Archive for the ‘Spring Paintings’ Category

An inventory of what I have done in my studio over the last year has proved a bit surprising—or maybe not!  For 8 months out of the 12, I have been gimped with ortho issues. A shoulder replacement in late 2017 had only just begun to heal when a hip kicked in saying, “Hey, it’s not fair. I want some of this attention.”

Two major hip surgeries later (the 1st, a total hip replacement and the 2nd, to repair a severely fractured femur with screws, metal hooks, and wires that make me think of civil engineered bridge construction) I am still hobbling and spending much of the time off my feet.

For several weeks it was 1 leg only, to navigate this “kid in an old body” to and from a cozy living room couch (my 24/7 hangout) to a bathroom (about 5 yards away), my piano right behind my couch, and an extra art studio which my wonderful husband set up for me at the nearby end of our dining room table.

Books, limited piano practice which—although done sitting down—wore me out, my French tutorial apps and a Public Television app on my I-pad (I re-watched the entire DOWNTON ABBEY), serial-shopping on Amazon (FUN/FUN/FUN!), Van Cliburn and other geniuses streaming through my devices into our fine speakers day and night (1 of which speakers was conveniently located beside my ear on my 24/7 couch), my knitting (how many cowls does anyone need?), and ART made up my life for much of 2018.

Who needs to cook, scrub floors, vacuum, and dust anyway?

I normally avoid medical discussions except with those professionals to whom Medicare is paying me to complain, but the above diatribe is to demonstrate how life can be a lot of fun under rather strange circumstances! And how art can thrive, when pain and disability prevail. One’s pain can literally be “drowned” in paint, especially the wet into wet method of working which I prefer.

Anyway, my inventory yielded a surprising 35 paintings that I actually like. (There are always the “duds” which get stashed on a shelf for possible reworking or salvaging parts; or sometimes they are so outrageous that I trash them.)

The keepers range from (3) 20″ x 24″ biggies, a 16″ x 20″, a handful of 11″ x 14″ renderings, and a preponderance of 12″ x 16″ paintings—obviously my favorite size. The paintings are predominately woodland scenes and funky individual trees—with a smattering of flowers, a sailboat in trouble, some landscapes with distant castles, a still life (my least favorite), and a huge, totally abstract on Yupo Paper which I LOVE most of all.

Although my inventory preferences are not exactly written in the proverbial stone, they are indicative—and it was fun reviewing a year of art making, body disability notwithstanding.

The year’s earnings amounted to $700.00 which constituted a donation to, and sale at, our local art group’s annual fundraiser. My dislike of office type stuff is such that I can find no record of which paintings I donated. I believe they were “masterpieces” from former years.

Also, I give paintings to interested friends and family members. As with club donations, my right hand (very happily) does not know what my left hand is doing.

I share many of my favorites via prints glued to notecards, thus bragging about my art while facilitating my passion for writing actual letters as opposed to emails.

Above are the end of 2018 renderings, hardly even dry when I photographed them with my I-phone camera. They tend to make me think of Spring, and they are my HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!

Margaret L. Been, December 31st, 2018

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Ice Tea again

It is often said that artists can create the world the way they wish it would be!  This may be true of most of the arts, and many crafts as well—where one is fashioning beauty from ashes—or victory in the midst of something that seems like defeat.  In my poetry, I have often featured the presence of light in apparently dark circumstances.

Without getting more ponderous, when indeed my mood is upbeat as I share with you, the above painting is the world the way I’m eager to experience it—and will in a few weeks.  Having lived in Wisconsin for all but three of my eighty-four years, I should know (and do!) that April in my home state is not like “April in Paris”.

Sometimes we get teased a bit with warm splashes, and these are meant to be savored but not viewed as the permanent seasonal weather change.  Meanwhile, we can paint (sing, write, dance) whatever weather we want—thereby creating our own reality:  our own private world.  A case in point is this painting, titled “Ice Tea Again”, reflecting a pastime which is HUGE in my estimation:  drinking ice tea on our patio beside our pretty little patio garden, while watching the birds and chipmunks that enjoy the hospitality of our feeders.

I have done many ice tea type paintings, but this one is unique.  Were you to actually see the painting, now framed in a 16″ by 20″ softly gilded frame, you would probably observe that something new has been added:  touches of mixed medium accents which add texture and individuality to the piece.

At this moment two amazing British artists—Ann Blockley and Soraya French—are vitalizing, coaching, and inspiring me via books and (in Ann’s case) DVDs to experiment with mixed media.  So “extras” have been added to this watercolor and gouache rendering, including areas of enhanced color on and around the flower shapes made with hard pastel pencils and Derwent Inktense sticks.  The winding vines were formed by streaking India ink from a pipette and letting it ooze around on the damp paper.  You may notice the sketchy lines drawn by oil pastels* in areas alongside the vines.  And, as always, thick applications of gouache have covered a plethora of boo-boos.

