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Archive for the ‘Still Life Paintings’ Category

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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In the last post, I shared the bottle painting—initially thought to be a failure but then, after a water bath, not so bad after all.  I had attributed the shiny reflection to that desperate act of dousing the work with water.

After much deliberation and messing about at my art table, it dawned on me:  It was not the water bath that added to the shine.  In that painting I’d used a substance called Gum Arabic which is known to add ease of flow, and shine when applied to with paint.  How exciting to have an “art epiphany”!  Now I can “shine” whenever the mood hits.

Determined to make more bottles with shiny reflections, I did the below encore on smaller paper to be framed at 11″ x14″:

Dans la Fenetre 4

After framing these bottles and hanging the painting near the aforementioned big one, I kept looking at the smaller painting and thinking BORING!  It was too “ploomp, ploomp, ploomp”, like those disgustingly trimmed and groomed evergreens planted around commercial buildings and clinics—or a battalion of hostas marching in a row, planted because someone had no concept of anything more wild, lovely, free, and imaginative to plant in the shade.

So I unframed the above and invested another half hour in messing about, arriving at the conclusion pictured below.  Now, I LIKE it!  It belongs on the wall with the 24″ x 20″ original—Gum Arabic and all.  Oh, so much better!

Dans la Fenetre 2

Margaret L. Been — May 10th, 2016

 NOTE:  Here is the wall.  After a few days of studying the paintings, I realized that the painted bottles were in sync with a shelf of real glass bottles in cobalt blue.

 

Bottles on the wall

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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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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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IF

When we lived up north a decade ago, I was part of a local writers’ group.  One of the members was an artist, and he had paintings on display in an area hospital.  At the time I thought that was the ultimate.  How wonderful for this man, how amazing!  I was totally absorbed in writing and self-publishing my book of essays and poems, A TIME UNDER HEAVEN.  It never entered my head that in just a few months I would pick up a paint brush, and consequently begin an entirely new life adventure.

I’d always enjoyed visual art and thought I would love to paint, but I kept telling myself I didn’t have any talent.  Upon mentioning this to my friend Dee, she said “Why don’t you just do it?”.  Something snapped that day, and I decided who cares about “talent”?  I’m just going to have fun!

When we moved to Southern Wisconsin, I joined PAAC—the Pewaukee Area Arts Council, a group which promotes many disciplines including photography, creative writing, and music.  I had thought my thrust would be what it always has been, writing and especially poetry.  But one meeting called for participants to bring paintings for Show and Tell.  A couple of artist members honed in on my watercolors and urged me forward.  To this day, I’m grateful for that encouragement*—and to my friend, Dee, who gave me an initial shove!

Currently, along with other PAAC visual artists, I have paintings on exhibition in four locales:  a chiropractic clinic, a bank, a family restaurant, and an area hospice.  We change our work every three months, to accommodate the new season.  This miracle (I will always consider it that!) benefits me in two ways:

1)  The gallery opportunities keep me painting purposefully nearly every day, a work which I enjoy immensely and find infinitely refreshing.  My desire is to hang something new every single time, in every place, rather than rotate a painting from one site to another—something I could do if necessary but would rather not.

2)  The paintings are growing larger!  Whereas my max was previously 16″ x 20″ (outside mat size), I’m now venturing into 20″ x 24″.  One of the gallery sites contains a long, high wall.  The 11″ x 14″ renderings which I happily hang in our home might get lost in that exhibition.  Larger pieces are appropriate for the other galleries as well.  And BIG is FUN!

Were paintings to exceed 20″ x 24″, I could work at our son Eric’s office in nearby Waukesha.  There I have a door on filing cabinets, all to myself.  So far I’ve used that resource for messy acrylics, collages, and water soluble oils, which I do very sparingly in the limited space at home in our carpeted bedroom.  Eric has hung a couple of the collages on his theretofore bare walls, to my great satisfaction.  (The approval of one’s family members is best of all!)

The above watercolor and gouache, “Sunspeak”, is “hot off the palette”, and framed in a 20″ x 24″ ready-made dark blue frame.  Beautiful ready-made frames are available at the BEN FRANKLIN store a few miles from our door.  Colorful frames have consistently dominated our walls at home, but suddenly I began to crave the mellow warmth of wood—maybe because we’ve had winter/winter/winter around here since early November.

