Archive for the ‘Art Therapy’ Category

More tree Textures 4

We have not had a riotously colorful Autumn in SE Wisconsin.  No one seems to know exactly why some are and some are not.  Absence of chlorophyll, duh.  But what else plays in?  Moisture?  Lack of it?  Frost?  No frost?

We can dither all we want, and may never know for sure.  Up North where we lived full time for eight years, we were ablaze with color every year—in the land of the sugar maples.  Only problem:  by the end of September it was all over.  Crunch crunch.  But so gorgeous while it lasted!

Meanwhile, I tried to replicate what Autumn sometimes is, and can be.  As you can see, I started well on the lower one-half of the left side as you face the above rendering.  But then something obstinate, rebellious, and ornery kicked in.  I couldn’t continue with Autumn colors, and had to insert Spring.

I guess you can tell where my heart is.  But I don’t want to escape, as so many do, to the land of alligators, water moccasins, and crazy election problems.  Never, no never.

Much better for me to live day by day in our capricious climate, appreciate the Winter beauty, and experience that March through May euphoria every year—followed by an often torrid Summer, and then our perfidious Autumn of unpredictable color.

Meanwhile, I can paint what I want.  No alligators, no water moccasins, no crazy voting machines—just a capricious Autumn of a different color.  It’s called DENIAL!  ūüôā

Margaret L. Been  —  November 18, 2018

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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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Back after a long hiatus—time enough for a new hip, a lazy summer, and plenty of physical therapy. ¬†But artmaking was a huge part of the therapy.¬† Standing is easier for me than sitting, no matter what.¬† And regardless of whatever this body is up to, if I can create something I am a happy woman!

Above is a 20″ x 24″ painting that should be titled, “Love/Hate”.¬† Being a bit vociferous about opinions, I have long claimed that I hate acrylics.¬† They have seemed so fake appearing and stupid to me—stubborn, inflexible, hard to shove around, incapable of producing those wonderful watercolor “cauliflowers”, and totally lacking in subtlety.¬† Especially when gouache can do the job of building depth and texture, although gouache needs to be preserved with glass or an acrylic (there is that word!) fixative–and acrylic paint needs only itself for permanence.

Then, amazingly, I came across books and a DVD by a new-to-me British artist:¬† Soraya French who has painted in most all media, but absolutely LOVES acrylics.¬† The material struck me as somewhere out there, to begin with.¬† But after reading, re-reading, viewing, and reviewing, “somewhere out there” closed in on me.¬† Soraya French has pried open my closed mind.

I recently completed “Love/Hate” and still was not sure which it was:¬† love or hate.¬† The piece went through many mutations, layer upon layer, changes of theme and subject matter, as well as variations of color dominance.¬† But hey, that’s acrylics:¬† layer upon layer.

While the painting was at its final stage of dampness, I truly thought it was tacky—like something one might win at the county fair for knocking off a row of mechanical ducks.¬† But suddenly the piece was dry and it took on a whole new life.¬† I kept staring at it, as it penetrated my psyche.¬† Hate disappeared, and Love became at least a “Like”.¬† The painting is now hanging in our dining room.

Love/Hate has a new name.¬† My original idea was to suggest autumn foliage.¬† The foliage changed to bare branches for winter, sailboat masts on a stormy sea, finally returning to the tree motif—but with an attitude more like spring than autumn.¬† So the new title is “An Autumn That Looks Like Spring”.¬† Fitting, as we have had a gloriously warm/hot September, and today is once again in the high 70s.

For me, trees are like lilies and haystacks to Monet—although repetition is where the comparison ends between Claude and me.¬† Rather ridiculous to mention the two of us in the same sentence.¬† But I am as genuinely obsessed with trees, as Monet was smitten with his favorite subjects.

Over the summer and my surgery-recovery-period I did some more trees, with a focus on texture and application of mixed media along with watercolors and gouache:  soft pastels, hard pastels, oil pastels, India ink, Derwent Inktense Sticks, and water soluble crayons (all of artist quality as anything less would prove disappointing).  Here is some of that harvest of trees:


More Tree Textures 2

Oil Pastels.JPG 2.JPG

In closing, I urge you to check out Soraya French’s website.¬† Another inspiring British lady—who has re-opened the doors to individuality, personality, and freedom in art.

