Archive for the ‘Garden Paintings’ 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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Ice Tea again

It is often said that artists can create the world the way they wish it would be!¬† This may be true of most of the arts, and many crafts as well—where one is fashioning beauty from ashes—or victory in the midst of something that seems like defeat.¬† In my poetry, I have often featured the presence of light in apparently dark circumstances.

Without getting more ponderous, when indeed my mood is upbeat as I share with you, the above painting is the world the way I’m eager to experience it—and will in a few weeks.¬† Having lived in Wisconsin for all but three of my eighty-four years, I should know (and do!) that April in my home state is not like “April in Paris”.

Sometimes we get teased a bit with warm splashes, and these are meant to be savored but not viewed as the permanent seasonal weather change.¬† Meanwhile, we can paint (sing, write, dance) whatever weather we want—thereby creating our own reality:¬† our own private world.¬† A case in point is this painting, titled “Ice Tea Again”, reflecting a pastime which is HUGE in my estimation:¬† drinking ice tea on our patio beside our pretty little patio garden, while watching the birds and chipmunks that enjoy the hospitality of our feeders.

I have done many ice tea type paintings, but this one is unique.¬† Were you to actually see the painting, now framed in a 16″ by 20″ softly gilded frame, you would probably observe that something new has been added:¬† touches of mixed medium accents which add texture and individuality to the piece.

At this moment two amazing British artists—Ann Blockley and Soraya French—are vitalizing, coaching, and inspiring me via books and (in Ann’s case) DVDs to experiment with mixed media.¬† So “extras” have been added to this watercolor and gouache rendering, including areas of enhanced color on and around the flower shapes made with hard pastel pencils and Derwent Inktense sticks.¬† The winding vines were formed by streaking India ink from a pipette and letting it ooze around on the damp paper.¬† You may notice the sketchy lines drawn by oil pastels* in areas alongside the vines.¬† And, as always, thick applications of gouache have covered a plethora of boo-boos.

The above-mentioned artists, and many others, stress the importance of playing with the mediums, learning what they can do and not worrying about the outcome.  JUST PLAY!  This really appeals to me after a rather dragged out autumn and winter beginning with the loss of my beloved corgi in October and adding a challenging shoulder replacement to the mix.  I intend to play, while drinking volumes of ice tea!

Included in the “play”, is the fact that I am diving into water soluble oils.¬† This is happening at my newly acquired hardwood easel.¬† The easel doesn’t work for watercolor painting, as there is not room enough in the bedroom studio to flatten out the surface.¬† But oils can be done on a tilt.¬† While watercolors, gouache, and mixed medium play happens at my dining room studio, oils are slowly drying and developing on the easel.

Margaret L Been — April 14th, 2008

*When I received my order from DICK BLICK of a beautiful, magenta colored wood box of 60 oil pastels (Van Gogh brand) I reverted to childhood.¬† I can’t express the wonder and joy of running my fingers over the surface of these sticks, marveling at the gorgeous color gradations.

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Fall Night - Copy

Six months since my last entry.¬† I always taught our 6 children that they should never feel pressured to make excuses.¬† Reasons, okay, but excuses are lame.¬† Just admit, “I didn’t do it, make it, remember it, whatever.”

My only reason for not sitting down to my computer would be a feeble excuse:¬† I don’t like to have to stay indoors in the summer.¬† Well that doesn’t fly:¬† 1) I could take my laptop outdoors; 2) I could blog on my I-pad; 3) Even in the summer there is some indoor weather in Wisconsin; and 4) Summer of 2017 is long gone.

All such flim-flam aside, here I am:¬† getting ready to celebrate the miraculous birth of our Lord with a wonderful big family.¬† (There are momentarily 53 of us, and number 54 is due today to come out, to meet the tribe.¬† She is our 19th great-grandchild, already named as of her 1st ultra-sound—“Margaret Rose” after her 2 paternal great-grandmas, of them being “moi”.¬† How wonderful is THAT!)

And here is some art, “Autumn Garden at Night”.¬† ‚áϬ† The piece is gouache on a gallerywrap canvas, and it comes with poignant memories.¬† Beginning last March, our precious Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Dylan, started to decline.¬† He need to be taken out many times in a 24 hour period, so—like Robert Frost—I became very “acquainted with the night”.

March, April, and May nights were blustery, damp, and cold—but summer and early autumn were lovely.¬† Dylan and I, attached at the hip since Joe and I brought him home from a farm in Iowa in early 2004, had countless precious nocturnal jaunts in our quiet courtyard lit by the patio light and the rosy solar lights in my gardens.¬† Hence the above rendering.

Our Denver son, Karl, would like this painting and it will be his as soon as I find a way to get it to him, hopefully barring UPS or Priority Mail.  But I am happy to have the picture in my computer, and on prints which I can share.  Dylan died peacefully in my arms on October 16th.  I think he had that famous corgi smile on his face right up to his last sigh.

Meanwhile, I worship a Living Savior and praise Him for LIFE—for people to love and “all creatures great and small”.¬† May God bless you and your families with a beautiful holiday season—wherever, and whomever you are.

Margaret L. Been — 12/18/17

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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:


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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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.”¬† ūüôā

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.¬† ūüôā¬† 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.¬†‚ÜstThese 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!¬† ūüôā

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!¬† ūüôā

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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