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Archive for the ‘Light!’ Category

Heading Home for Good.jpg

I doubt there is any middle ground with Yupo paper.  One either loves it or hates it.  The “haters” are those artists who demand control of their paints, and always work with an unflappable agenda in mind.  These folks create beautiful works of abject realism, and often artists of palpable realism are highly trained and amazingly gifted—especially if they achieve high end realism in watercolors.  Everyone knows that chasing watercolors is a bit like herding cats.

I am neither highly trained nor amazingly gifted, and fortunately the art I love the most does not fall in the category of abject realism.  My favorite artists, the French Impressionists, Post Impressionists, Les Fauves, etc. who worked largely in oils were realistic to a degree, but always with an intensely personal voice.  For anything other than “personal voice” I would use a camera—and for me, that wouldn’t be half as much fun as getting out the Yupo and letting the paints fly hither and thither.

Last week my good friend and fellow artist, Vikki, and I shared an art day at our dining room table.  We began on Yupo.  My rendering was, for starters, terribly generic and dreadfully similar to stacks of other paintings I’ve done:  tree – space – tree – space;  leaves and blossoms on tree – space – etc; and plomp – plomp – plomp – ad nauseum.

Now I detest—and desire to always eschew—the plagiarizing of any thing or any person, including myself.  So that night I looked over this Yupo thingy, almost upchucked, sprayed it with my trusty water bottle, pressed plastic clingy food wrap onto the entire surface, and went to bed.

The next day I removed the cling film and VOILÀ!  Something I could further develop and live with:  the suggestion of a Viking ship* with sails, and lots of turbulence all over the place.  So much better than plomp – plomp – plomp!

I added delineation and definition via gouache to the vessel and its surrounding sky and water—leaving a plethora of confusion, color, and turbulence in the sails as if the depicted journey was, like many of life’s journeys, fraught with distractions, dead-ends, and disasters.

However I am always a positive-note person, so then I named the piece:  “Heading for Home the Last Time”—reflecting my blessed assurance in a glorious destination through it all, and eternal joy in the presence of my Lord Jesus.

Margaret L. Been, May 2017

*Because this painting is matted and framed to 12″ x 16″, it was too large to entirely fit in my scanner.  Thus the ends of the ship do not completely show on the print.  The original in its full size is more representative of an actual Viking ship.  Since my husband is descended from Vikings, and loves ships, I wanted to be somewhat realistic.  🙂

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rollicking-autumn

At one point the above rendering looked exceedingly dark and dreary:  blues, greens, and browns—nice colors but in need of some life.  As I often do, I thought of the late artist, Thomas Kincade.*  In one of his books, he shared that his favorite part of every painting was at the very end, when he added the light.

Now recalling Kincade’s work, I think what he had in mind was a subtle, airbrushed glow of light and not the Van Gogh-ish streaks you see here.  But light is light.  With all due respect to Kincade who obviously was extremely gifted, I really love Van Gogh—and inexperienced as I am, it shows.  So streaks of light transformed this work from a dreary rainy day in late summer to rollicking autumn.  And that’s what I’ve named the piece:  Rollicking Autumn.

Margaret L. Been — 9/14/16

*I believe that Thomas Kincade was a tremendously sensitive man with a huge soul.  His tragic end stands in contrast to the content of his art—which, although not the kind of thing I like to hang on my walls, is quietly soothing and nostalgic.  His life was a sobering testimony to the travesty of fame and success á là Hollywood with all its phony glitz and deceptive glamour.

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Up North 4

Our Christmas Day celebration was memorable with a great blend of good company, good food, and—as usual when we gather with family and friends—loads of laughs, some of which erupted from a series of hilarious selfies.  Our family tends to goof it up when posing for pictures, and when you can see the results instantly it’s all the more fun!

The only thing missing here in Southern Wisconsin was snow.  Instead we had something which has not happened very often in recent weeks:  a day of welcome sunshine.  But we love a beautiful snowfall, and in Wisconsin we think “Christmas and snow”.

Lately I was especially thinking snow, due to a photo in a holiday greeting from a friend, professional artist, and fellow poet Diana Randolph, who lives way up where we natives call “Up North”*.  The individuals in the photo are set in that incredibly pristine landscape of Up North snow.

So for days I went around remembering Joe’s and my eight years of living full time, UP NORTH.  I kept seeing our Northern home in my mind’s eye**.  There is a kind of light Up North even on overcast snowy days, until night—and then one frequently sees what appear be a million stars.  My mind’s eye was visualizing that light in the process of the above painting in watercolor and gouache.

So thank you, Diana, for your inspiring photo and Christmas greeting—and for your encouragement as well!   You can meet Diana and view her beautiful art on her website.  Just GOOGLE Diana Randolph, Northern Wisconsin Artist.

