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Archive for the ‘Dreaming of Spring’ 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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An inventory of what I have done in my studio over the last year has proved a bit surprising—or maybe not!  For 8 months out of the 12, I have been gimped with ortho issues. A shoulder replacement in late 2017 had only just begun to heal when a hip kicked in saying, “Hey, it’s not fair. I want some of this attention.”

Two major hip surgeries later (the 1st, a total hip replacement and the 2nd, to repair a severely fractured femur with screws, metal hooks, and wires that make me think of civil engineered bridge construction) I am still hobbling and spending much of the time off my feet.

For several weeks it was 1 leg only, to navigate this “kid in an old body” to and from a cozy living room couch (my 24/7 hangout) to a bathroom (about 5 yards away), my piano right behind my couch, and an extra art studio which my wonderful husband set up for me at the nearby end of our dining room table.

Books, limited piano practice which—although done sitting down—wore me out, my French tutorial apps and a Public Television app on my I-pad (I re-watched the entire DOWNTON ABBEY), serial-shopping on Amazon (FUN/FUN/FUN!), Van Cliburn and other geniuses streaming through my devices into our fine speakers day and night (1 of which speakers was conveniently located beside my ear on my 24/7 couch), my knitting (how many cowls does anyone need?), and ART made up my life for much of 2018.

Who needs to cook, scrub floors, vacuum, and dust anyway?

I normally avoid medical discussions except with those professionals to whom Medicare is paying me to complain, but the above diatribe is to demonstrate how life can be a lot of fun under rather strange circumstances! And how art can thrive, when pain and disability prevail. One’s pain can literally be “drowned” in paint, especially the wet into wet method of working which I prefer.

Anyway, my inventory yielded a surprising 35 paintings that I actually like. (There are always the “duds” which get stashed on a shelf for possible reworking or salvaging parts; or sometimes they are so outrageous that I trash them.)

The keepers range from (3) 20″ x 24″ biggies, a 16″ x 20″, a handful of 11″ x 14″ renderings, and a preponderance of 12″ x 16″ paintings—obviously my favorite size. The paintings are predominately woodland scenes and funky individual trees—with a smattering of flowers, a sailboat in trouble, some landscapes with distant castles, a still life (my least favorite), and a huge, totally abstract on Yupo Paper which I LOVE most of all.

Although my inventory preferences are not exactly written in the proverbial stone, they are indicative—and it was fun reviewing a year of art making, body disability notwithstanding.

The year’s earnings amounted to $700.00 which constituted a donation to, and sale at, our local art group’s annual fundraiser. My dislike of office type stuff is such that I can find no record of which paintings I donated. I believe they were “masterpieces” from former years.

Also, I give paintings to interested friends and family members. As with club donations, my right hand (very happily) does not know what my left hand is doing.

I share many of my favorites via prints glued to notecards, thus bragging about my art while facilitating my passion for writing actual letters as opposed to emails.

Above are the end of 2018 renderings, hardly even dry when I photographed them with my I-phone camera. They tend to make me think of Spring, and they are my HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!

Margaret L. Been, December 31st, 2018

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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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May Again 2 3

This painting was inspired by the fact that my head is thinking “MAY”, and in this instance I planned ahead—deciding that the use¬†of gouache would be intentional and prominent.¬† I am getting very excited about the look of oils created by slathering on the gouache.

The piece began with a wash of the primaries, quietly blending on the paper (Saunders Waterford 140# cold press).¬† Next, the tree and branches were formed with a pipette and P. H. Martin’s liquid watercolor.¬† I only have these bottles in the primaries, so I blobbed them all on to create a brownish black.

Finally, when all was dry, I applied the Star of the Show, the ever-faithful gouache in increments, letting the paint dry and then touching up with more.   I think the white is so beautiful when dabbed over the blossom colors.

We have hung this May scene over our piano.¬† But you are seeing only bits (above and also below) of the painting.¬† It is matted and framed to 20″ x 16″, in a¬† magenta colored frame.¬† Even with scanning two sections of the piece, parts of it were sticking out on all sides of my scanner.¬† So what you see is what you get.¬† ūüôā

May Again

The bird in the upper left was not planned.¬† He just flew in.¬† I guess it’s really spring, although not quite May.

Margaret L. Been — March 31, 2016

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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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Eternally Snowing--Winter 2014--2

The salt trick is too much fun!¬† ‚ÜĎ Here is “Eternally Snowing — Winter, 2014”,¬†sprinkled with¬†very coarse salt.¬† Our Wisconsin world!

But every year about now I begin dreaming, and my dreams morph into paintings.¬† Voil√† “Windy Summer Day” ‚Üď .¬† This one was embellished with Kosher salt.

Windy Summer Day

After¬†the painting¬†dries the salt is scraped off, leaving textural marks plus a bit of “shine”.¬† The coarser the salt, the more of a job it is to remove.¬† A credit card works well for scraping, but hopefully not the¬†card which is¬†currently being used.¬† ūüôā

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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March Swamp I

It is no secret that our soul climate on any given day can be reflected in the expressions of our soul—be they in the form of a poem, a song, or a painting.¬† For this reason, counsellors who work with children will pay considerable attention to the “climate” of a child’s art.

I normally spend from 20 to 30 hours a week at my palette.¬† A few days ago I realized that my¬†work was becoming “dark”—not in subject matter, but in actual hue and tone.¬† Skies were murky.¬† Water was muddy, and mountains were drab rather than sparkling.¬† There has been a distinct¬†absence of sunlight, moonlight, and fleecy clouds¬†in recent renderings.¬† I didn’t need to¬†look far afield for the answer to this puzzle; in fact it really wasn’t a puzzle at all.¬† Two weeks ago a family member was diagnosed with cancer.¬† Hence my¬†paintings have darkened.¬†

So three days ago I decided, this will never do.¬† I am not a “dark” person—although I love¬†dark skin, and “work hard” to obtain it in the summer!¬† I have passion for light, and so does my loved one who has cancer.¬† There is no way I can help her (or myself) through the days and weeks ahead by “painting dark”!

Now things are looking up in every way.¬† The cancer is Stage II, and it is believed that chemo will not be needed after surgery.¬† And I’ve¬†pivoted my palette,¬†paper, and paints¬†back to the light.¬† The above print depicts a subject I love—a swamp, in this case a “March Swamp” with the sap of life rising above¬†melting snow.

And¬†below you will see another subject of love and light—one that may be wearing you viewers out because I feature it so often:

 Living on the Patio with Iced Tea

“Living on the Patio with Iced Tea”

SOON!!!¬† ūüôā

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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