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Archive for the ‘Movements in Art’ 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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Wisconsin Winter Dogwood 2

All the years (nearly ten!) that I’ve been making art have been satisfying, but without a doubt 2015 has been the most productive for me so far.  I’ve done more experimenting, begun to work larger (20″ x 24″), and enjoyed the privilege of exhibition opportunities including changing and hanging art four times a year at a restaurant, bank, chiropractic clinic, and hospice, and currently displaying twenty-nine watercolor and gouache paintings at a fun and trendy local restaurant.

I’m in awe of this, because it has simply “happened”.  I never dreamed of being able to display my work, and never pushed in that direction.  When we moved to the Lake Country Northwest of Milwaukee six plus years ago, I joined a group which features all artistic disciplines—mainly to get acquainted with writers and poets and find opportunities for poetry readings.

For one meeting of the group (the Pewaukee Area Arts Council) we were asked to bring visual art for a kind of “show and tell”.  I really stressed out about this.  Should I or should I not even dare to bring a few paintings to share?

For several years I’d studied via books and DVD tutorials.  I’d absorbed some basics.  I’d spent countless hours every week playing with my paints and brushes, because making art had become an overwhelming passion for me—as it continues to be today, ever-green and ever-growing.  I had consistently challenged myself with goals for trying new ideas and a variety of different methods and materials.  I’d embarked on a study of art history and past artists—an ongoing, fascinating research of which I never tire.

But no, I hadn’t considered that I’d ever share my work beyond a circle of family members and friends who would encourage whatever I do simply because they love me.  I was making art because it brought joy to my heart, beyond my ability to express.

With misgivings and absolutely no positive expectations, I did decide to bring three framed paintings to that meeting.  In retrospect, I was something like Hans Christian Andersen’s UGLY DUCKLING.  I saw the swans and they were so beautiful that I was inexplicably drawn to them, even though, in a metaphorical duckling’s motif they might “kill” me.

Well, my fellow artists did not “kill” me; they responded with enthusiasm and encouragement.  Suddenly I realized that even though inexperienced and limited, I might also be some kind of a swan.

While ever mindful that these new and exciting opportunities are Heaven sent—pure grace to a lady of advanced years—I can definitely say that 2015 has been a very good year for art.  In retrospect, all of my years have been good in one way or another—dating back to 1933.

MC 3Meanwhile:  Happy New Year to you from Joe, Margaret, and the sweetest corgi imaginable—Dylan Been.

Margaret L. Been — December 29. 2015

NOTE:  The above painting is titled “Wisconsin Winter Dogwood”.

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.Beautiful Bouquet for Jamie

Recently our Denver son, Karl, visited us “back East”—in Wisconsin.  He spotted a painting I’d done for his sister, our daughter Debbie,  Rather than continuing to lose you readers in a string of our family connections, I’ll simply state that after seeing the painting, Karl said, “I’d like one like THAT.”

Wonderful!  So satisfying when someone likes your art, right?  But “one like THAT”—similar to, and in the time frame of, the above-pictured rendering–was done three years ago.  Now I’m trying to paint “one like THAT”, but I always come up with something different.

Maybe because of writing articles and stories for magazines and newspapers for decades, I’m sensitive to the ominous significance of plagiarism.  I have always been super cautious not to plagiarize someone else in my work.  Now that visual art has pushed my writing career to the background, I cannot even pick up a paintbrush and plagiarize myself!

Every individual who devotes huge chunks of time to art will attest to the fact that we change and grow.  I’m constantly exposing myself to different and new techniques and styles through books and DVDs.  When too weary at the end of a day to actually work in my studio (a card table in a corner of our bedroom), I immerse myself either in volumes of my beloved mid-to-late 19th century French artists or in the theories and works of present day water-media artists whom I find greatly inspiring:  Cheng-Khee Chee, Charles Reid, Barbara Nechis, Jean Haines, Shirley Trevena, Taylor Ikin, Clare Harrigan, and Karlyn Holman*, to name a few.

Although I never sit down at my art table with an open book or a DVD screen before me, I know that ideas for different approaches seep in through a kind of soul osmosis.  Constantly I enjoy delving and exploring fresh possibilities—even some that I’ve discovered on my own, such as mounding gouache on top of watercolors to achieve a textural effect resembling that of oil on canvas.

Hence I may never able to reproduce “one like THAT”.  But I’ll continue trying, and something will connect!  Scanned and emailed images of various new paintings are bombarding Karl, and when the right one appears on his computer screen he will reply, “Stop!  That’s it!”