The above-mentioned artists, and many others, stress the importance of playing with the mediums, learning what they can do and not worrying about the outcome.  JUST PLAY!  This really appeals to me after a rather dragged out autumn and winter beginning with the loss of my beloved corgi in October and adding a challenging shoulder replacement to the mix.  I intend to play, while drinking volumes of ice tea!

Included in the “play”, is the fact that I am diving into water soluble oils.  This is happening at my newly acquired hardwood easel.  The easel doesn’t work for watercolor painting, as there is not room enough in the bedroom studio to flatten out the surface.  But oils can be done on a tilt.  While watercolors, gouache, and mixed medium play happens at my dining room studio, oils are slowly drying and developing on the easel.

Margaret L Been — April 14th, 2008

*When I received my order from DICK BLICK of a beautiful, magenta colored wood box of 60 oil pastels (Van Gogh brand) I reverted to childhood.  I can’t express the wonder and joy of running my fingers over the surface of these sticks, marveling at the gorgeous color gradations.

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Carmela's Lilacs again again again

What is more enjoyable than coffee or tea and mellow conversation shared with a friend, in any kind of weather?  My friend, Carmela, came for a morning visit last week.  It was warm and sunny, but early enough in the day to sit outdoors yet still savor hot, strong coffee.  Later, we would have switched to iced tea.

Carmela brought an armful of lilacs, white and shades of lavender, from her yard.  I don’t think she realized that lilacs are a huge passion of mine.  She simply and instinctively brought the perfect gift—beautiful, fragrant, and in season.

Later in the day I began to paint the lilacs, which by then were comfortably at home in a vase of cool water.  Since I normally let the paint do a lot of the talking, somehow an illusion of a great blue heron flew into the piece.  Can you see the heron?  His presence suggests that there is water nearby, as the heron lives on fish.

We do have plenty of water here in Lake Country, and great blue herons fly over our roof constantly en route between our myriad of lakes.  But maybe the above painting, “Carmela’s Lilacs”, is a flashback to our home up north where we lived for eight years, beside a bay with plenty of great blue herons in our neighborhood—and huge, ancient common lilac bushes pressed against the front deck of our home.

Margaret L. Been — May 26, 2016


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. . . of May.  April is delightful; I’m loving it.  But I can’t get May out of my paintbrushes which seem to be set on “Automatic Paint May“.

Here is “Coming up Lilacs“:

Coming up Lilacs

Don’t you just love the lilac colors?  We have French lilacs at every corner of our condo buildings, here in Nashotah Condo Heaven.  They bloom a bit later than common lilacs, and are not quite so euphorically fragrant.  But the Frenchies are beautiful and perform well in a marinara sauce jar (washed of course, but with its label intact) full of fresh water on the dining room table.

(Parenthetical Commentary:  Why are jars with their labels so much lovelier and infinitely more interesting as receptacles for flowers and dried weeds, than conventional vases?  There is simply no comparison, in my book.  If you haven’t bothered to save a nice big marinara jar, a huge pickle jar or a honey jar will also work—but I hope you don’t wash off those labels!  During nearly every supermarket trip I grieve the demise of glass jars and bottles which have knuckled under to (ugh) plastic.  Every bit of glass is PRECIOUS.  Olive oil bottles reside near the top of my food glassware list, because they are normally green and have such pretty labels!  Wine bottles are definitely the most gorgeous.  I ask folks to empty their wine bottles, and then pass them on to me—please, with labels.)

Back to May and the lilacs.  We do have common lilacs just a few yards away, in the park beyond our front door.  Every May I make frequent strolls to inhale the lilacs and journey back decades in time to my small-town-Wisconsin childhood home—a rambling Victorian with a commodious yard and guess what:  lots of ancient common lilacs.

In a week it will be May.  I wonder what my paintbrushes will do then!

Margaret L. Been — April 23, 2016

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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


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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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Lands Beyond

It took me about 5 years to come up with this one:  another way to be sure of creating painterly edges. 

For starters, you will see blurs around the trees.  These were formed first by charging wet paint onto the clean, wet Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.  Then I washed in the sky and rolled a wad of facial tissue (without lotion) over the blue.  The trees (or whatever they are beyond the sky) were achieved by dropping more color on the wet surface.  I dabbed in the flower type thingies in the foreground, and outlined the tree trunks with a knitting needle.  Finally I filled blank areas with yellow. 

