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Archive for the ‘Condo Gardens’ Category

. . . 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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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.

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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.

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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:

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(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?  🙂

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!  🙂  So why not just dive in?!

Margaret L. Been, March 2015

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Winged Life 1

“It is well to have some water in your neighborhood, to give buoyancy and to float the earth.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

We Wisconsin natives are akin to water.  Forming a border on three sides of our state (Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and “Old Man River”—the Mississippi) water defines whom we are, to a great degree.  I grew up with water—a friendly creek at the base of my family’s property, a summer lake home, the gorgeous Black River bluffs outside my grandparents’ door, water/water/water.

For eight years Joe and I lived full time on a quiet flowage with the Big Elk River just around the corner from our bay.  A favorite summer pastime of mine was to take my paddle boat, a book, suntan lotion and plenty of iced tea plus peanut butter and jelly sandwiches up the river where I dozed, read, swam, and ate my lunch.  The latter was a bit foolish, due to a plethora of black bears nearly as abundant as water in the vicinity.  As the years passed, we got more savvy about bears and Joe put a stop to my solitary picnics—but I could still paddle upstream, read, doze, and swim.

Now we live not on water, but surrounded by lakes and rivers in the unique Lake Country of Southern Wisconsin.  A considerable benefit of water proximity is the abundance of winged water life:  an abundance we enjoy every single day from March through mid-November.  Great blue heron, sandhill cranes, Canada geese. and many kinds of ducks fly over constantly, along with additional shorebirds such as sandpipers and egrets.

Along with these seasonal neighbors, our little garden and patio area host year round friends—cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, etc., and summer residents:  Baltimore orioles, mourning doves, robins, and those occasional warblers which stop enroute to northern nesting sites.  And throughout the year, we watch nature’s undertakers—the turkey vultures soaring with their frayed wings over the woods beyond the park, while scouting for a decaying meal.

Winged life is as much of whom we are as the water which surrounds us.  Thus it follows that birds appear in my art, along with water and wild woods.  Also, frequently present are something we do not have in Wisconsin but rather are native to my “home away from home” state—Colorado.  Obviously, that “something” would be mountains.  We paint what we love!  For me that also includes clouds and mist hanging over the water, woods, mountains, or whatever.

Just as we writers have a voice, ever developing as we live and grow, artists also speak through their work. I began in 2006—trying to paint realistic scenes which were at best colorful, but at worst totally humdrum and thoroughly uninspired.  I’ve saved many of the early renderings, and I can’t get over how unoriginal they are.

Not skillful enough to produce a beautiful photo-realistic scene (which I greatly admire from fine artists!) it was only when I cut the fetters that had bound me to standard, realistic shapes and colors that I realized I actually do have an artist’s voice.  Through books and DVDs, fine artists Barbara Nechis and (Wisconsin’s own) Karlyn Holman encouraged me to cut loose and sing!  With my one and only true “strength” which is color, this was (and is!) possible.

When I paint what I love, invariably someone else will love it as well.*  Time and again, I’ve offered a family member to choose from a group of paintings and he or she will pick what I like best.  For 2 summers now, I’ve presented to a jury—to select paintings for inclusion in a summer exhibit at our local arts center; and each time the jury has chosen the paintings I prefer.  I would never paint primarily to please others, but it seems a given that when we please ourselves others are pleased as well!

So curvilinear shapes of birds, trees, mountains, and flowers are continually surfacing—those things I love best.  Having been translated from years of living in a semi-wild environment to a suburban locale, occasional abstractions of buildings and bridges will appear.  But nearly always, these traces of man’s ingenuity float among masses of curvilinear shapes—often the shapes of winged life!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

*Note:  often when painting what I love, I think of a late fine artist in oils who painted what he loved—while amassing a fortune because so many others (including the Walt Disney Company) loved his work.  Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” came to a tragic end.  Yet his art tells me that despite his very human failings, he had a beautiful soul!

From blog browsing I’ve discovered that Kinkade’s paintings are controversial.  Many object because they are either:  1) too realistic; 2) not realistic enough; 3) too idealistic; 4) not credible because one cannot tell where the light is coming from; 5) too commercialized; 6) ugly because they are popular; 7) not ugly enough (this critic believes that “real” art should be ugly because he believes that life itself is ugly); and 8) on and on ad nauseum.

I’m working hard on trying not to get unnecessarily angry,  but these comments have taxed my resolve to the max.  Although Kinkade’s art is not what I would choose to adorn my home, I believe that a valid function of the fine arts is to rise above the mundane while attempting to express a beauty intended for man before he (or she!) bit into that apple.  My belief stands unaltered by the stupid criticisms listed above.  Each artist has his or her personal concept of beauty, but striving for beauty is certainly a worthy raison d’être!