One like THAT!

blue and old pottery 2

 

More Equinox

©Margaret L. Been, September 2014

*Many water-media artists tape their paper to a board before beginning to paint.  I prefer not to do this, as I enjoy tipping and wiggling my paper so that colors will run and form beautiful “cauliflowers”.  Some of the paper taping is done simply to prevent 140# cold press watercolor paper from buckling when wet.  Through her teaching, Karlyn Holman demonstrates the perfect solution for that—forever freeing artists for the need to tape their watercolor paper to a board.  Here is Karlyn’s wonderful trick.

Thoroughly wet the back of your finished painting.  Then make a sandwich:  a plastic placemat on a table or counter; clean paper toweling over the placemat; the painting face down on the paper toweling; another layer of paper toweling on top of the painting’s wet back; another layer of plastic placemat or whatever; and a large book, or several books, to weight down the sandwich.

Leave the sandwich overnight, and voila.  A perfectly flat painting.  If the watercolor paper is still damp, I repeat the sandwich process (omitting the wetting stage of course) until the painting is dry enough to mat.  COOL!  Thank you, Karlyn.  Wisconsin people are indeed brilliant!!!  🙂 )

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Shades of Seurat

Spring is taking its own sweet time, here in Wisconsin.  We recently spent 10 days at our Northern home—280 miles North of our Southern home, and were surrounded by mountains of snow where a friend had plowed our driveway all winter.  While up North, we had another 2 inches of snow.  It was so beautiful that I actually ran out and photographed the tree tops, as if I’d never seen snow before.  Meanwhile, I confess I was thinking “Who needs this?”

We left to come “home South” on a Wednesday, and the next day 8 more inches landed in the North.  It was a real “WHEW” to get back down here where all but a few patches of white remained on the ground.  But it is still COLD/COLD/COLD.  So I just dream and paint—flowers, budding trees, and our summer patio with a lounge chair and the ubiquitous pitcher of iced tea.

And waterfalls!  The above rendering is my recollection of a spring waterfall that charges downhill on our Northern property.  Every year, as winter melts into spring, water rushes down over large boulders.  In heavy snow years, the deluge is audible even behind closed windows and doors.  This year, when the snow finally begins to budge, the waterfall will be spectacular.

This blog has at least one Northern Wisconsin reader, Diana.  So, Diana, is it actually beginning to happen up there?  When it does, springtime in the far North is something unforgettable.  As I recall, the longer we had to wait the more wonderful it was!

Concerning the above painting on YUPO® paper:  I have called it “Shades of Seurat”, because the salt which I sprinkled on wet paint reminds me of pointillism.  (See the rocks, mainly on the right side.)  That just happened.  I had no idea what I was doing—just happily salting the rocks, like I will be salting that leg of lamb which presently resides in our freezer.

But the lamb will also get white pepper, garlic, and curry.  Who knows what painted rocks would look like with that combination?  And why not try it?  At least the painting would smell great!  This is how we play!

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

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Boreal Twilight

It is the night before the night before Christmas—a time of great joy for our family (50 immediate family members counting children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, husbands, wives, and significant others).  There are also friends whom we consider to be family—some who have been an integral part of our lives for decades, our children’s close friends among them.

Meanwhile, this is an art blog.  How I love sharing art talk with kindred readers!  I’ve been thinking big time about the people who have encouraged and instructed me in this late-in-life experience which has become an absolute passion and joy!

My family has been an incredible support, and they like to have some of “me” on their walls.  Joe smiles when the UPS drops packages at our patio door—brown boxes loaded with brushes, tubes of paint, and huge increments of paper.  At one time he said, “Don’t artists use the 3 primaries to get all their colors?”  My answer was “Yes, that can be done, but just look at what manufacturers have produced in recent decades.”  Joe got the point, which is pretty obvious when one views the two generous containers in my studio:  one overflowing with partially squeezed tubes, and the other abounding in delicious brand new tubes waiting their turn to get squeezed.

The support of those whom I consider to be “real artists”, has been an amazing surprise and blessing at every turn.  By real artists I mean exactly that.  These are the individuals who were often drawing and painting as children—just as I was always writing a poem or an essay.  They are professional in every sense of the world—whether in teaching or selling (and frequently they are doing both).

As a fumbling, embarrassed beginner (not that long ago—it was 2006) I never dreamed of getting encouragement from artists who know what they are doing.  But I soon discovered that collectively artists are actually the most out-going, supportive people on earth—creative souls who love nothing more than to share their passion while inspiring others to experiment and grow.

