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Archive for the ‘Recycling Failed Art’ Category

Blood Moon 1

Two nights ago, around 12:30 a.m., I woke up and as I often do in summer, wandered into our living room to open the patio door and step out to enjoy our nocturnal garden and courtyard.  I was “stun-gunned” by the sight that greeted me:  a blood red moon rising in a bluish purple and red sky, over the wildlife preserve to the east beyond our park.  I should have run for the camera, but—to employ a corny fictional expression—I stood transfixed.

The red moon was not fiction.  In the sky, traces of distant lightning flashed.  Minutes later the lightning moved in close, followed by gentle thunder and a steady, quiet rain which lasted until dawn.  Meanwhile, I went back to bed, thinking the red color had something to do with the stormy atmosphere—not surprising given our infamous SE Wisconsin summer humidity.  The previous day had been a scorcher.

The next day I couldn’t get that mysterious and almost eerie scene out of my mind, and I began trying to capture the experience of that sky at my paint table.  Above is my first attempt.  As I worked, I recalled reading in the Bible about blood moons.  Joel 2:31 states:  “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

Some preachers have connected recent blood moons with immediate fulfillment of the End Times prophecy.  But many diligent Bible scholars agree that this concept does not hold water.  In his 2014-published book, BLOOD MOON RISING, Mark Hitchcock wrote:  “. . . don’t get caught up or carried away in any speculation about some great cataclysmic event in 2015 surrounding the appearance of the blood moons.”

Obviously we are now after the fact of 2015, and although filled with plenty of global tragedy 2015 was very sadly just like many other years—unless you call the appearance of Donald Trump in the political circus a “great cataclysmic event”.  (He may think he is exactly that, but I for one do not.)

Regardless, the sight of a blood moon was a rare privilege which I’ve never before experienced, and may never enjoy again.  I did a bit of GOOGLING on the subject, and see that the June, 2016 phenomenon has something to do with the full moon occurring around summer solstice.  Not being a scientist, I can’t divulge any more than that from what I read—except that the Algonquin Indians called the June full moon the “Strawberry Moon”, not due to color but rather for the obvious reason of ripening strawberries.  That was an understandable and enjoyable bit of information.

Actually the June moon I witnessed did look something like a huge strawberry.  My subsequent attempts to improve the above “start” of a painting are even worse than the first, and I now wish I’d quit while I was ahead.  Here are Blood Moons 2 and 3:

Blood Moon 2

Blood Moon 3

Pretty awful.  I should have known not to round out the moon and create variety in the sky with (of all things) yellow and blue paint.  Those colors on top of the red turned the sky a yucky brown.  Duh!  Yellow and blue make green, and green plus red equals brown!  My great grandkids know that, because I demonstrated it for them.

I’ll keep working on this, and if not satisfied I’ll simply begin again.  Maybe I’ll let it all dry, and then try remedying the mess by adding water soluble oils.  Artist Barbara Nechis shares that she always finishes a painting, even when she knows it isn’t going well.  She finds that working on a perceived failure gives her the freedom to attack it wholeheartedly—and sometimes the results are surprisingly acceptable.  Barbara encourages her readers (and DVD viewers) by adding “It’s only a piece of paper”.   🙂

So I will continue messing about with my piece of paper, or I’ll start a new one of the blood moon.  If I come up with something frame-able, I’ll post it on this blog.  But please do not hold your breathe.  If you never see this effort again, we’ll move on to something else—maybe more flowers.

Wise artist, Barbara Nechis has also said, “When we try to compete with nature, nature always wins.”

Margaret L. Been, June 27th, 2016

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B3

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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White Roses 3

What do St. Bernard dogs, 911, and gouache have in common?  You’ve got it:  RESCUE.  The above rendering was rescued by gouache from having an unsightly case of the speckles, kind of like art measles.

A rescue job was necessary on this floral because whenever I love something I tend to go over the top, refusing to quit.  This characteristic has resulted in nearly 63 years of a great marriage, a lifelong addiction to maple sugar candy (those little maple leaves obtainable from the Vermont Country Store), and whatever painting trick has captured my heart.

I’d read about “color sanding” in books by Northern Wisconsin fine artist, Karlyn Holman but I only tried it recently.  The trick requires watercolor (or ink) pencils and sandpaper or a fingernail emery board.  When a colored pencil is shaved over wet paint, delightful speckles form—delightful that is until the entire page is covered with speckles.  I managed to do this on the above painting until suddenly the piece was (no kinder way to put it) butt ugly.

Of course great professional artists such as Karlyn Holman always recommend circumspection and moderation when it comes to tricks.  And let’s face it, the great artists don’t even need tricks; they only use them cautiously for a bit of extra fun.  🙂  Just leave it to me, to carry the “fun” to extremes.

But then, there’s always gouache to the rescue!

Margaret L. Been  —  March 5, 2016 

 

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Castle at Oban, County Argyll #2

Have you ever noticed the plethora of paintings that abound at garage sales, resale shops, and sometimes even in an antique mall?  These works, often created by people like you and me (home-grown, everyday artists as opposed to those who are world class or at least widely known) may be sold for anywhere from $15.00 to 75 cents by the artist himself or some family member who simply doesn’t have space (or an inclination) for “Grandma’s art”—or whatever else it might be.