Margaret L. Been, December 2014

*Roughly speaking, in Wisconsin we consider “Up North” to be most anywhere north of Highway 10.  But for me the term has also become symbolic of a contented way of living and the quality of experiencing a “whole” life wherever we live.  Some day I may develop this theme on my everyday life blog:  Northern Reflections.

**Like so many commonly used expressions, “the mind’s eye” comes from The Old Bard—this phrase via Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 1, Scene 2.  Shakespeare is indeed immortal, with countless figures of speech and phrases enduring through the centuries—along with wisdom, wit, and insight concerning the human heart and mind.  🙂

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Eternally Snowing--Winter 2014--2

The salt trick is too much fun!  ↑ 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.  Voilà “Windy Summer Day” ↓ .  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.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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Jamie and Leo's Day

For most of my life, I have recorded moments—joyous and otherwise–in words.  In the process of experiencing life, my main thought was always, “I have got to write this!”

Now my entire being has undergone a paradigm shift.  I’m still the same person, and I experience life as deeply (if not more so) as before, but my main response to the moment has become, “I have got to paint this!”

The above selection is titled “Jamie and Leonardo’s Day”.  Our granddaughter, Jamie, married her Mexican sweetheart, Leonardo, on September 28th, 2013.  The autumn day was quintessentially perfect with a turquoise sky and soft breezes soughing in ancient trees above our heads as we visited outside the Delafield, Wisconsin, St. John’s Northwest Military Academy replica of a Norman cathedral— while waiting for the wedding ceremony to begin.

As we waited and chatted with family members and friends, I kept thinking:  “I have got to paint this moment!”  Thus the result, featured above.

I love the Episcopal Church’s tradition of red doors to symbolize the shed blood of Christ, so an arched red door was foremost in the rendering—just as the arched red door stands out on the gorgeous mini Norman style cathedral in our nearby little town of Delafield.  Also vital to me was a hint at the Norman architecture (which characterizes the entire St. John’s campus).  And in the painting, sunlight predominates—just as it did on Jamie and Leonardo’s day.  Likewise, I pray and believe sunlight will prevail in Jamie and Leonardo’s life together!

The entire day and evening were memorable beyond description.  The reception was held at a nearby fine dining restaurant on the lake which borders our communities.  A Mariachi band played faithfully and fervently for hours.  At one point, the groom donned a huge sombrero, and sang romantically to his bride (in Spanish, of course) while gazing into her eyes.  Most of us had not realized that Leo could sing.  He’s very good!

Rather than clinking knives on crystal to evoke kisses, each guest had a maraca to shake—painted pink, with Jamie and Leonardo’s name and the date to remember.  Mothers and grandmothers gathered up the abandoned maracas at the end of the party, to share with little people who always love to shake something.

The old saying applies:  “A good time was had by all!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

For those of you who may appreciate a bit more definition, here is a photo of the St. John’s Catherdral.  The photo was taken in winter, so you’ll need to imagine the glory of a September day.  But the beauty of the architecture stands out clearly in winter.

St. John's 1

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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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In her book, WATERCOLOR FROM WITHIN, fine artist Barbara Nechis writes about starting a painting without having any particular plan or goal in mind.  She sometimes begins by making a shape on the paper, following up with more shapes, eliminating strokes that she doesn’t want to save, and continuing until the paint and water suggest a subject.

What a fun, “win-win” way to work!  With no expectations, there can be no disappointments!  I’m currently disciplining myself to use 140# watercolor paper on a regular basis, in addition to the YUPO paper which I am daft over—so that I won’t forget how to work on genuine rag paper. 

Last night I used Barbara’s technique of just letting the subject happen—a method that works beautifully on YUPO because one can always wash off the undesirable blotches.  On watercolor paper, it’s trickier and far more challenging to convert less than wonderful brush strokes into something we can live with.  You can see the result of my playful labors, above.  I began with the petal thingy in the center, and to begin with it was too “petal-y” and too red to suit me at that moment.  Then I added yellow, to mellow it out.  (Mellow yellow.)

The right side of the petal thingy really offended me—so I sought to cover part of it with permanent magenta, and then a swipe of dioxazine violet.  I went a little batty then, and waved my brush hither and thither—creating more “petals” and those pointy/streakies which I love so much—covering lackluster areas with layers of different colors.

At first glance at the finished work, I thought—oh, it’s just a bunch of flower shapes.  But then the light dawned.  Forgive the pun.  My painting reminded me of something that goes off half cocked (another pun) at dawn.  Here’s a clue, if you don’t see the subject with your own eyes:  Once upon a time I had a bunch of these (live critters) and they went off half cocked every dawn—driving some of our suburban neighbors to distraction.

I named this amazing bit of fun “. . . the dawn’s early light”.  (I thought of naming it “Oh say can you hear by the dawn’s early light?”, but was leery of being disrespectful of our nation’s flag.)

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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