Most painters (and this is probably true in other visual art disciplines) realize that each of us is one of a kind.  We learn from each other, however each person’s work will have a signature which is unique.  There is art for all people, at all levels.  I certainly know the difference between the four to six digit paintings which hang in the most discerning of galleries, and my own art which may be displayed and very occasionally sold at an Art Walk on the sidewalks of our small neighborhood community.  I am contented, and tremendously happy to be a part of the entire scene!

I owe more than words can say to a friend, fine artist in pastels, and encouraging teacher in the gorgeous Wisconsin Northwoods—Diana Randolph.  I attended two of Diana’s workshops held at a school a couple of hours from our Northern home—one a drawing class and the other an introduction to those beautiful buttery, silky pastels.

Drawing was (and I admit still is) my very weakest thing (I can’t call it a skill)!  This is a sobering admission since the reading of Art History reveals that down through the ages drawing has been the very basis of art.  Years were spent, simply drawing.  Pre-Raphaelite English fine artist and critic John Ruskin believed that color should only be introduced after an intense discipline of drawing-drawing-drawing.  Sorry, John.  I simply couldn’t go there, and my heart does not leap at the sight of a pencil or charcoal stick.

But COLOR!  There I was immediately hooked/grabbed/enamored/and fulfilled—body and soul.  To add color!  Well I had been doing that in decorating my home and body nearly forever.  Why not add color to paper or canvas?  Diana’s pastels got me so excited that I ordered high quality soft and hard sticks, the right surface, the sandpaper, the solvent to smear in strategic spots, the whole bit—only to discover that pastel dust did nothing worthwhile for my tetchy breathing apparatus.

Realizing that pastels were out, I deduced that oils would also be a problem for this confirmed asthmatic.  So what was my logical medium for COLOR?  Water/water/water and wonderful 37ml tubes of watercolor.  (Winsor & Newton, Da Vinci, and American Journey all come in these large tubes.  I also love some Daniel Smith colors which are available in smaller sizes.)

Diana Randolph is the only “real life” teacher I’ve worked with.  But a long time friend, fine artist Jan Roberts, has also been a constant source of inspiration.  Jan works in most every medium, and I have three of her magnificent oils hanging in our home.

My bookshelves groan with contemporary watercolorists who have shared through their books.  I have studied via books and DVDs—reading and viewing over and over and then some.  Each of these artists is unique, and they have varying views on many aspects of what to do, and how.  All of them encourage beginners, and acknowledge that they once were novices as well.  (Maybe when they were three years old! )

Book and DVD studies are also refreshing and freeing!  I respond to some techniques and am not so crazy about others.  This, perhaps, is the birth of an artist’s voice—compounded from much exposure from books, films, and actual galleries whenever possible!  A person can never learn it all, and knowing that I am a student, forever growing, thrills me right down to my toes!

Here is my list of surrogate teachers in watercolor painting:  Americans—Charles Reid, Cheng-Khee CHEE, Barbara Nechis, Karlyn Holman (Wisconsin proudly claims Karlyn!), and Taylor Ikin (the “YUPO Queen”); Canadians—Karin Huehold and Linda Kemp; and British—Shirley Trevena and Jean Haines.  These are amazing teachers who differ in many ways—their main similarity being the creation of fantastically beautiful work.  Due to the marvels of technology, I have received email encouragement from some of these artists.  The profusion of encouragement never fails to remind me of Hans Christian Andersen’s THE UGLY DUCKLING.  I realize that I’m not quite a “swan”, but the swans have really made me feel like I belong—and this is a beautiful feeling!

Currently, I’m enjoying practicing a method from UK fine artist Jean Haines’ DVD, AMAZING WAYS WITH WATERCOLOR.  Jean begins some of her paintings with a single spot on the paper, and letting the subject reveal itself from that spot by streaking lots of color and water in a diagonal.  Jean stresses the need to let each stage dry completely, and to enjoy the beauty of each stage—the color fusions and the way a subject will evolve for future development.

Jean demonstrates painting cockerels (of course that’s UK for roosters).  She loves cockerels and so do I having raised numerous fancy breeds of cockerels (I think I’ll call them that!), hens, and chicks for eighteen years on our little funny farm in Eagle, Wisconsin.  So I have been experimenting, and here is one of my studies—called “Overdressed for the Occasion”.

Overdressed for the Occasion 2

It will undoubtedly take many more “bloggings” to share the countless ideas I’ve incorporated from books and DVDs.  I hope to do that in 2014.  But this blog entry has grown so long, I wonder if anyone will make it to the finish.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to edit a single word of thanks to all of my teachers, and to you readers.  You mean so much to me!!!  🙂  Merry Christmas!!!

