutshells cleaned out and abandoned by squirrels), stones, leaves, dried on the branch flowers, etc.  Our visiting great-grandchildren love to sort through my numerous stones and rocks—plus shells that I’ve collected myself on inland beaches along with gorgeous ocean shells which have been given to me by friends who spend time on ocean beaches.  Thus, after viewing the Blockley DVD a few times, the above rendering of a swamp emerged.  Like THE GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST, I have always loved swamps, and Joe and I were privileged to live overlooking a Northern Wisconsin swamp for several years.

So thanks to one more British artist, I have leaped over another incident of artist’s block and I’m re-energized—raring to go on.  My list of favorite and most inspirational water media teachers, through books and DVDs, has grown again.  The list includes one Canadian artist, one American, and four from Britain.  Those stats tell me that since the venerable art of watercolor painting (or rather watercolour) was long-ago perfected in England, we “colonists” can be eternally grateful for our heritage!!!  I know that I am!!!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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