I have purchased a lot of these works at rummages, and I’m always happy to make room for them in our home—even if it’s a bit of floor space against a cabinet or desk.  I marvel at the skill represented in “rummage art”, and always wonder why it’s up for grabs at a ridiculous price rather than adorning someone’s wall, or standing in the studio of its still-producing creator.

Perhaps in many of these cases, the artist just quit making art.  Somewhere along the line he or she lost interest in the process—while quite possibly thinking:  “I’ll never be “good enough”; so why bother?”

Most artists (whether well known or otherwise) agree that given an absolute passion for making art and access to good quality materials, anyone can be an artist!  Of course along with the passion and the materials, one must be willing to devote time—lots of time—to one’s chosen medium of expression.

Likewise, most painters agree that every artist encounters periods of self-doubt—days when nothing goes right in the studio, and times of incriminating flashbacks where we consider a previously accomplished piece far superior to anything we are producing at the moment.  In my life-long discipline and profession of writing, this experience is called:  “Writer’s Block”.

As a writer, what have I done with Writer’s Block?  I’ve gone right on writing.  Thus, with what we can call “Painter’s Block”, I am determined to go right on painting—regardless of whether or not my chimes (or anyone else’s) are ringing over the work in progress.  There are ways to deal with the dry spells, and sometimes even prevent them.  Here are a few:

1)  Periodically invest in new-to-you colors of paint, from different manufacturers.  There is nothing like squeezing a generous blob of fresh, gooey paint from a brand new tube onto one’s palette, to give a person a kick in the rear (reminiscent of the commercial for V-8 Juice®).

2)  On “down days”, generate prints from your computer file of your own scanned-in art.  I produce lots of 3″ x 5″ prints, and affix them to artist quality blank stationery by Strathmore—a fine company located right here the Fox River Valley Paper Kingdom of Wisconsin.  I rarely buy commercial greeting cards or stationery anymore, as I have a huge inventory of art to share.

3)  Try a different technique, paint medium, or variety of art.  Periodically I branch out into gouache, and get excited all over again with its possibilities in combo with transparent watercolors.  On days when the watercolors don’t flow the way I want them to, I may move to my collage table and get atrociously messy with acrylics paints and mediums plus my bins full of saved “everything under the sun”—from Oriental papers, cheesecloth, feathers, sequins, ribbons, family photos, dried flowers and leaves, symphony programs, theatre tickets, wedding invitations, old letters, and scraps of yarn—to dog hair.

Recently I ordered a set of Winsor & Newton water soluble oils.  This is tremendously exciting, as traditional oils are off-limits to my tetchy breathing apparatus.  Scientists have discovered a method of changing the molecular structure of the oil base (linseed oil, most likely) so that “oil paints” will dissolve in and clean up with water!  No turp, no toxic fumes.

4)  Take out a dud which you very fortunately neglected to file in your trash bin.  (Some flops are worth saving, for reworking.)  The above-pictured example was a really stressed out piece of Arches 140 lb. cold press paper—apparently “ruined” on both sides with failed attempts at a landscape.  I had one more go at vigorously scrubbing* the paper, removing all but faint tints of the paint.  (Arches holds up remarkably under such abuse—whereas some other brands of 140 lb. paper will not).

Due to the scrubbing, virtually all of the sizing was removed from the paper, creating a totally different effect from work on fresh, clean Arches cold press.  Without sizing, there is no resist and the paint soaks and soaks.  Therefore any paint containing sediment is apt to look more “sedimentary” with this process; the paint soaks away and the sediment remains—along with the scribble scrabbles of fiber which surface when you were destroy your paper.  Never mind all that.  Just keep plugging along, to see what will happen!

Not all my duds are as satisfying when reworked as this one, which is called “Castle at Oban”—because it recalls a trip my husband and I made to my ancestral home of Argyll.  Scrubbing the living daylights out of paper can create a total mess, but my Scottish Castle turned out to be kind of moody.  I like it.  It enabled me to work through Painter’s Block, and the very next day I created a work that truly delighted my heart.  Here it is:  Kingdom at Sea”.  I must have castles on the brain—and probably beautiful Scotland as well!

*A fantastic aid for scrubbing out paint, is the MR. CLEAN “Magic Eraser”®.  This unbelievable product removes stains and spots from all over the home, as well as on art paper.  My husband says, “It’s just a sponge.”  But I never knew a sponge could do what MR. CLEAN accomplishes with his “Magic Eraser”!

Kingdom at Sea

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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I did the above pale and wimpy rendering five years ago, when I hadn’t yet learned that watercolors may be richly and powerfully applied.  Most of my art teachers, via their books, urge the reworking of old paintings which are lacking.  So I dug “Winter Survival” out from under our bed and went to work.  After all, there’s nothing to lose when working on such a lackluster piece!

Here is “Winter Survival Redone”.  The altered version has a lot more pizzazz!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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