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ink 1

Recently I attended a workshop on the use of alcohol inks.  The class was held in a studio a few lovely country miles from our home, in a neighboring community.  There were 15 of us in the workshop.

Alcohol ink only works its great magic on a non-absorbent surface, so we used my beloved Yupo paper for our introduction to the medium.  For our first of 3 renderings, the instructor talked us through a basic technique which we all followed; we made rings of dots from drops of the ink, in colors of our choice, then blew through a straw to move the ink around.  We added more blobs, blew some more, etc.

The beautiful freckles on the above sample, my 1st, were created by holding the surface of the work up horizontally and spraying horizontally from a bottle filled with Isopropyl Alcohol.  The bottle needs to be significantly up and away from the painting so that the drops will fall gently on the paint, rather than in torrents—which would send the colors flying in additional directions.

From these humble beginnings, each of us created our first alcohol ink art, and every painting was totally unique.  Clone-type workshops are currently in vogue, where a group of people follow a formula and all come up with nearly identical paintings—wine consumption notwithstanding.  I have heard raves about these gatherings, as if they were some kind of a Renaissance Revolution.  But conformity and uniformity in art are unspeakably dull, I think:  as lackluster as painting by number.  An art class such as the one I’m describing, where each participant makes something different and one of a kind, is a GOOD CLASS!

For our second rendering we were encouraged to make a close-up of flowers popping up out of grass.  The instructor had one of her paintings as a sample.  A few in the class mimicked the leader’s choice of colors and format, but most of us simply did our own thing.  Here is my #2:

ink 2

We concluded with one more piece.  My #3 was my very favorite, but alas; the next day, I sprayed all 3 paintings with a fixative, got the spray too close to the surface of #3, and caused the ink to revitalize and run.  So #3 got altered, not to my liking.  Nonetheless, it is pictured below:

(Try to imagine that the magenta blur on the top half of the painting is not really a blur, but rather a hint of foxgloves hanging like bells—as in the lair of the Foxy Gentleman in Beatrix Potter’s TALE OF JEMINA PUDDLEDUCK.)

ink 3

Blurred foxgloves nonetheless, the alcohol ink workshop inspired me.  In July, the same instructor will show us how to apply the medium to glass, metal, and ceramic tiles.  Meanwhile, I’m eager to share this newly-discovered art with my great-grandchildren* who live nearby.  Too much fun!

Margaret L. Been  —  May 29th, 2017

*Divided between Wisconsin, Florida, Minnesota, and California, Joe and I have 18 great-grandchildren.  And #19 is scheduled to appear in South Carolina on Christmas Day, 2017. 

Now wasn’t that a sneaky way to get in a big brag?!!!  🙂

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Heading Home for Good.jpg

I doubt there is any middle ground with Yupo paper.  One either loves it or hates it.  The “haters” are those artists who demand control of their paints, and always work with an unflappable agenda in mind.  These folks create beautiful works of abject realism, and often artists of palpable realism are highly trained and amazingly gifted—especially if they achieve high end realism in watercolors.  Everyone knows that chasing watercolors is a bit like herding cats.

I am neither highly trained nor amazingly gifted, and fortunately the art I love the most does not fall in the category of abject realism.  My favorite artists, the French Impressionists, Post Impressionists, Les Fauves, etc. who worked largely in oils were realistic to a degree, but always with an intensely personal voice.  For anything other than “personal voice” I would use a camera—and for me, that wouldn’t be half as much fun as getting out the Yupo and letting the paints fly hither and thither.

Last week my good friend and fellow artist, Vikki, and I shared an art day at our dining room table.  We began on Yupo.  My rendering was, for starters, terribly generic and dreadfully similar to stacks of other paintings I’ve done:  tree – space – tree – space;  leaves and blossoms on tree – space – etc; and plomp – plomp – plomp – ad nauseum.

Now I detest—and desire to always eschew—the plagiarizing of any thing or any person, including myself.  So that night I looked over this Yupo thingy, almost upchucked, sprayed it with my trusty water bottle, pressed plastic clingy food wrap onto the entire surface, and went to bed.