I question whether or not those critiquing Kinkade’s work are actually artists.  My exposure to the art world has revealed to me a tremendous spirit of love and acceptance among those involved because:  1) making art is never easy, although it may look easy to the uninitiated viewer; and 2) every artist should be considered free to make art as they see life. 

This spirit of love and acceptance has also caused me to realize that a penchant for beauty need not be the driving force behind all who make art.  Showing life as it really is in this fallen world is also valid, along with showing even the ugliness of some people’s “reality”—whether or not I like that kind of art.

Some critics maintain that Kinkade was not a “real artist” because he was intensely popular during his career.  He has been called a “hack”—a term normally applied to writers who produce for profit.

Hello, critics.  Have you ever heard of William Shakespeare?  I rest my case, although I might add, perhaps you “. . . doth protest too much, methinks.”  Shakespeare’s HAMLET, Act III, scene II.

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I have never been able to appreciate the dilemma of individuals who say, “I’d like to write, but don’t know what to write about.”  My answer is, “You have a life!  So write your life!  Write about the people and places you love!”

Over the last six years, since I began painting, I’ve often recalled my own advice!  Although I’d love to paint the people I love, alas.  My skills are inadequate, at least at this point.  But I can, have, and continually do paint the places I love.

You will recognize the above paintings as representative of “Out West”.  That region of our nation is dear to my heart— especially Colorado (my “second home”), plus New Mexico and Northern Arizona (my “adopted second homes”).

Next you will see glimpses of a part of my actual lifelong home, known to most Wisconsinites as “Up North”:

And here is my current home in Southern Wisconsin. ↓ These renderings were inspired by life inside and outdoors in our beloved Nashotah:

So there you have it.  I’ll never run out of excitement over the places I love—past and present!  And “future” is going to be the most exciting of all!  But my finite mind cannot begin to comprehend how to depict the new Heaven and earth!  I’ll just have to wait and see!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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After six years of direct painting either on wet or dry paper, I’m finally developing the courage to tackle the essence of traditional watercolor art—transparent layering.  Up until recent weeks, any forays into layering that I did were accidental—and if these attempts yielded anything better than the artist’s dreaded “mud”, then they were the quintessential “happy accidents”.

Perhaps I’m a bit thick headed!  It has taken years of constant immersion in books and DVDs—especially by watercolorists Barbara Nechis and Wisconsin’s own Karlyn Holman just for me to decide to focus on layering.  What a satisfying focus!  The subtle nuances of the initial wash shining through subsequent layers of varying color is a never ending source of surprise and delight.  One never knows what will emerge, and each painting is different from the last.

There are some guiding principles for the process:  thin layers of transparent paint work best, with gradual rather than radical color variations, and each layer must be thoroughly dry before applying another.  Some artists speed up the drying with a hair dryer.  I simply move on to another project, and give each wash more than enough time to dry.  It’s fun to go from painting, to soap making, to knitting, to my piano, to a good book.  After all, the name of my stage in life is LEISURE WITH NO STRESS—and that’s a wonderful thing!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how beautiful a city scene can be, when venerable old (or tasteful new) architecture is accented by gardens and the natural life which abounds therein.  Years ago, my husband and I traveled 2200 miles of back roads in Scotland, Wales, and England—staying at sheep farms along the way.  On the last day of our vacation we took a train from the village of Dorking to London, a journey of about an hour.  As the train catapulted (British trains do exactly that!) through back alleys of London residential neighborhoods, I was totally charmed by the gardens complete with picturesque potting sheds in even the tiniest back yards.  The plethora of vines and plantings pressed against old buildings (some being centuries old!) was a sight I love to recall. 

From that day on, I’ve passionately loved the English garden look—not those formal, ostentatiously groomed plantings on the large English estates but rather the cozy “cottage gardens” which ramble in profusion outside back doors of country and city homes across the UK.  When delineated by stonework, a wall, some fencing, or some other architectural detail, the cottage gardens exude a timeless sense of nostalgia and ambience. 

I have created the cottage garden look outside my own door with perennials, culinary herbs, and “garden art”, and this is the kind of garden I love to paint.  Hence the above rendering, the most multi-layered watercolor I’ve done to this date.  Things are finally clicking inside my skull, and I think I’m “getting it” at last!  🙂

My favorite part of the above painting is the shading of hues above and within the arc which represents some kind of architectural detail.  But I also like the “in your face” flowers which shout at you from the foreground.  These were painted in gouache, that wonderful opaque watercolor which builds texture similar to oils and acrylics but does not destroy one’s precious high quality watercolor brushes!

I like to say I am 1/2 Celt, as my mother’s family surnames were either Scottish or Irish.  But according to my records, many of these ancestors married people with English names—Blake, Wood, Soper, etc.  So it figures that I immediately felt at home when I discovered the English cottage garden, and have been (at least mentally) living in one ever since!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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