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Archive for the ‘Garden Paintings’ Category

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.  🙂

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!  🙂  So why not just dive in?!

Margaret L. Been, March 2015

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Serenity Despite 1

I expect I’ll never get over my fascination with this strange, amazing stuff known as Yupo paper.  Not really paper, Yupo is a polypropolene surface which feels like glass.  Paint slides around on it, and never soaks in; thus many artists hate Yupo.  I’ve discovered that there is no neutral ground.  It’s either love or hate.  And I love!

I have two different Yupo artists on DVDs—one whose work I do not at all care for, and another whose work I love.  I won’t mention the name of the one whose art I can’t warm up to.  My dislike for this individual’s work is purely personal, biased by the fact that the artist achieves a kind of studied perfection and (what I consider to be too much) control which defies the magic of the watercolor-on-Yupo process.  I believe that photo realism is better displayed in actual photography—or by art on traditional supports such as watercolor paper for watercolors, pastel paper for pastels, and canvas for oils or acrylics.  Yupo is, quite simply, SOMETHING ELSE.  It’s like a cat—best when accepted on its own terms.

The Yupo artist whose work I love is a Florida woman, Taylor Ikin.  Her DVD, DANCING WITH YUPO, has inspired me ever since it arrived in my mailbox three years ago.  Were it a video cassette instead of a DVD, I’m sure it would be literally worn out by now. 

Taylor Ikin’s paintings can best be described by a simple word:  FREE!  Although her subject matter is always discernable (at least in what I’ve seen of her work), it conveys the essential freedom of the best abstract expressionism.  Taylor’s working method on Yupo is unique; even just beginning to get the hang of it has taken me a long time.  But one of many endearing charactistics of Yupo is that one can paint on it, and then wash part or all of the rendering off in order to start again.  There need never be a total failure if one has the patience to make numerous trips to the sink.

Here is Taylor Ikin’s method—unlike any I’ve ever witnessed anywhere else.  She begins with an idea (in the DVD she has photos of a waterfall in a beautiful Oregon forest), spritzes a bit of water on the Yupo, and digs into fresh-from-the-tube-paints—swiftly slathering great quantities in colors befitting the subject.  She slathers and smears the paint around with bold strokes (no dinky puttering here) and lets the paints overlap and blend.  Then, before beginning to define much, she lets the initial slathering dry (naturally, not with a blow dryer; heat might mess up the paper’s surface). 

When the Yupo is dry, or nearly so, Taylor begins to lift paint with a clean, damp brush.  She moves colors around, adds colors, etc.—gradually carving out her subject, while taking care to wipe off her brush before swipes.  Through a process of editing, drying, and editing many times the painting evolves.  Having begun with intuition, Taylor completes the work with careful consideration as to “What will make this a better painting?”.

I try this method again and again.  In the case of flowers it works for me, but I have yet to manage anything else.  My Yupo paper results are normally determined by paint on the support rather than my inclination.  I throw the paint, wait to see what happens, and invariably a subject emerges to surprise me.  But I’m constantly working on Taylor Ikin’s method.  At least I can come up with flowers that delight my heart!

When people come to my home for an art day, I like to introduce Taylor Ikin’s Yupo method.  The responses are radically polarized.  Free spirits LOVE Yupo paper, although admittedly they get as frustrated as I did at first exposure, and the control folks HATE it.  A familiar slogan certainly applies to art:  “Different strokes for different folks.”  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Yard Sale

I’ve been known to diatribe about something, and then turn around and contradict myself due to an urgent “change of heart”.  Awhile back I was holding forth (I think it was on http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/) on how Spring in Wisconsin is supposed to be cold and rainy, how we can’t expect it to be anything other than cold and rainy.  I guess at that point I was just happy to see a Canada goose!

But now I am turning around and contradicting myself.  I’m ready to at least hope Spring will be something other than cold and rainy.  What did I do in those pre-watercolor years without a palette from which to express my desires!  I guess a recalcitrant Spring was compensated by colorful yarns, and wishful thinking was projected by my painterly poems. 

Well now I’ve added paints.  Okay . . . so let’s get on with it:  “Yard Sale” above, and “My Arbor and Beyond” below.

My Arbor and Beyond 

Southern Wisconsin, at least my garden, will have to dry out considerably before we sink my still-in-the-box-from-HOME DEPOT-arbor between two old-fashioned, hardy rose bushes.  But yard sales could begin most any slightly warmer weekend, albeit by changing the title to “garage sales”.

Meanwhile, I paint.  🙂  And, as afore mentioned in another place, for those of us who love the growing things A COLD AND RAINY SPRING IS ALWAYS THE BEST!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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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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