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Archive for the ‘Condo Gardens’ Category

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! ūüôā

Margaret L. Been — March 2nd, 2019

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Ice Tea again

It is often said that artists can create the world the way they wish it would be!¬† This may be true of most of the arts, and many crafts as well—where one is fashioning beauty from ashes—or victory in the midst of something that seems like defeat.¬† In my poetry, I have often featured the presence of light in apparently dark circumstances.

Without getting more ponderous, when indeed my mood is upbeat as I share with you, the above painting is the world the way I’m eager to experience it—and will in a few weeks.¬† Having lived in Wisconsin for all but three of my eighty-four years, I should know (and do!) that April in my home state is not like “April in Paris”.

Sometimes we get teased a bit with warm splashes, and these are meant to be savored but not viewed as the permanent seasonal weather change.¬† Meanwhile, we can paint (sing, write, dance) whatever weather we want—thereby creating our own reality:¬† our own private world.¬† A case in point is this painting, titled “Ice Tea Again”, reflecting a pastime which is HUGE in my estimation:¬† drinking ice tea on our patio beside our pretty little patio garden, while watching the birds and chipmunks that enjoy the hospitality of our feeders.

I have done many ice tea type paintings, but this one is unique.¬† Were you to actually see the painting, now framed in a 16″ by 20″ softly gilded frame, you would probably observe that something new has been added:¬† touches of mixed medium accents which add texture and individuality to the piece.

At this moment two amazing British artists—Ann Blockley and Soraya French—are vitalizing, coaching, and inspiring me via books and (in Ann’s case) DVDs to experiment with mixed media.¬† So “extras” have been added to this watercolor and gouache rendering, including areas of enhanced color on and around the flower shapes made with hard pastel pencils and Derwent Inktense sticks.¬† The winding vines were formed by streaking India ink from a pipette and letting it ooze around on the damp paper.¬† You may notice the sketchy lines drawn by oil pastels* in areas alongside the vines.¬† And, as always, thick applications of gouache have covered a plethora of boo-boos.

The above-mentioned artists, and many others, stress the importance of playing with the mediums, learning what they can do and not worrying about the outcome.  JUST PLAY!  This really appeals to me after a rather dragged out autumn and winter beginning with the loss of my beloved corgi in October and adding a challenging shoulder replacement to the mix.  I intend to play, while drinking volumes of ice tea!

Included in the “play”, is the fact that I am diving into water soluble oils.¬† This is happening at my newly acquired hardwood easel.¬† The easel doesn’t work for watercolor painting, as there is not room enough in the bedroom studio to flatten out the surface.¬† But oils can be done on a tilt.¬† While watercolors, gouache, and mixed medium play happens at my dining room studio, oils are slowly drying and developing on the easel.

Margaret L Been — April 14th, 2008

*When I received my order from DICK BLICK of a beautiful, magenta colored wood box of 60 oil pastels (Van Gogh brand) I reverted to childhood.¬† I can’t express the wonder and joy of running my fingers over the surface of these sticks, marveling at the gorgeous color gradations.

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panel a

I came up with another excuse for putting off blogging:¬† my mouse died.¬† After countless years with my pet mouse, he (it) bit the dust.¬† I simply cannot get the hang of keyboarding with my pinkie.¬† But now I have a brand new purple mouse from Office Max, and I’m eager to blog.¬† I LOVE the color purple!

Obviously, the long skinny panel above wouldn’t fit into my phone camera without showing the surround of our front door and a rug.¬† But you get the idea that by February in Wisconsin those of us who do not care to ski, skate, or roll in snow are dreaming—even pining—for spring.¬† Nowhere does this longing express itself more blatantly than in our home.¬† Flowers are blooming all over the place!

This gallery wrap canvas experienced many mutations.¬† The pink at the top began as foxgloves, those deadly but lovely bell-shaped flowers that always remind me of Beatrix Potter’s foolish duck who laid her eggs under the “protection” of the Foxy Gentleman who lounged among the foxgloves.

My foxgloves were rather ugly, so I tried to morph them into tulips.¬† The tulips were equally unpleasant, so I dabbed away—adding gouache—until the tulips became those fragrant blossoms that most anyone can render convincingly:¬† lilacs.

Yes, May!!!¬† Next down the line were purple irides (otherwise known as irises), something I can normally manage to paint because of their ruffles.¬† Then more lilacs or maybe pink irides, and finally my beloved mertensia—Virginia bluebells.

A lot of gouache was layered onto this watercolor flower arrangement, giving the panel a nice textured effect.¬† I painted the sides with acrylic, because when I spray the finished panel with an acrylic fixative for preservation it is easy to cover the flat surface—but the sides are harder to spray.¬† I want to make sure my gallery wrap panels will last, at least for a few decades and perhaps longer.

