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Archive for the ‘Paint what you love!’ 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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Here is another British watercolorist who inspires me again and again through her books and DVDs.  Ann Blockley creates unforgettable, unique scenes which are, in her words unlike the “candy box scenes” we are accustomed to seeing.  Rather they are imaginative, and deeply personal—inspired by sights, sounds, and fragrances of familiar places around Ann’s home in the Cotswolds.

While demonstrating techniques for using watercolor in tandem with India ink, water soluble crayons and ink sticks, salt, plastic wrap, texture and granulating mediums (employed with a relaxed realization that the tools and techniques may decide their own path on paper, different from that which the artist has foreseen) Ann has challenged me not only to experience nature with all my senses, but also to take a deeper look at my photo books and computer files of favorite places I have lived:  to let the essence of these scenes penetrate my mind and heart, with the goal of more effectively expressing beloved places in my art.

The photos recall a lifetime of favorite places including:  my small-town Wisconsin  childhood home with a quiet stream at the base of our apple orchard; the Wisconsin Northwoods and waters where we vacationed when our children were young and where Joe and I lived full time for eight years beginning in 2001; my “home away from home”, Colorado where I spent a year at school, where Joe and I lived during his stint at Ft. Carson, and where we have visited many times since; more western vacation areas—Northern New Mexico and the farthest NW corner of Washington State; and our present home in Wisconsin’s Southeastern  Lake District:  a pleasant blend of small communities northwest of Milwaukee with lakes, rivers, woods, and a few remaining farms.

I will never live long enough to even begin capturing on paper the abundance of beauty which has underscored and punctuated my 83 years.  But I’m making a start, greatly motivated by the work and encouragement of UK artist Ann Blockley.  Here are a few of many scenes which I’m studying with a mind to painting—not with photographic accuracy but rather in response to their essence, in the coming year:

my-childhood-river

my-prairie

goldenrod

autumn-bog

DIGITAL CAMERA

under-our-windows

river-bank

gorgeous-clouds

Margaret L. Been — 1/22/17

NOTE:  If you GOOGLE Ann Blockley’s website, you are in for a TREAT!  MLB

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out-for-a-stroll-2

In upcoming blogs I would like to share helpful lessons I have gleaned from books and DVDs by contemporary professional artists.  One (among many) who has inspired me greatly is British watercolorist Jean Haines.  If you just GOOGLE her name and access Jean’s website, you will undoubtedly be as awestruck as I am by her amazing art.  I have three each of Jean Haines’ books and DVD tutorials, which I read and play again and again.

Jean teaches what I will call her “principle of three”:  When painting a subject in three parts make one the star, one less prominent, and one nearly obscure.  I am happy with the above rendering, “Out for a Stroll”, in which I applied the principle of three.

Jean frequently introduces a wash of one color on damp paper from an upper corner, followed by adding another color or colors—often contrasting—in the opposite corner from the first wash.  She leaves a space of white paper between the washes, and then dabs that space with a wet brush—inviting the colors to mix and do their own thing.

In her books and DVDs, Jean stresses the need to avoid meddling and fiddling with these first washes.  Instead, we can benefit by sitting back and basking in the beauty as the colors “fuse”.  How refreshing to forget about control, and just let the colors flow.  Later, when the initial paints have mingled and dried, details may be added—but very carefully so as to preserve the freshness of the work.  Thank you, Jean!

Margaret L. Been — December 7th, 2016

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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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The Sound 6.JPG

It’s possible that many of you readers are not ancient enough to remember the 1930s and 40s Big Band leader, Glenn Miller. His band was known for its one-of-a-kind sound, explained by the following quote from Wikipedia:

“Miller . . . realized that he needed to develop a unique sound, and decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone holding the same note, while three other saxophones harmonized within a single octave.”

This technique worked beautifully, and Glenn Miller’s music contrasted with other Big Band era “greats”, due to its quality which I can best describe as “mellow”.  And I was there, growing up with the Saturday Night Hit Parade during WWII.

Unfortunately, Miller and the plane he was flying in that war were lost over the English Channel in 1944.  But his smooth melodies live on.  In 1954, a film was released of Glenn Miller’s life, THE GLENN MILLER STORY starring Jimmy Stewart in the lead role.

What in the world does a Big Band sound have to do with art?  Not much, except that I have been thinking of Glenn Miller a lot lately.  I recall the film, and can still hear Stewart alias Miller saying:  “I have got to find ‘the sound’!”   Evidently Miller experienced the sound in his head before he realized how to create it.  Likewise, regarding my art I have been visualizing and saying, “I have got to find ‘the look‘!”

The look I’ve envisioned is textured, rich in color nuances, and layered to resemble an oil painting without the oils.  Oils would not make my lungs happy.  Water soluble oils?  I have tried those, with no success.  As with traditional oil paints, the water soluble oils take a long time to dry.  I simply do not have space in my studio to begin new paintings while works in progress to sit around forever  and a day drying.

Acrylics?  Call it irrational, and I guess it is.  But, I JUST DO NOT LIKE ACRYLICS.  They are fine in the hands of other artists, but my hands can’t handle them.  And open medium notwithstanding, the acrylics dry too fast?

So what is JUST RIGHT?  What can achieve the look with none of the above?  Of course you know from my past entries, it’s GOUACHE!  But gouache on watercolor paper has limits, texture-wise.  My Glenn Miller epiphany?  Gouache on Gallerywrap Canvas Panels.

I begin by generously covering the panel with gesso, streaking the brush in whatever direction suits me, to create lumps, ridges, and other textural marks.  That’s the foundation for “the look”.  Then, when the gesso is dry I apply a thin wash of watercolor in various shades which I want to feature in the finished picture.

When the watercolor wash is completely dry, I take my time with the gouache and I may spend a week on one painting.  Gone are the days when I thought I had to bang out several works in a week.  My walls and shelves are loaded with my art, and I can afford to slow down—savoring the pleasure of each stage, analyzing carefully after the initial color fling, and working deliberately to improve each section of the painting.  I purposefully leave dabs and ridges of gouache to build up in areas while smoothing out other parts of the painting.  I strive for polishing detail on some of the canvas while leaving other parts vague and blurry.  This augments the look I desire to achieve.

Now maybe you are saying, “Yes, but . . . .”  And you would be right, considering Gallerywrap Canvas Panels are normally to be left unframed.  Gouache is a rather moisture-vulnerable medium to hang in the open air, especially in Wisconsin’s “good old summertime”!  However, a thorough spray job with an acrylic fixative takes care of the “but”.  No longer vulnerable, my sprayed gouache panels are sealed—if not forever, at least for a very long time and certainly a lot longer than I will be around.

I know that touching art is a huge NO-NO!  I would never do that in a gallery, museum, someone else’s home, or any other place featuring art.  But I can’t resist occasionally touching my sprayed panels, with the back of my hand of course—so that no fingerprints will be left behind.  Along with the look, I enjoy the feel!

Margaret L. Been — September 10, 2016

Note:  My photography is limited in its representation of art.  First I took the picture with my I-pad and emailed it to myself.  The colors were nothing like the original; only the primaries showed, with no innuendoes of color.  Then I tried my I-phone, and that was no better.  Finally I got out my digital camera, and the above was the best I could manage—better than the pad and phone, but still lacking in the multitude of subtle shades on the painting where colors phase into their neighbors. 

Since the panel is a vertical hanging rectangle, I couldn’t include the whole job in the photo without the wall showing on each side of the painting.  And texture shows up best in real life as well.  If you are in the neighborhood, you are welcome to drop in and see for yourself.    🙂 

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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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