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Throughout weeks of laying low after surgery to mend a broken femur, I have nestled close to 1 of 2 speakers which stream the finest music of the Western World from my I-Phone to my ear.

Among my favorites are Brahms’ incredibly stirring Hungarian Dances.  I have all 21 of them on my phone and pad, performed by the Berliner Symphoniker—and they make me want to fling myself around the room in wild abandon*, gimpy leg notwithstanding.

But in lieu of flinging, I have been painting—between earfuls of Brahms’ haunting Gypsy style refrains.  And the resulting art?  Well it has been wisely said that music is never neutral.  It pervades our psyche and helps to make us whom we are!

In my case, a Boho soul.  I have named the above renderings my “Boho Trees” series.  If you think the trees are strange, just blame Brahms.  Or better yet, stream his Hungarian Dances and get with the flow!

Margaret L Been — December 11th, 2018

*Flinging myself about a room in wild abandon is what I did regularly, as a young child.  My mother was a classical pianist.  She played the Hungarian Dances, and many other selections which motivated me to bounce from couch to chair, whirl in circles till I was dizzy, and then fall on the floor.  So maybe you can view the art and blame Mom!  MB

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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

AW.JPG

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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under

far-out

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!  🙂

music-stand

Margaret L. Been — November 20th, 2016

NOTE:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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winter-sunrise-4-1

Like many Wisconsin children in the 1930s and 40s, I loved winter.  We would race home from school, scarf down some hot cocoa and cookies, put on a few extra layers, and go outside to build snow forts or bombard each other with snowballs.  In the depths of winter, it would be almost dark by the time we quit and went inside to hang our wet wool snowsuits on a steam radiator to dry.  (Oh, the aroma of wet wool heating up!)

I recall several occasions where I realized I was getting sick and could feel a fever rising in my body.  Thinking the outdoor cold would squelch the flu bug (or whatever),  I’d avoid mentioning how I felt to my very solicitous mother, and stay outside as long as I could stand my hot cheeks and shivering self before going indoors and allowing myself to be put to bed with hot lemonade and honey.

(“Sick” was no joke in pre-penicillin days when front doors of homes frequently sprouted warning signs such as:  Scarlet Fever, Diptheria, Measles, etc.  Children were put to bed when they had a fever, no matter what!)

What in the world does all this nostalgia have to do with THE MESSY PALETTE?  Simply this:  Now I am 83 years old and I no longer LOVE winter!  I have become a WUSS!  Granted, snow is beautiful.  In fact, I actually go out and tramp around in the first couple of snowfalls.  But in recent years winter has gotten old very fast.  By March, when I’ve wanted to peel off layers of clothing and renew my store of solar energy, I have found the snowy cold weather to be absolutely annoying.

Now, suddenly, I am tired of being such a WUSS!  I have some really fun and funky leggings and tights, and a drawer full of lovely, colorful sweaters.  I can dress like a clown.  And I’m psyching myself up for winter with my paints.  Case in point is the above sample titled “Winter Sunrise.” 

Determined to put a positive spin on the days ahead, I have created a Three Pronged Plan:  1) putting on another sweater when the indoor temperature drops to 70 or 68 degrees, rather than bumping the thermostat to 75;  2) staying outdoors longer each time I need to take my beloved corgi out to do his jobs; and 3) the aforementioned—celebrating winter with my paints.

Sometimes old geezers* go into a second childhood mode.  Since our corgi Dylan LOVES to roll in the snow, maybe I’ll start rolling with him.  🙂

Margaret L. Been – 10/1/16 

*Yes, I know.  The expression “old geezers” is certainly not politically correct.  Yikes!  Who cares?  Anyway, I can use the label because I am one!  And proud of it!

art-statement-photo

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Argyl.JPG

Now and then I get the above question—always in response to that rare effort with which I’m really happy.

Some of my paintings are okay (no more than that), and some are (in my opinion) frame-able.  But occasionally (once in a red moon?) something happens that actually delights my heart.  Like this one which I have titled “Recalling Argyll”.

In this case, along with other paintings which have evoked the “How did you do that?” query,  I had to answer an interested friend with my standard reply:  “I honestly don’t know!”

What I do know is that I nearly pitched the thing in my wastebasket.  It went through several yucky stages, compounded by the fact that I had nothing whatsoever in my mind when I began painting.  Often that works beautifully, especially with transparent watercolors on YUPO paper which happily does its own thing and produces surprising results when you keep your paintbrush in check or use it lightly.