The next day I removed the cling film and VOILÀ!  Something I could further develop and live with:  the suggestion of a Viking ship* with sails, and lots of turbulence all over the place.  So much better than plomp – plomp – plomp!

I added delineation and definition via gouache to the vessel and its surrounding sky and water—leaving a plethora of confusion, color, and turbulence in the sails as if the depicted journey was, like many of life’s journeys, fraught with distractions, dead-ends, and disasters.

However I am always a positive-note person, so then I named the piece:  “Heading for Home the Last Time”—reflecting my blessed assurance in a glorious destination through it all, and eternal joy in the presence of my Lord Jesus.

Margaret L. Been, May 2017

*Because this painting is matted and framed to 12″ x 16″, it was too large to entirely fit in my scanner.  Thus the ends of the ship do not completely show on the print.  The original in its full size is more representative of an actual Viking ship.  Since my husband is descended from Vikings, and loves ships, I wanted to be somewhat realistic.  🙂

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Another DVD I watch and absorb again and again is Taylor Ikin’s DANCING WITH YUPO.  This Florida-based fine artist’s (1 hour, 58 minute) tutorial has probably done as much, if not more, to free me up and send me painting on my way—as any other resource in my sizeable home library of books and DVDs.

The huge secret (but not REALLY a secret!) is Taylor Ikin’s use of YUPO® paper, which is actually not paper but rather a shiny washable plastic–coupled with her method of always standing and moving around* while working, and using totally-generous, extra-humungous amounts of paint mainly applied with a 2″ or larger square brush.

In her DVD Taylor Ikin depicts a downhill stream tumbling over rocks, with a forest in the background and lots of wild growth along the banks.  Taylor begins by spritzing the sheet of YUPO with her spray bottle of water, and applying thick brush loads of rich undiluted colors for woods, water, foliage, rocks, and botanical stuff along the forest floor and riverbanks.

Taylor slosh/slosh/sloshes with brilliant, juicy straight-from-the-tube watercolors abundantly slathered on her brush which has been dipped in a commodious bucket of water.  (I normally use marinara sauce jars large enough to accommodate my 4″ wash brush, and a gallon ice cream pail for my water supply—the pail for rinsing and letting the pigments settle on the bottom, and one or two of the glass jars for fresh clean water.)

Then with her clean wet brush, Taylor begins to delineate water from land, while creating chunky textural tree shapes in the background.  Next, the forest foliage and groundcover evolve.  With YUPO, this is super easy, as any swipe of a brush or paper towel brings the wet painting surface back to its original white and ready for more action.  (When the paint is dry, a wet brush or wet paper towel will restore the white.  And if unhappy with any stage of the process on YUPO, one may hold the piece under a gushing faucet or float it in a bathtub of water.)

When Taylor feels her initial rendering is satisfactory, she recommends letting the painting dry**, perhaps even overnight.  When dry, the work is ready for tweaking and fine-tuning:  as Taylor puts it, deciding “What will make this a better painting.”  Now is the time-consuming stage of lifting, re-applying the shapes in a different way, making new shapes, removing colors, adding new colors, standing and looking at the work from a distance, holding the painting sideways/upside down/and in a large mirror, etc.  (I sometimes tweak and fine-tune for hours over a period of days, or even a couple of weeks.  My YUPO paintings usually consume more time than those on Arches 140# rag paper, because the YUPOs provide flexibility and so many more options.)

I have read books and watched tutorials by other YUPO artists, and quite frankly I have not warmed up to their work.  Excellently crafted, but simply not what I would want to hang on my walls.  But Taylor Ikin’s work has that magical quality to which I am inexorably drawn. Try GOOGLING her, and maybe you will be drawn as well.