Okay, but not okay.  I felt there was still a harsh, cut and dried look to the painting.  So I ended with my new trick—new to me, that is.  I’m certain that many others have done this trick, but I’m delighted to say I “happened” on it by myself.  Rather than waiting for the painting to dry before wetting the back of it and weighting it face down between paper towels, I ran water over both the front and back and then weighted it.  Additional edges got fuzzy in the process, colors ran into one another, and the paper toweling blotted the diffusing paint.  Voila!  A painterly painting!

Many of my past renderings turned out to be bla/bla/bla to my eyes, due to boring concise edges.  A chair, a table, a bowl of fruit—so what else is new?  Or mountains that looked like paper dolls.  No thank you!  Recently, I’ve recycled some of my former duds, by using the wet surface trick and it seldom disappoints me!

Again and again, I see proof of what my favorite watercolorist artists claim to be true in their experience:  that the medium is the artist.  With a minimum of manipulation, paint and water do their own thing far more beautifully than I could ever dream of doing!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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I will sweep my rooms,

tend my cloistered garden, brew my tea . . .

and one who mocked my dreams will never know

the heart of me.

© Margaret Longenecker Been

Published in MORNING IN MY EYES . . . poems of the meadows, rivers, woodlands, and seasons of life, by Margaret Longenecker Been.

Note:  A few years ago my musically gifted granddaughter, Nicole, set the words to a four-part madrigal which she composed specifically for the poem.  That is the greatest honor I’ve ever received in connection with my poetry!  MLB

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Sometimes a painting will look okay to me except for 1 corner, or 1 section, which simply refuses to cooperate or edify the whole work in any way.  I have extra mats in all standard sizes, which I can move around to isolate parts of a piece.  This helps me to decide what is worth saving, and what to pitch—or perhaps cut off, rinse, and re-work.  (On Yupo paper, the rinsing works really well.  The original white sheet is restored.)

Above, is a sample of 1 large painting (watercolor and gouache on Yupo paper) cropped into 1 medium and 2 smalls.  The left over piece is on my table, with many colors mingled on it.  Currently this “discard” is serving as a spare palette and a surface on which to wipe my brush when working on other paintings—but eventually the reject may become a rendering worth matting and saving.

The problem solving involved in making art (of any kind!) is a great part of the fun.  It’s amazing to see what one can salvage and redeem from an apparently lost cause!  Never think “failure”.  When in doubt, just crop!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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I gave into the gnawings of my hyper-active conscience.  Even after posting a disclaimer on each YUPO® painting, stating that the picture would prevail through the ages if no one would touch it with wet fingers, yesterday I took approximately 60 YUPO paintings out of their see-through sleeves, sprayed the pictures with Blair 100® fixative, allowed the paintings to dry, and put them back into their see-through sleeves.  This stuff really works, dries quickly, and within minutes you can touch the painting with a wet finger—if that is something you are longing to do.  (You could spit on it, as well, but that wouldn’t make me very happy.)

The above-mentioned 60 were mainly paintings which I have tagged for sale in a possible showing, or here in my home gallery.  In another bin are at least 40 more paintings on the controversial glass-like surface, and soon I will spray those with the Blair.  But only a few at a time.  I did the first 60 in one rampage—whisking 3 or 4 at a time out to the garage, spraying them up and down and all around, whisking them back into the house to air on a flat surface (our bed!), and whisking the next increment out to the garage.

Later in the day I began to wonder why I was feeling bizarre.  I felt unsteady on my feet, light headed, and generally weak and ill.  Flu?  Sinuses?  Then I realized that I probably had the Blair 100 fixative disease after exposing my respiratory system to dose after dose of the stuff.  I did wear a mask for the last 2 sprayings, but hey—what good did that do, to lock the barn after the proverbial horses had been stolen?   

My husband, children, grandchildren, and Pembroke Welsh corgi are the most well tended and fussed over individuals imaginable—but sometimes I think I’m missing on a cylinder when it comes to common sense for myself!  I’m asthmatic, and would have benefited from wearing the mask the entire time—as well as not doing all 60 paintings in one day, to say nothing of trying to protect my eyes with brand new lenses via cataract surgery.  I never even thought of wearing goggles for the procedure.  What if the little hole on the sprayer had been aimed wrong?  At my new eyes!  Oh well, next time!

After the fact, I read all the fine print on the Blair can.  Yikes!  So I’m pleading with you, dear reader.  If you decide to fix your paintings, please do fix yourself first!  🙂 

Meanwhile, I lived through the frenzy of spraying and woke up this morning to create the above experimental rendering.  It’s called “Wisteria Hysteria”.  I have some fake wisteria hanging in our bedroom, and I have a thing about that lovely vine—possibly because of the English film, ENCHANTED APRIl, where 4 women flee from rainy/foggy London for a month at a villa in sunny Italy where the wisteria is blooming all over the place.

And guess what kind of a surface “Wisteria Hysteria” is painting on?  You’ve got it—YUPO!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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