But in the above case, the transparency got buried too quickly in layers of gouache.  Gouache is my ever-ready friend, but here I let it get overly friendly.  In lieu of simply pitching the work, I decided to just let it alone so the mess of gouache could dry properly—no easy task in our famous Southeastern Wisconsin summer humidity.

Several days later, I revisited the mess and gave it one last fling—this time globs of white gouache blotched randomly to cover up the muddiest layers of the original paint.  And instantly the scene popped out at me:  Argyll.

Back in 1993, Joe and I rented a car and drove (actually Joe did all the driving since it was on “the other side of the road”) 2200 miles–mostly on back roads in Scotland, England, and Wales.  I was raising sheep here in Wisconsin at the time, for wool for my hand spinning and because I love animals—even the silliest of varieties.  So we had planned ahead to stay at sheep farms on this trip of a lifetime.

We landed at Glasgow, and spent our first two days and nights on a farm in Argyll—a  familiar household name in my childhood home.  My Grandma Kate was a Campbell* and pointed proudly back to some 11th century Duke of Argyll.

How did I do this painting?  If I can think up a more helpful answer in addition to the explanation of ruining a painting with piles of gouache and then blotching it up with white paint, I’ll let you know.”  🙂

But maybe Argyll popped up because in 1993 I felt a deep down sense of belonging there, either due to the 11th century Duke or simply because Argyll is a poignantly beautiful part of the world.

Margaret L. Been —August 3rd, 2016 

*If you read Scottish history, you will discover that the Campbells behaved atrociously to the Mac Donalds—something I would hope will stay buried in the past.  Anyway, here is my peaceful finale:  They came to the USA, where the Campbells made soup and the Mac Donalds made hamburgers.

(Do I hear groans?)

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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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When teaching writing workshops, I encourage participants to “Read, read, read various genres and styles of writing—and write, write, write, because only through intense application to reading and writing can one discover his or her individual voice.

When I began painting six years ago, I was not aware of having any particular aptitude for art—only an intense desire.  I sketched and painted apples, pears, eggplants, mushrooms, pumpkins, flowers, trees, rocks, clouds, and rivers—with occasional forays into replicating houses, teapots, chairs, and bottles on windowsills. 

I struggled for accurate representation, and predictably—after a year or two—these renderings failed to satisfy.  The goal of realism faded into the background and imagination surfaced, resulting in colors and shapes bearing less (if any) resemblance to the subject (if any) of the painting.  

Now I was happy, beyond my wildest dream.  Now I could make art for the sheer joy of it without worrying about whether or not it was “good” or “correct”, or whether or not my work would ever resonate with another living soul.

Along with constant painting, I studied:  art technique books, bios of famous artists, art history documentaries, etc.  I immersed myself in art literature, and soon discovered the kinds of paintings I loved—as well as the varieties of art that failed to move me.  

Through reading, I gleaned that every maturing artist develops a style—a “look”, which is equivalent to a writer’s voice.  From experimenting with various media and methods, the painter’s personality emerges.  Media and methods may change over the years as an artist grows, but individuality remains—if the artist is being true to himself, and not just painting to please a teacher or an audience.  This individuality springs from deep within.  It’s a blend of one’s DNA as well as temperament, life passions, and personal history.

I kept on reading and painting, enjoying myself immensely yet considering myself to be such a square-one beginner that I couldn’t possibly have any individual style or “painter’s voice”.  Being advanced in years, I probably figured I might never live long enough to attain that personal look which is the artist’s signature.  So certain that beginners don’t really have any style, I was happily awakened to a new plane of thinking by someone close to me, a person 43 years younger than I—yet possessing that amazing gift of intellectually and verbally “hitting nails on their heads”.  

Two years ago, this person came to our home, looked at a painting I’d just completed, and commented:  “That makes me think of a Russian folk tale.”  So I named the painting “Russian Autumn”.  But I was too new at the craft, and too self conscious, to realize that here was input worth considering.   

Then just last week, my discerning critic visited.  She studied a recent rendering and made another telling appraisal:  “That looks ‘Tolkien-ish’.”  This time I woke up, and began to think!  I responded by reviewing the stacks and shelves full of my completed paintings, matted and waiting for frames.  In a spirit of evaluating, I toured our four room home and critically viewed the plethora of my renderings which we have hung on our walls. 