Whereas from around the turn of the 19th/20th century right up to a couple of decades ago, freedom of expression in art was “trendy” (almost a given), in recent years there has been a definite swing back to photo-realism:¬† creating recognizable art such as “The Old Village Bridge”, “Apple Farm”,¬† “Country Church”, or realistic city scenes.

In our Wisconsin neighborhood, a familiar scene is the church with three spires high on a rural hill.¬† The site is called, “Holy Hill”.¬† It has been painted realistically more times than I can imagine, and a rendering of Holy Hill is recognized by anyone who has been around here for any time at all.

Beautiful!¬† Such art requires great skill, and deserves its place of respect.¬† But it is not, generally speaking, the art I desire to have much of on my walls.¬† More and more, I am drawn to mystery, unanswered questions, and the energy of abstraction–or semi-abstraction with a touch of realism, all with a focus on being as beautiful as possible.

In the arts, I see no value in trying to reproduce the ugliness of much of the world.¬† Art is a precious commodity, a timeless gift in keeping with great music and poetry—bestowed upon us to lift our souls.¬† Yes, we can and should portray all of life in terms of great sadness and poignancy as well as great joy; but the means of portrayal can be beautiful and the message behind the means, one of hope and anticipation of a better world.

Isn’t that why our Creator God has allowed us to reflect a token of His creativity, by making things with the gifts and resources He has provided for us—that we might in some tiny way attempt to fashion a better world?

Margaret L. Been¬† —¬† October 3, 2018

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Bottle Fantasy--6Condo at Santa Fe--1WindowsWindows Series 2.jpgwindow scene made strange abd strangerMilwaukee South SideJars in a WindowDans la Fenetre 2.JPGBottles and Jars.jpg

When I began art making in in 2006, I entertained a short period of thinking each rendering had to be of a different subject.¬† But I quickly realized how silly that was, having had some exposure to art history in college.¬† Didn’t Monet do a lot of haystacks?¬† And lilies?

And how about Degas with his ballerinas?¬† Winslow Homer at sea?¬† Not to mention (but I will) Georgia O’Keeffe with her massive flowers and striking New Mexico scenes.¬† Not that I am placing myself on a level with the above, but rather to simply say it is good to paint favorite subjects again and again.¬† Each work will differ from its predecessor, and there is infinite variety possible via palette, season, details, mood, and the list goes on.¬† Again and again.

I like to do waterfalls, ships in peril (I don’t want to BE on one, just to paint it), trees waving in the wind, adobe structures, gardens, bowls of fruit—and pots, pitchers, bottles, and jars often in the setting of a windowsill.¬† There is something about the bones of structure, even in the evanescent ideas I like to present.

At the top of the page you see what is one of my very first attempts at watercolor.¬† In a book, I’d found a repro of a painting by Fine Artist Jeanne Dobie, where she portrayed bottles in a window not by painting the bottles themselves but rather through showing the liquid color contents of the bottles surrounded by white paper representing light.¬† Pretty leaky bottles (mine—Jeanne’s were stunning).¬† But that was 2006 and it was what it was.

The next one down is a quick colored pencil sketch through the window of a rented condo in Santa Fe NM, where we spent a wonderful Easter week with our son, Karl, and his family in 2008.¬† The NM scene is followed by three more window bits with stuff in the windows, then followed by an albeit primitive and super child-like rendering of Milwaukee’s South Side as viewed through a lobby window at St Luke’s Hospital where my husband was undergoing cardiac care.¬† That painting, as odd as it is, is close to my heart because of the stressful time it represents in our family.¬† Painting IS therapeutic!

The domes of Milwaukee’s South Side, historically Polish and Serbian, are followed by a 2013 window scene—getting just a little bit more presentable.¬† Then comes a 2016 scene which I like a lot.¬† The print doesn’t do the painting justice, as in real life the colors and shine are noteworthy—and so is the real life size, which is 20″ x 24″.¬† I like wet, blurry effect, which was achieved with Gum Arabic.¬† (I tend to get that name mixed up with what I put in my gluten-free baking:¬† Xanthum Gum.¬† I hope I don’t get the gums mixed up in the cookies!))

One more of blurry bottles.¬† I like the frayed and fringy effect in the yellow/purple on the right side—produced by wet color introduced alongside another, slightly drying paint.¬† This works best on wet paper, and I love it even though it drives some watercolorists crazy.

