Archive for the ‘Negative Painting’ Category


This painting, matted and framed to 24″ x 20″, is obviously too large to scan on my printer.  I would have to take it to Office Max or whatever, and I just don’t want to do that.  So instead, I propped it on the couch and photographed it (without the glass) with my I-pad, emailed it to myself, and violà.  Here it is.

The painting, “Dans la Fenêtre” (“In the Window”), has an arduous history in its making.  I’ve been working on creating reflections, shadows, and the look of a wet still life or landscape.  Here I set out to simply do some bottles and their reflections.

Unlike my normal mode, I carefully measured and sketched the window sill and the borders of the painting onto the Arches 140lb cold press art paper.  Then I folded pieces of typing/printer paper in half vertically and cut the bottles outward from the fold.  When the papers were opened, I had bottles with perfectly symmetrical sides—something like a Rorshach.  I lightly traced the bottles onto the window sill, thinking I would (for a change) paint something that actually looked like it was intended to be—in other words, make representational art.  🙂

Then I began negative painting, around the shapes rather than starting with the actual bottles I’d so carefully transferred onto the paper.  The negative painting (background) grew more and more atmospheric as the colors blended.  Next, I dropped quinacridone gold, shades of magenta and opera pink, and a touch of  French ultramarine into the bottles to reflect their setting.  These merged and did their own thing which was to create a rusty, well-worn appearance.  Meanwhile, the background had grown a bit muddy so I washed a film of white gouache over the negative painting and into the bottles as well.

Suddenly I realized this was about the ugliest painting I’d ever produced.  I was disgusted with myself for (what I thought was) having ruined a large paper.  The back side was also a mess from the paint overflow which had seeped in from the table.  What to do!!!???  By now it was 1:00 a.m. and I was exhausted.  I ran a few inches of water in the tub, thinking the piece was too gooey to put in the garbage with all that mucky paint on it.  A good rinse would make the disposal a neater operation.  Having rinsed, I left the paper to dry off while I slept.  Tomorrow (now “today”) I would throw it out.

In the morning, when I went to pick up my disaster, I was stun-gunned.  Whatever anyone else might think, I felt this was an amazingly wonderful accident.  I loved the painting.  Somehow the gunky look had been washed off, exposing the original colors that had been applied.  The rinsing created a shiny reflection, much like the mirror image of the bottles was sitting in water.  To complete what I now felt was a huge victory, I slightly dabbed outlines here and there on the bottles—to add a hint of structure.  What had started out as a very structured piece had become illusory* so the Inktense® Colored Ink, Water Soluble pencil lines simply propped the bottles up a bit.

BB 1

Here is the framed painting on the wall.  The photo of the picture behind glass does not begin to do justice to the life, light, and shine in the piece.  I had to photograph it in the evening, because in the daylight the glass reflected and transferred everything on the opposite wall onto the image of the bottles.  It was borderline hilarious.

But you can get an idea.  I will try to achieve this effect again, although it is challenging—sometimes impossible—to reconstruct an accident!  At least I’ve discovered one more way to salvage a less than wonderful effort:  just float it and douse it with water.

Margaret L. Been —  April 24th, 2016

*Our “artist’s voice” will win out every time.  I simply AM NOT a representational painter, even when I measure and draw lines.  When displaying art at local venues, we are always given a form to fill out where (among other things) we are asked to list a category which best describes the art.  I always write, “ABSTRACT REALISM.”  Perhaps that sounds like an oxymoron, but I can’t think of a better term at the moment.  🙂

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My Incredibly Beautiful Future 2

I believe I’ve been converted to the nuances and moods of layered watercolors!  Yes, undoubtedly I’ll retreat on occasion to directly splashing and sloshing heavy increments of paint—especially when working on YUPO®.  But transparent layering has opened new territory for me, that I don’t really ever want to leave—at least for very long—without returning!

A great advantage of layering transparent nuances and moods (often resulting in colors I never even dreamed of!) is TIME—a plethora of time in which to rest between applications of paint while knitting a few inches, fixing a meal, taking a walk, or sleeping.  Thus the process of creating a single “masterpiece” (every painting which gives us pleasure should be called that!), is prolonged—along with an intrinsic sense of purpose, commitment, and fulfillment therein!

The above layered work, called “My Incredibly Beautiful Future” was mainly created by the rolling tissue trick.  I learned this technique from Canadian artist Karin Huehold via her amazing DVD,  A LITTLE WATERCOLOR.  A tissue (the cheapest I can find—as in 99¢ per standard size box) is torn in half, and one part is rolled into a finger-like shape.  Then the “finger” is rolled on wet paper charged with wet paint, wherever one chooses to create clouds, mountains, or mysterious “things”.   

After rolling the first increment of tissue I left the painting to dry, and then I thoroughly rewetted it with my 2 inch Simmons Skyflow brush.  (Arches 140 lb. cold press paper allows plenty of drying and rewetting without causing bleeding and/or lifting of the dried paint.) 

Then I applied different transparent colors, and rolled those areas with the other half of my tissue.  (One would probably not need to be so penurious as I am.  Especially on a larger painting, an entire tissue could be used for one roll.  I just happen to be part Scottish.  I tend to skimp once in awhile—but not that often!  🙂 )

After the 2nd rolling, I allowed the paint to dry again.  Then—without rewetting the paper again, and with more transparent paint in still different colors—I negative-painted* around some of the tissue-created mountains, clouds, and things.  In a few spots, I even rolled into the negatively painted areas while these were still damp. 

This could go on and on, depending on how much knitting we want to accomplish, what we are fixing for dinner, how far we want to walk, or how late we want to sleep.  There can never even possibly be a duplicate, using this technique.  We will always be surprised/astounded/wiped out with amazement by our spectacular results!  Happy rolling!

*Negative painting is simply painting on the outside rather than the inside of shapes.  It can be done on blank paper, to create a background for shapes which will then materialize because we’ve painted a background around them, or (the easier way which I normally choose) by painting on the outside of shapes that we have already created.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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