Light!  Epiphany!  Folk Art!  Or more specifically “Fantasy and Fairy Tale Art”.  To me this discovery is indescribably wonderful—because I know it’s a real break-through!  Nothing on earth characterizes my past more than a delight in imaginative literature.  Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm, read to me by my mother ever since I could sit and listen, were the cause of my passionate desire, at age five—to learn to read and be able to read my very own books. 

Anthropomorphic fiction has always enthalled me:  Felix Salten’s BAMBI, Thorton Burgess’ MOTHER WEST WIND Series, Kipling’s “JUST SO”.  How sterile were the adventures of Nancy Drew, and colorless—despite her yellow roadster!  How boring were stories about people, compared to sagas of animals who acted like people.  Now, as an adult, I find Brian Jacques’ REDWALL novels satisfying beyond description—and I periodically re-read Richard Adams’ WATERSHIP DOWN.

Of course many other kinds of reading consume me—particularly English mysteries and the novels of Charles Dickens, Wilke Collins, and Louis L’Amour (among many others), bios of artists/scientists/or statesmen, and most any documentaries to do with cultures, historical trends and movements, pestilence, politics, exploration, or shipwrecks. 

But none of these can transport my mind and fill my soul with color, excitement, and enchantment more than the “talking animal stories” do.  And nearly every day I reflect the impact of fairy tales when I sit at my spinning wheel and produce yarns for knitting—yarns evoking images of Briar Rose’s castle and that nasty little creature, Rumpelstiltskin.   

Now all that early programming is spilling from the pages of books, via colorful paint, onto paper.  Voilà!  A voice!  In recognition of discovering my voice, I completed still another folkish/fantasy landscape—pictured above:  Tolkien-ish, Brothers Grimm-ish, Brian Jacques-ish, or whatever.  Too much fun!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Last evening I had a BDN.  That’s “Bad Disc Night”—not “disc” as in computers, boom boxes, or DVD players, but discs in the lumbar region of my body.

Joe and I like to go to bed early with our books and George Winston.  George is not actually present in person in our home, but we have 3 and 1/2 hours of him on our IPOD mounted on a boom box.  We play all kinds of music in the daytime—from opera, to requiems, to symphonies, and Celtic harp.  But at night only that poet of the piano, George Winston, will do.

Last night even George, my achey/bakey (a flannel bag filled with feed corn and heated in the microwave), and my prescription pain medication were no help.  Bad discs!

I was studying a newly purchased book:  ART MAKING, COLLECTIONS & OBSESSIONS, by Lynne Perella.  This book, packed with pictures and inspiring text, contains “An Intimate Exploration of the Mixed-Media Work and Collections of 35 Artists.”

I read, viewed, and savored page after page of wonderfully funky stuff—shelves and boxes crammed full of tantalizing junk, plus art and unique groupings fashioned from junk by imaginative minds with skillful hands.  But even the delectable contents of my book, in tandem with the above-mentioned remedies, couldn’t tame those bothersome lumbar discs.

The book finally catapulted me out of bed and into the living room.  Suddenly I just had to create something—a little vignette on the coffee table by one of our sofas.  I gathered odds and ends, puttered, and voila:  the above table laden with some of my (many!) favorite things.

From left to right behind the platter of shells you will see:  the corners of two 1917 nature books with gorgeous watercolor illustrations given to me by a precious friend, Georgian, who married my Dad when he was a 95 year old widower; a watercolor sketch of Joe fishing, quickly done by me as I sat behind him in the boat while dipping my paintbrush in the lake; a Cheerios® mug containing not cereal, but rather a baby jade plant; and my watercolor rendition of a wolf cub howling his heart out.

On the mirrored platter you will find:  a variety of Atlantic Ocean shells and some coral; a 1920s crystal door knob; an elegant little notebook given to me by our daughter, Judy; a battery operated tea light in a green glass votive dish; a piece of tattered lace; and (left front) a diminutive, ornately framed photo of my two sisters when they were young—Ardis who was 8 years older than I, and Shirley, the sister who died before I was born.

After creating this scenario of beauty, and surveying my personal “art making” with much satisfaction, I went back to bed and also to sleep—raging discs notwithstanding,  

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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