And finally, the 12″ x 16″ pictured below is my very latest studio creation.¬† The wood on the window was textured by dropping Winsor & Newton Texture Medium onto the wet paint with a pipette or medicine dropper—one more tool of the trade available with acrylic ink bottles, or from your local pharmacist.

Since I will probably go on doing window scenes, along with Peril at Sea, etc., I am covering the latest in this series with one name, “Dans la Fen√™tre”—because I am besotted with the FRENCH LANGUAGE (in which my proficiency is nearly zero on a scale from one to ten.¬† ūüôā

Margaret L. Been — March 18, 2018

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I often giggle when I think of what comes out of my studio in contrast to the work of gifted, well-schooled artists!  Highly skilled artists may be among the most generously-encouraging-to-beginners group of professionals on earth.  We all are included in a vastly diverse culture where there is a place for most anyone at any level and inclination.

But I have a library of art books—both “how to” tutorials by well-known artists, and tomes of art history and criticism.¬† I love to study these books, and I do know the difference between classic art and smoke and mirrors—my off-the-cuff “hashtag” for a bag of tricks which I am delighted to share with any beginner who is eager to paint and willing to spend hours each week, building an inventory of paintings in his or her studio.

My 12″ x 16″ rendering below is titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, and it is composed of tricks that my seven-year-old great-grandsons could perform if they decided to sit or stand still long enough,¬† I began by slathering gesso on the 140# cold press paper to create rocky slopes.¬† After the gesso dried, I sprayed the surface with water and applied different watercolors—jiggling the paper so the paints could blend and do their own thing,¬† When those paints dried, I streaked a thinned application of white gouache here and there to add mystery and a sense of age to the rocks.¬† Voil√†.¬† Smoke and mirrors.

A Rock and a Hard Place

The next example displays a couple of favorite tricks:¬† plastic wrap and salt.¬† (I use Kosher salt, but any will do—creating slightly varying effects).¬† The paper used here is Yupo, that glass-like surface which is not really paper, but rather an amalgamation of chemicals.¬† (There is no middle ground with Yupo.¬† Artists either love it or hate it.¬† The lovers are the “let it all hang out” group of which I am one, and the haters are the perfectionists who do well with lots of control.)

Where you see crinkles and wrinkles, that is where the plastic wrap was applied.  It takes a long time for the paint to dry under plastic wrap on Yupo, and less time on a rag surface which is absorbent.  The spots and phased-out parts were done with salt.  The salt technique is far more spectacular on rag paper than on Yupo.  The painting at the top of this page shows the result of salting the wet paint on rag paper.  Salt can make snowflakes, clouds, stars, dandelion fluff, and many additional effects,

Thus you can see that whenever art making is a person’s dream, it can be done.¬† And every dream will materialize differently—as each of us is unique.¬† What fun we can have, sharing our ways to implement the smoke and mirrors!¬† ūüôā

Smoke and Mirrors.JPG

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No, I haven’t been lazy since the last entry.¬† But most recent renderings have been too large to put through my scanner—like 16″ x 20″ and 20″ x 24″.¬† Large paintings can be photographed, but that never works for me as well as a scan.

Featured above are a couple of little guys that I’ve¬†sandwiched in between the biggies.¬† In the top painting, the¬†watery effect was achieved with thinned white gouache drifted randomly over the¬†rocks.¬† The second painting was experimental, with lots of goopy gesso topped with acrylic bead gel.¬†¬†When the gesso and gel¬†were thoroughly dry, paint was added to¬†drizzle and drip on the textured ground.

Meanwhile, I currently have a hole in my head.¬† Maybe that’s not so funny as it sounds, but HEY!¬† Let’s laugh.¬† Arthritis is the creator of a one centimeter gap,¬†causing (GOOGLE this one!) a diagnosis of Atlanto Axial Instability.¬† In plain talk, I’m a BOBBLEHEAD—the treatment of which, at this stage and perhaps in lieu of surgery,¬†is a very fashionable neck/head brace fitted for me at our local Hanger Clinic.

