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Archive for the ‘Painting Sailboats’ Category

On the Edge 2.JPG

Glancing back over decades of freelance writing, I don’t recall ever experiencing that dreaded infirmity called “Writer’s Block”.  Perhaps that is because, as I am doing at this moment, I always wrote from real life rather than fiction–although I love to read fiction at well as documentary and other forms of non-fiction.

The term “Writer’s Block” amuses me because my writing has always been a form of talking.  I certainly have never suffered from “Talker’s Block”.

Art is different.  Frequently I have a spell where I think I can never again produce anything “suitable for framing”.  Many artists have similar periods when they struggle with doubts and a dearth of that nebulous thing called “inspiration”.  My antidote for Artist’s Block is simply to plow right through it.  There may be days of frustration over perceived failures, but I find comfort in keeping on and working through the block.

Oxymoronic as it may appear, my dual approach to the block is to:  1) try something totally new either in subject, materials, or methods and 2) try to bang out something that has worked before.  Above is a sample of both options–a sailboat in trouble, an often rendered subject but this time in acrylics, still new and challenging to me.

Our family had many years of pleasant sailing on local inland lakes where falling in the warm water meant a fun swim and turtling the boat made for uproarious storytelling in retrospect.  But one family sail was not so pleasant.  In our cub boat we foolishly set out from a quiet cove which was sheltered from the elements, with the plan to explore one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior–the Great Lake which allegedly “never gives up her dead”. *

And if you know the Great Lake–at least the two that I’ve experienced, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior–you are very familiar with the adjective “COLD”!

Anyway, we left that quiet cove, out into the immense lake (I believe the second largest inland water in the world–the first largest being somewhere in Russia) and horrendous winds bombarded us seemingly from all directions.  There were five of us in the boat–my husband, myself, our two teen-age sons Eric and Karl, and our lab/collie Duffy.

I praise God for my husband Joe’s Viking DNA.  He miraculously sailed us back to land with the help of the boys.  Duffy and I were ballast.  We huddled in the bottom of the boat, praying–at least I was praying.  I hung on to Duffy as hard as I could, and I think he was as terrified as I was.

So why in the world do I love to paint sailboats in trouble?  More than reliving an experience, I think the reasons are motion and water, since both make for interesting visuals.  Motion and water are easy for me to paint.  And due to incorporating acrylic paints which are still stretching me, the above painting titled “On the Edge” (part of a series) proved to be a complete therapy.

Voila.  Once again I’ve immerged from the block.  Three happy starts of paintings were produced in my studio this very evening.  The starts are happy enough that I decided to share my method of working through the block!  🙂

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*I knew the phrase about Lake Superior “never giving up her dead” came from Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot’s classic ballad–“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” which helped to immortalize that historic 1975 tragedy.

Also I wondered if the phrase had actually been a traditional saying, perhaps passed down through Native American cultures in the region.

GOOGLE only reinforced the fact that the saying came from Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, and I can find no extra specific info.  But the following Wikipedia quote indicates that Lake Superior’s reputation is well-founded since Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes:

“The Great Lakes, a collection of five freshwater lakes located in North America, have been sailed upon since at least the 17th century, and thousands of ships have been sunk while traversing them.  Many of these ships were never found, so the exact number of shipwrecks in the Lakes is unknown; the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum approximates 6,000 ships and 30,000 lives lost, while historian and mariner Mark Thompson has estimated that the total number of wrecks is likely more than 25,000. 

“In the period between 1816, when the Invincible was lost, to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, the Whitefish Point area in Lake Superior alone has claimed at least 240 ships.”

Margaret L. Been — October, 2018

 

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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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More Rose up a FountainGarden in GouacheOn the Edgeblue and old pottery 2Out Back

These a only a few of my watercolor paintings which have been enhanced with gouache, a water soluble medium which is opaque unless greatly thinned with water.  Gouache does not dry permanently, as does acrylic paint; thus it really is a watercolor and it needs to be preserved behind glass.  But gouache adds heft and body, when desired.  In fact, gouache is also called “body color”.

More and more, I am adding some gouache to my foundation of transparent watercolors:  either a touch here and there, or larger areas built up to accentuate texture and brushstrokes.  My goal is to achieve a resemblance to the richness of oils.

I do have water-soluble oil paints, and have used them on occasion.  But the lengthy drying time puts me off, as I don’t have a lot of excess space in which to store works in progress.  Also, I don’t want to completely abandon transparency.  So transparent watercolors and gouache are the perfect combination for me.  And I think I have fallen in love with gouache!

Margaret L. Been — January 26, 2016

Red Cabin in Winter

Old Town

Proud

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***Treacherous 4

A psychologist would have a ball with the fact that I love to paint sailboats in trouble.  My most terrifying life experience happened on a small cub sailboat, tossing about in Lake Superior.  Joe and I were camping with our two teenage sons and our large dog, near the Apostle Islands on the Northern Wisconsin edge of Lake Superior.  Joe (the ready-for-anything sailor) suggested we sail out to one of the remote Apostles where it was rumored there were lots of animals.

Joe could always persuade me by presenting the idea of animals.  Maybe I expected to be cheerfully greeted (upon landing on the island) by a delegation of wolves, black bears, and a moose.  So off we sailed, from a calm bay into the big, open, and hyper-active water which is said to never give up its dead.  Suddenly we were tempest tossed—and I thought of the hapless folks on the Statue of Liberty inscription.

The guys (human guys that is) seemed to think this was great fun—although Joe admitted later that he was scared.  But my canine guy and I cowered on the bottom of the boat.  I prayed.  Obviously Duffy (dog) didn’t join me in prayer, but since he had been my shadow since puppyhood, he joined me in cowering.  Although I do love water, I prefer a canoe on a quiet stream, or a row boat with hardly any horse power—or even better with just oars.  To me, water should be a means to tranquil contemplation, rather than hectic and frantic “coming about” while being dashed every which way on a choppy sea.  Perhaps I’ve been brain-washed by Henry David Thoreau and WALDEN.

I’d gone sailing with my adventurous family for years, and gotten bopped on the head by the mast more times than I could count.  But never had I experienced abject terror like I did that day while flailing hither and thither on the largest in square miles and second deepest (1332 feet) inland freshwater lake in the world—in a very small inland boat.  I hung on to Duffy as if my life depended on him; at least I had warm, fuzzy although wet, company.  We never made it to the remote island.  Our smart captain returned to the bay and dry land.*

Now I paint storm-tossed sailboats with impunity, in my warm and dry home studio.  I love the motion of the paints, and the gracefully precarious angles of the sails—plus all the color my imagination can fling into the process.  When painting, I’m totally fulfilled—enjoying all the adventure I’ll ever need!

The above rendering, titled “Treacherous”, is on YUPO paper—that glasslike, slippery surface which is a kind of plastic rather than paper.  The temptation with YUPO is to never quit.  One can always make changes, wipe areas back to the original white, add and subtract forever.  A dab of this, a swipe of that; I can pass an entire afternoon playing with one piece of YUPO.  But finally, with this treacherous undertaking, I had to say STOP!  That’s enough.  I didn’t want to get seasick!

Margaret L. Been, ©2015

*After Lake Superior, messing about on a sailboat in our Southeastern Wisconsin lakes was quite relaxing.  Who minds getting wet or even turtling in nice warmish water?!

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