Margaret L. Been, December 2013

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Windows to Beyond

Always Time for Tea 2

Art makes fascinating study.  I’m continually amazed at the varying views and disagreement between artists in every detail of painting.  Some staple or tape their paper to a board before proceding, while others (and I am one of these) just let the paper float so that they can lift and blend colors or rinse off areas which are still damp when so desired.  Many artists make value sketches before beginning to paint, and plan every brush stroke in advance, while others begin intuitively—letting the first blobs of paint on wet paper determine the subject of the work.

Some artists will say, “Never extend a shape to the edge of the paper or let part of an object disappear”, while others contend that disappearing shapes make a piece far more interesting.  (The latter suits my taste best, as you can see in my above still life titled “Always Time for Tea.”)

Both of my samples pictured here (the top one is titled “Windows to Beyond“) defy the supposedly “set in stone” art rule which insists that light comes forward and dark recedes.  Obviously the concept of advancing light and receding dark applies to the magnificent chiaroscuro (strong contrast between light and dark) works of the Old Masters which frequently featured portraits. 

Recently I was treated to a traveling exhibition of Rembrandt’s self-portraits at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The face and form of the artist loomed prominently in lights and midtones, highlighted in subtle shadows and flanked by a definitive background of darks.  But I am not a “master” in any sense of the word.  Although I understand the chiaroscuro precept (among other art rules) I don’t consciously attempt to employ it.  Rather, I just sit down and paint—and invariably my darks come forward and my lights recede.  

Perhaps my darks are not true darks.  My handling of watercolor evokes the medium’s transparency and ability to diffuse, but I may never replicate the incredibly rich, velvet-textured darks produced by oils.  That’s okay.  I greatly appreciate the skills and materials which are way beyond my ken, and I’m thankful to have even a rudimentary degree of understanding concerning the principle of light and dark.  Also, quite possibly my darks come forth and my lights recede because my (perhaps one and only!) strength is COLOR.  As one of my favorite contemporary artists, Charles Reid explains: vibrant color always predominates.  Viva les couleurs! 

I delight in reading all and any art history I can get my hands on—and there is enough of it out there to keep me entertained for the rest of my life.  Most of the reading is enjoyable and informative, but I’m especially drawn to the artists who exploited color to the max—the Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and various other “Ists” of the 2nd half of the 19th Century into the early 20th.  Currently my most beloved painter of that era is Matisse who shocked the Parisian art world with his blatant use of color.  Matisse and his followers earned the title:  Les Fauves—meaning “Wild Beasts”.

Reading about artists and art movements is, to me, like eating chocolate or maple sugar—thrilling beyond words.  In fact, the reading is far better than candy!  I can’t get sick on reading art history!  Only more and more inspired, drawn, captivated, and excited about the entire amazing world of shape, texture, and COLOR!  🙂

Margaret L. Been ©2013

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A Place Within

I have been studying art history, and I’m constantly realizing how little I know while rejoicing in the fact that I have time to learn.  Especially since the Parisian Art Revolution which began in the 1860s when those “isms” which warm my heart began to develop in rapid succession, my head spins as I sort out the many fascinating developments of art. 

There is one particular aspect of pictorial language that resonates with me, a language which I understand from the inside out:  the language of color.  Here I’m thoroughly at home in my adopted country of visual art.  I’m on familiar ground, surrounded by artists with whom I could chat at a sidewalk café most anywhere in the civilized world. 

Perhaps that’s because my art is completely subjective.  Like my poetry, my art is a place where I’m free to express myself—a world within.  Even more than the components of light and shadow, typical of the Old Masters’ works, color speaks to me!  As effectively as poetry, color portrays that highly personal inner place—my soul. 

This art adventure parallels a new stage of life, a transition from country to community living.  Thirty three years ago, in the press of demanding circumstances, my husband and I moved to a country home where (like Thoreau at Walden) I could learn to live deliberately.  From that country home we moved to a wild location where there were more deer than humans, a visibly large population of black bears, and a substantial number of timber wolves.  Beautiful background for feeding the soul. 

I believe that God created each of us with a personality to be shaped and honed as He wills.  For nearly thirty years He shaped my world within through nature and solitude and (like Thoreau) I actually learned to live deliberately.  Then suddenly we were translated to a community setting.  My husband and I did what we never thought we could do; we moved from our haven of wild serenity to the accelerated pace of a city suburb—albeit quiet, and definitely not urban. 

And here I am, still living deliberately.  Meanwhile, what am I learning from art history?  I’m learning that art really is all about freedom, even freedom from the isms.  

For me, that means freedom to express my world within—specifically through COLOR

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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