The pleasant young man who fitted the brace commented that I have a long neck.¬† Then he¬†chuckled when I shared that my maiden name is “Longenecker”.¬† I doubt very much that he caught the double entendre cached in my name; he¬†is too young.¬† Had he fully grasped the joke, his chuckle¬†might have been¬†a¬†guffaw.¬† Moreover, unless you readers have connections with the 1930s and 40s you may¬†not realize that once upon a time the word “neck” was a verb as well as a noun—with “necking” being an active,¬†enjoyable present participle!¬† ūüôā

Grammar and vintage fun aside, my brace is downright elegant.¬† With a red tint in my hair, I look something like Queen Elizabeth the First.¬† So what in the world does this stream of consciousness wandering have to do with art?¬† Namely, this:¬† for years I’ve painted standing up,¬†with my head bending over a waist high table.¬† Now that I’m de-bobbled by a neck brace, this position¬†is no longer comfortable.¬† When the head falls forward and down, I feel more¬†like Elizabeth¬†the First’s motherthe Unfortunate Anne.

I refuse to stop painting, so what to do?  Joe and I cuddled on the couch with my I-Pad, and scrolled down pages of standing easels.  Unanimously we concluded that spending an arm and a leg just to accommodate my compromised head would be stupid.

Then suddenly a light went on in said head:  my sturdy, adjustable music stand.  Although my violin retired from active duty years ago, the music stand has continually served in the capacity of displaying art.  Now the music stand has morphed into a standing easel.

Voila!¬† There’s always a way to make minor adjustments—even major ones when needed.¬† Life is GOOD!¬† ūüôā


Margaret L. Been — November 20th, 2016

NOTE:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Rustic Vase 3.jpg

. . . ¬†just keep on painting¬†¬† Perhaps I’m not the only artist who occasionally hits a wall—the wall of questions and doubts.¬†¬†We writers¬†call that “writers block”, something I have never allowed to discourage me; I kept right on writing through the block.

So it’s logical to approach¬†a painter’s wall the same way, and keep right on painting through the wall.¬† While doing this¬†recently, I had the following dialogue with Myself:


Myself:¬† Who am I to call myself an artist anyway?¬† I simply began painting 10 years ago, at age 72.¬† Never went to art school.¬† Never thought I had any talent—just a love for art.

I:  Shame on you for thinking that way.  You, of all people.  You are always telling others that everyone has an artist inside them, and they should have the courage to try it if they have the desire!

Myself:¬† But lately it seems that I am plagiarizing myself.¬† All I’m painting¬†are flowers, and sometimes I wonder if flowers are the only thing I’m certain that I can paint!

I:  Lots of people paint the same thing over and over.  And lots of artists love to paint flowers.  Have you ever heard of Monet?

Myself:  Are you comparing me to Monet?  Shame on YOU!

I:¬† Of course none of us¬†is comparable to him.¬† We are all different, and that’s the way God intended us to be.¬† But we can study the GREATS, and learn from them!¬† You are always telling other people to do that.¬† Yikes!¬† Why don’t you practice what you preach?

Myself:¬† Okay.¬† I get it.¬† I should encourage myself the way I like to encourage¬†other people.¬† I’ll keep plugging along with my brushes.¬† I do love art with a PASSION!

I:¬† Good for you.¬† Now you are talking sensibly!¬† And even if you are on a flower painting roll, you can look for a different emphasis—like varying your colors or¬†background, and finding a fresh focus of interest along with the flowers.¬† Then suddenly you’ll inadvertently (or maybe on purpose!) stick a cabin, fencepost,¬†river, or trail in among the flowers.

Whew!¬† That’s over.¬† This week Myself took the advice of I, so¬†We will switch to the first person voice.

I spent a couple of evenings browsing through my flower art books to see what might make a difference.¬† The idea of working on the background (or in the above result, the surround) grabbed me.¬† As always, I let my colors blend on the paper—and then added every texture¬†agent I¬†had on hand (salt, granulating medium, texture medium, crackle medium, dabbing with tissue, etc.).¬† That was so much fun, so I gave the vase the same cavalier treatment.¬† And named the painting “Rustic Vase”.

Now I will pass on some encouragement to YOU—the Reader*.¬† If you tend to hit a wall, don’t let it slow you down.¬† Just keep on painting through the wall!

Margaret L. Been — June 9th, 2016

*My stats page¬†shows that you Readers are all over the world—on every continent and on¬†many islands as well.¬†This excites me more than I can say.¬†¬†ūüôā

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