In a little over two weeks, daylight saving begins.¬† Hurray!¬† And it’s already spring within the walls of our home!¬† ūüôā

Margaret L. Been — 2/23/18

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. . . of May.¬†¬†April is delightful; I’m loving it.¬† But I can’t get May out of my paintbrushes which seem to be set on “Automatic Paint May“.

Here is “Coming up Lilacs“:

Coming up Lilacs

Don’t you just love the lilac colors?¬† We have French lilacs at every corner of our condo buildings, here in Nashotah Condo Heaven.¬† They bloom a bit later than common lilacs, and are not quite so euphorically fragrant.¬† But the Frenchies are beautiful and perform well in a marinara sauce jar (washed of course, but with¬†its label intact)¬†full of fresh water on the dining room table.

(Parenthetical Commentary:¬† Why are jars with their labels¬†so much lovelier and infinitely more interesting as receptacles for flowers and dried weeds, than conventional vases?¬† There is simply no comparison, in my book.¬† If you haven’t bothered to save a nice big marinara jar, a huge pickle jar or a honey jar will also work—but I hope you don’t wash off those labels!¬† During nearly every supermarket trip I grieve the demise of glass jars and bottles which have knuckled under to (ugh) plastic.¬† Every bit of glass is PRECIOUS.¬† Olive oil bottles reside near the top of my food glassware list, because they are normally green and have such pretty labels!¬† Wine bottles are definitely the most gorgeous.¬† I ask folks to empty their wine bottles, and then pass them on to me—please, with labels.)

Back to May and the lilacs.¬† We do have common lilacs just a few yards away, in the park beyond our front door.¬† Every May I make frequent strolls to inhale the lilacs and journey back decades in time to my small-town-Wisconsin childhood home—a rambling Victorian with a commodious yard and guess what:¬† lots of ancient common lilacs.

In a week it will be May.  I wonder what my paintbrushes will do then!

Margaret L. Been — April 23, 2016

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S2

Scarves and shawls, plus capes and sweaters, fulfill as much of my creative energy as do paints.

Above are samples of pure silk blanks (available online via Dharma Co., CA) painted with Sharpies fine (brush tip are great) permanent markers (not the oil base ones).¬† This is too much fun.¬† Just color/color/color the scarf to your heart’s content, and when satisfied spray (saturate)¬†with rubbing alcohol.¬† Allow to dry, then press with a hot steam iron.

These recently sold well at a pre-holiday fair.¬† Everyone loves them.¬† The selection of blanks is great—Dharma even has dancing veils.

S1

Here Pinkie is happily modeling the world famous Potato Chip Scarf–so named 1) because it curls and 2) because you can’t just make one.¬† They are as addictive as the edible, salty variety.

And below we have Pinkie again, cowling it up.

S4

Knitted, of course.¬† I go on yarn surges.¬† A few years ago, it was Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino.¬† Then Cascade 220.¬† Then Cascade Sunseeker.¬† Now it is Malabrigo Silky Merino:¬† 49% silk and 51% merino wool.¬† All are wonderful.¬† All are unabashedly overflowing and falling out of countless baskets, many of which I have made in former years of “also passions”.

And¬†shawls.¬†¬†I make long shawls—prayer shawls, gift shawls, and some for myself.¬† A long shawl is the perfect wrap for our autumn and spring weather, either layered over a blazer and sweater or by itself.¬† And I love these little guys:

S5

(The borders are crocheted.)¬† No, I didn’t make the penny quilt.¬† For me, knitting needles are relaxing—but sewing needles and machines are nerve wracking.¬† This quilt is¬†a beauty.¬† It was some unknown artist’s masterpiece, possibly during the Great Depression, as the fabrics are apparently used clothing.¬† The quilt is huge, even on our queen bed.¬† We won it at a local auction years ago.¬† It’s been moved two times,¬†stored on a high closet shelf,¬†and now we are featuring it on our bed.¬† Things are to¬†be used and enjoyed, especially with a good number of years behind us and not quite so many years left.¬† Why not?¬† ūüôā

spinning in the summer

Finally, spinning.  The basket filled with color contains wool roving, and the white fiber in the pink basket is silk.  Two excellent Jensen wheels, Wisconsin made, grace our living room and in this case one of them is (characteristically in seasonable weeks) working on our patio.  What a joy to make yarn, and knit it.  I still have a lot of gorgeous deep brown Shetland from my last two silly sheep, in the late 1990s.

But the patio leads out to even one more of many passions:

Faithful Bleeding Heart

Coming SOON!  I can hardly wait.  How about you?

Margaret L. Been — February 28th, 2016

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Patio Afternoon

 Brewed in the sunshine

poured over mountains of ice

laced with garden mint . . .

Margaret L. Been August 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!¬† ūüôā¬† So why not just dive in?!

Margaret L. Been, March 2015

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