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Archive for the ‘Fauvism’ Category

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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Windows to Beyond

Always Time for Tea 2

Art makes fascinating study.  I’m continually amazed at the varying views and disagreement between artists in every detail of painting.  Some staple or tape their paper to a board before proceding, while others (and I am one of these) just let the paper float so that they can lift and blend colors or rinse off areas which are still damp when so desired.  Many artists make value sketches before beginning to paint, and plan every brush stroke in advance, while others begin intuitively—letting the first blobs of paint on wet paper determine the subject of the work.

Some artists will say, “Never extend a shape to the edge of the paper or let part of an object disappear”, while others contend that disappearing shapes make a piece far more interesting.  (The latter suits my taste best, as you can see in my above still life titled “Always Time for Tea.”)

Both of my samples pictured here (the top one is titled “Windows to Beyond“) defy the supposedly “set in stone” art rule which insists that light comes forward and dark recedes.  Obviously the concept of advancing light and receding dark applies to the magnificent chiaroscuro (strong contrast between light and dark) works of the Old Masters which frequently featured portraits. 

Recently I was treated to a traveling exhibition of Rembrandt’s self-portraits at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The face and form of the artist loomed prominently in lights and midtones, highlighted in subtle shadows and flanked by a definitive background of darks.  But I am not a “master” in any sense of the word.  Although I understand the chiaroscuro precept (among other art rules) I don’t consciously attempt to employ it.  Rather, I just sit down and paint—and invariably my darks come forward and my lights recede.  

Perhaps my darks are not true darks.  My handling of watercolor evokes the medium’s transparency and ability to diffuse, but I may never replicate the incredibly rich, velvet-textured darks produced by oils.  That’s okay.  I greatly appreciate the skills and materials which are way beyond my ken, and I’m thankful to have even a rudimentary degree of understanding concerning the principle of light and dark.  Also, quite possibly my darks come forth and my lights recede because my (perhaps one and only!) strength is COLOR.  As one of my favorite contemporary artists, Charles Reid explains: vibrant color always predominates.  Viva les couleurs! 

I delight in reading all and any art history I can get my hands on—and there is enough of it out there to keep me entertained for the rest of my life.  Most of the reading is enjoyable and informative, but I’m especially drawn to the artists who exploited color to the max—the Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and various other “Ists” of the 2nd half of the 19th Century into the early 20th.  Currently my most beloved painter of that era is Matisse who shocked the Parisian art world with his blatant use of color.  Matisse and his followers earned the title:  Les Fauves—meaning “Wild Beasts”.

Reading about artists and art movements is, to me, like eating chocolate or maple sugar—thrilling beyond words.  In fact, the reading is far better than candy!  I can’t get sick on reading art history!  Only more and more inspired, drawn, captivated, and excited about the entire amazing world of shape, texture, and COLOR!  🙂

Margaret L. Been ©2013

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A Place Within

I have been studying art history, and I’m constantly realizing how little I know while rejoicing in the fact that I have time to learn.  Especially since the Parisian Art Revolution which began in the 1860s when those “isms” which warm my heart began to develop in rapid succession, my head spins as I sort out the many fascinating developments of art. 

There is one particular aspect of pictorial language that resonates with me, a language which I understand from the inside out:  the language of color.  Here I’m thoroughly at home in my adopted country of visual art.  I’m on familiar ground, surrounded by artists with whom I could chat at a sidewalk café most anywhere in the civilized world. 

Perhaps that’s because my art is completely subjective.  Like my poetry, my art is a place where I’m free to express myself—a world within.  Even more than the components of light and shadow, typical of the Old Masters’ works, color speaks to me!  As effectively as poetry, color portrays that highly personal inner place—my soul. 

This art adventure parallels a new stage of life, a transition from country to community living.  Thirty three years ago, in the press of demanding circumstances, my husband and I moved to a country home where (like Thoreau at Walden) I could learn to live deliberately.  From that country home we moved to a wild location where there were more deer than humans, a visibly large population of black bears, and a substantial number of timber wolves.  Beautiful background for feeding the soul. 

I believe that God created each of us with a personality to be shaped and honed as He wills.  For nearly thirty years He shaped my world within through nature and solitude and (like Thoreau) I actually learned to live deliberately.  Then suddenly we were translated to a community setting.  My husband and I did what we never thought we could do; we moved from our haven of wild serenity to the accelerated pace of a city suburb—albeit quiet, and definitely not urban. 

And here I am, still living deliberately.  Meanwhile, what am I learning from art history?  I’m learning that art really is all about freedom, even freedom from the isms.  

