Archive for the ‘Gouache’ Category


I often giggle when I think of what comes out of my studio in contrast to the work of gifted, well-schooled artists!  Highly skilled artists may be among the most generously-encouraging-to-beginners group of professionals on earth.  We all are included in a vastly diverse culture where there is a place for most anyone at any level and inclination.

But I have a library of art books—both “how to” tutorials by well-known artists, and tomes of art history and criticism.  I love to study these books, and I do know the difference between classic art and smoke and mirrors—my off-the-cuff “hashtag” for a bag of tricks which I am delighted to share with any beginner who is eager to paint and willing to spend hours each week, building an inventory of paintings in his or her studio.

My 12″ x 16″ rendering below is titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, and it is composed of tricks that my seven-year-old great-grandsons could perform if they decided to sit or stand still long enough,  I began by slathering gesso on the 140# cold press paper to create rocky slopes.  After the gesso dried, I sprayed the surface with water and applied different watercolors—jiggling the paper so the paints could blend and do their own thing,  When those paints dried, I streaked a thinned application of white gouache here and there to add mystery and a sense of age to the rocks.  Voilà.  Smoke and mirrors.

A Rock and a Hard Place

The next example displays a couple of favorite tricks:  plastic wrap and salt.  (I use Kosher salt, but any will do—creating slightly varying effects).  The paper used here is Yupo, that glass-like surface which is not really paper, but rather an amalgamation of chemicals.  (There is no middle ground with Yupo.  Artists either love it or hate it.  The lovers are the “let it all hang out” group of which I am one, and the haters are the perfectionists who do well with lots of control.)

Where you see crinkles and wrinkles, that is where the plastic wrap was applied.  It takes a long time for the paint to dry under plastic wrap on Yupo, and less time on a rag surface which is absorbent.  The spots and phased-out parts were done with salt.  The salt technique is far more spectacular on rag paper than on Yupo.  The painting at the top of this page shows the result of salting the wet paint on rag paper.  Salt can make snowflakes, clouds, stars, dandelion fluff, and many additional effects,

Thus you can see that whenever art making is a person’s dream, it can be done.  And every dream will materialize differently—as each of us is unique.  What fun we can have, sharing our ways to implement the smoke and mirrors!  🙂

Smoke and Mirrors.JPG


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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!  🙂

Margaret L. Been — 2/23/18

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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”.  ⇑  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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Here is a bold venture:  a painting which turned out to be too large for the ready-made frames at our local craft stores.  I had grabbed an entire sheet of Yupo® and had a blast, painting and thinking I would crop the finished work to fit a 24″ x 20″ frame which I had on hand.  But I was pleased with the entire piece, and couldn’t figure out where, if any, I wanted to sacrifice part of it.

A brainy idea:  custom framing.  This is pricey indeed, and I will not do it very often.  But the result is satisfying.  Below you can see The Big One on a living room wall:

Wall 2


Many layers of gouache were piled onto this painting, over washes of watercolor.  Actually called “Waterfall”, this rendering evokes memories of a real waterfall we had on our 14 plus acres up north, where we lived full time for eight years.

Our land bordered on two roads, one up and one down a hill.  Our home was on the downhill road, next to a lake.  In the spring, snow and ice melted from the above road and roared downhill to our back yard, over boulders and brush.  The sound was stirring, and so loud that it resonated through closed windows.  In the summer, the waterfall morphed into a trickling downhill creek—always refreshing to sit beside on one of the big boulders.

How beautiful to have mellow memories, and then to paint them (and have them framed)!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

NOTE:  Obviously I couldn’t scan this painting on my home scanner, so I photographed it with my cell phone.  Because the piece was framed with non-glare glass I could do that.  But I failed to get the entire bit into the top photo.  In the shot of the painting on the wall with its surrounding environment, you get a better idea of how the waterfall fans out at its base.

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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!


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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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!  🙂


Margaret L. Been — November 20th, 2016

NOTE:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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