YUPO is the perfect ground for the abstract realism style that I love.  It is perhaps the easiest surface for beginning painters to use because (unless you desire to create detailed, representational art that resembles a photograph) YUPO is encouragingly NO-FAIL  Every blob and drip of paint that blends with other drips and blobs will be beautiful.  A few quick blasts of diverse colors on wet YUPO are often “suitable for framing”.  But when more painstaking hours are invested, the rewards are even more incredibly satisfying.

One can play forever, with just one sheet of YUPO, painting and rinsing off the paint, experimenting with colors and brushstrokes.  Or finger strokes.  I have rediscovered the joy of finger painting, due to the fact that I have long hair and lots of it.  Frequently I spy a wisp of my hair in a work in progress. I dislike hair in a painting almost as much as I hate to find it in my food!  In the process of removing a hair with my pinky, gorgeous swirls will surface on YUPO.

Texture is easily achieved on YUPO—either by the application of modeling paste to make mountains, rocks, and tree trunks, or by dribbling texture medium onto the painted surface.  Salt and cling film (plastic food wrap) build texture as well.

The acrylic inks are vibrant on YUPO paper.  Another favorite technique is the slathering of gouache over water-colored areas.  The gouache may be built up impasto, to fashion floral still lifes or wild landscapes, while looking amazingly like oil paint.  I always spray my finished YUPO paintings with an acrylic fixative; this not only prevents smudging and smearing paint forever, but the fixative makes a lovely shine (although matt fixatives may be used if so desired).  Also, the acrylic spray will prevent the impasto gouache areas from flaking.

Thank you, Taylor Ikin, for your continual inspiration from DANCING WITH YUPO!  I have always loved to dance!  🙂  Here is a fresh off-the-messy-palette YUPO piece by moi.  It is titled “Irides”.  I can’t stop painting irides.  Although I’m certainly not to be compared with Monet (YIKES!) that master and I do have something in common:  repetition of a beloved subject.  Monet did haystacks and water lilies among other topics.  I do irides, along with woods, mountains, etc.  What a good life!

more-irides

Margaret L Been — February 25th, 2017

*Standing and moving around are the way to go, for me, as I have chronic orthopedic pain for which constant movement is the best medicine.  The pain ramps up greatly at night when I am lying in bed.  Rather than lie there and hurt (that would be STUPID!) I get up and move around our home—yes and sometimes dance, to the waltzes of Erik Satie as well as WITH YUPO.  🙂

**I am not a fan of drying paintings with a hair dryer, and rarely do this.  But once I tried it on a YUPO piece.  Not good!  Too much heat, too close to the painting ground and voilà—shriveled-up art.

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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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quarry-and-mossflower

In recent months I have read mainly documentaries, political commentary, and eschatological tomes.  Very riveting and educational.  But I’d all but forgotten how much fun it is to read for FUN!  One should never forget that!

A deal via Amazon set me back on track:  The first 20 novels of Brian Jacques’ REDWALL series.  There are 2 more, which I hope to find another time.  I had read 4 or 5 of these years ago, and never realized there were 22 in the entire series.

I began by re-reading the first book, REDWALL.  Again I was captivated, enthralled, and totally charmed.  The characterizations, the cliff hanging plot which never gets boring, the hilarious satire—I love these books.  As a child, all my favorite fiction featured “talking animals”.  Some things don’t change!

What I’d forgotten about the REDWALL BOOKS, and am so delighted to recall, is Brian Jacques’ writing: packed with visual imagery.  The scenes literally come alive on the stage in my head!  The language is just plain painterly.  Maybe that has hit me more bombastically than it did when I read these books back in the 90s because then I was not yet into making my own visual art.  Playing with paints has opened the big wide world, and especially the world of the arts, to proportions of which I’d never dreamed possible.

I finished the first book late last evening, and couldn’t sleep because I was so inspired to paint what I hope will be a series of renderings to reflect the REDWALL novels.  Above is the first painting:  THE QUARRY AND MOSSFLOWER WOOD.

Margaret L. Been — November 26th, 2016

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under

far-out

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!  🙂

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!  🙂

music-stand

Margaret L. Been — November 20th, 2016

NOTE:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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