For me, that means freedom to express my world within—specifically through COLOR

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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What is more fun than sharing a hobby with a friend?  As well as getting together for painting sessions, my friend Barb and I frequently exchange our home grown “art” cards, proving that (for us, anyway) the U.S. Postal Service still provides the most enjoyable kind of mail!

I’ve saved all of Barb’s personalized creations over the years!  She began messing around with paints, scissors, and glue long before I did, and she’s tremendously accomplished at all she puts her hands to.  I consider Barb to be the mentor of my Messy Palette studio!

Above is a shot of my birthday card to Barb, a watercolor on Yupo® paper, ready to be mailed for her early September birthday.  Happy Birthday, Friend!

©2011, Margaret L. Been

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One of the many delightful adventures involved in finding a new life passion, is researching its history.  Since I’ve been steeped and schooled in literature and the English language from little on, I’m no stranger to the craft of writing.  But art history provides a whole new world for me to explore.

Especially fascinating to me are the various art movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Many of us love the French Impressionists, and the Post Impressionists who followed.  Nearly everyone is familiar with reproductions of Monet’s gardens, Degas’ ballerinas, and Van Gogh’s sunflowers.  The fact that these works have not become clichés testifies to their enduring, classic appeal.

The Impressionists came into being with the advent of photography.  For centuries, the artist (along with the scribe) had been the keeper of documentary provenance and the servant of history.  Painting frequently focused on detail.  In the mid 19th century, Paris was considered to be the art hub of the world.  Art accepted for display by the jury of the Louvres Grand Salon was subject to strict guidelines as to technique and subject matter.  Detailed representations of religious, historical, or mythological scenes dominated—with no room for deviation, individual choice of themes, or experimental methods of painting.

Into this stulted environment came the Impressionists, let by Monet.  Camera technology was capable of capturing detail but at that point photographs were in sepia, or black and white.  The Impressionists were inspired (and also aggravated!) to explode in color.  In contrast to the subdued Northern European palette in vogue at the time, these pioneers introduced a vibrancy of color which shocked and angered the art establishment. 

Freed from the boundaries of detailed representation, Impressionist artists explored the frontiers of subjective creativity.  Painters began to develop the essence and effects of outdoor light, en plein air.  The Impressionists also violated the standards of Parisian exhibitors and patrons by spurning traditional topics and painting everyday life—boating parties, gardens, gatherings at outdoor cafés, etc.

Because the reaction of the Paris art community was so vitriolic and violent, the Impressionists (named “Les Refusés” by their critics) had to stage their own showings which were not well-attended.  Patronage was virtually non-existent for years, and the Impressionists—so loved today—were probably the world’s first “starving artists”.  Judges proclaimed Impressionism to be “highly unsuitable for the public—the result of mental derangement.”

Finally, in the 1870s, the French Impressionists found a kindred soul who believed in them.  Gallery owner/art connoisseur Paul Durand-Ruel began buying and selling Impressionist works, largely to American collectors.  Durand-Ruel is quoted to have said, “The American public does not laugh; it buys!”

The Impressionists were followed by more experimental schools, theories, and “isms”, one of which grabs me by the throat:  Fauvism.  Introduced by Henri Matisse in the early 20th century, the Fauvists emphasized the free and arbitrary use of that element which I love best:  COLOR.  Les Fauvists not only wrenched themselves loose from accurate color representation, but they also forayed into the wonderland of abstract (or at least vaguely recognizable) shapes. 

Again, the Parisian art world reacted in anger.  “Les Fauves” means “The Wild Beasts”—humorous because the initial Fauvist, Henri Matisse, was every bit a conventional, family-oriented, balanced, and stable individual in contrast to many great artists before and since. 

Art and the raging isms . . . such fun to read about!  For the untrained and amateur hobbyist such as I am, one motivation predominates; I will paint what I want, however I want!  I’m not painting for an Academie des Beaux Arts, not for patrons, not for a teacher, but rather for myself.  Whomever wishes to come along and enjoy the results of my freedom is welcome!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  I’ve never had a desire to “copy”, but I’m open to inspiration from some areas of art making.  I identify with Les Fauvists, although I’d never even heard of them when I began sloshing brazen color all over the place!

I fell in love with New Mexico—especially Santa Fe and Taos—years before I’d ever heard of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Above is one of my Southwest-themed renderings—digitally enhanced with suns, moon, poofs of cloud or whatever, and an explosion of light created by a program called Home Photo Studio. 

This software is great for art as well as photos.  Quite possibly, I qualify as a “wild beast” for venturing into digital enhancement! 

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