Now my husband and I have begun to explore the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store (actually there are two of them close by) where we find lovely wooden frames for the proverbial song.   A measuring tape has taken up permanent residence in my handbag, and we search and measure at least once a week.  Joe removes the backing—paper or thin board, staples, whatever, and secures the hanging wires on the frames.  I line each frame up in Joe’s work area—either vertically or horizontally so he knows which way to attach the wire.

Here’s a sample of a recent painting presented in a St. Vinnee’s frame:

Wood Frame 1

My art is a series of baby steps, I know.  There are real artists out there with real training and real ability!  But every little baby step is a MIRACLE!

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

*NOTE:  I can’t say enough about the value of encouragement.  I’m continually amazed by the generosity of artists I’ve met—people whose work far exceeds my wildest dream.  Quite honestly, I didn’t always experience encouragement from fellow writers; my writing approbation came from contests, sales to magazines, and from people who enjoyed reading what I wrote.

I’ve often pondered why that should be so.  Perhaps writers tend to be more introspective than a lot of people and thereby preoccupied with whatever they are thinking.  I admit I’ve been that way at times—especially when processing the deeper things in life.  But to encourage another person is such a joy!  I’ve basked in that joy through teaching writing classes over the years.

Like writers, visual artists are tuned in to the world around them—to seeing and experiencing.  But then writers must retreat into the process of distilling their gleanings into words.  Words are miracles too,  But writing is a LONELY craft, at best—and it does demand periods of detachment.  We may be satisfied with our words, while wondering if anyone else will ever read them.  And maybe no one ever will—thus the conduit to sharing is severed.

Conversely, artists translate their impressions into explosions of shapes and color.  Regardless of level of expertise or lack of it, these visuals provide gratification.  We are tremendously fulfilled when we are pleased with our colors and shapes.  We can SEE our work, and others can see it as well.  Varieties of art are endless; each one of us is unique.  This very fact, plus the perk of seeing with our eyes, may create a glorious freedom to encourage others, and be encouraged!

Now isn’t the introspective writer coming out in this discourse?!  Gnawing, ruminating, analyzing, processing thoughts into intangible words?!  No wonder we writers can become ingrown toenails, even oblivious.  Time to go back to the palette and let the colors fly.  🙂

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Intanglibles 1

“When do I quit?” is the most challenging question when working with gouache, and probably with acrylic and oil as well.  Watercolor speaks for itself, and calls its own shots.  There comes a time when rag watercolor paper will say, “Enough!”  To continue beyond that point will most definitely create the infamous mud, as layering transparent colors is something a watercolor artist can only get away with three, and perhaps at a max four times—at least that has proven true in my limited experience.  Maybe an expert could go further with transparent layers.

But gouache (like acrylic and oil) is opaque and it can be layered from here to infinity.  If one wanted to spend a lifetime on just one painting, it could possibly almost be done with gouache—especially on YUPO paper, which is a glass-like smooth surface, willing to accept numerous wash-offs and fresh starts.  With multiple layers, the build-up can get pretty fragile, and perhaps crumbly—and I certainly cannot imagine wanting to spend a lifetime on JUST ONE “masterpiece”.  However mistakes are easily corrected with opaque paint—hence the potential for infinite layers.

With watercolor we must call the permanent mistakes “happy accidents”, and they can be wonderful.  Yet there is another way to go with irretrievable watercolor errors when the mistakes are not wonderful.  That way to go is called gouache.  So we are back to the intriguing opaque stuff which faithfully layers light over dark while building texture.  And the eternal question:  “When do I quit?”

Sooner or later I simply have to say, “That’s it.”  Thus I finally pronounced an “It is finished” sentence on the above YUPO paper rendering where I laid an initial watercolor wash plus the brown textured pot (?) on the right, then dabbed with gouache, added more gouache in different colors, kept on layering the opaque colors plus white—and finally QUIT.

Time involved?  Approximately one hour twice daily for four days.  If that sounds like a doctor’s prescription, it could be:  a prescription for FUN!

Margaret L. Been, © 2014

NOTE:  The “Simply Art” page has been updated.  Feel free to pop in and check it out.  🙂 MLB

Another Note:  Here are the countries represented in the last month’s “Views and Visitors”.  At a time in life where I no longer travel in person, I can travel in words.  What a joy!!!

(“Views” represent the number of articles actually read, as compared to “Visitors which are the number of people who access the site.  My views always exceed my number of visitors—and the number of views or “reads” per visitor is averaged, showing that rather than hit and run my visitors linger and read normally more than one entry and often three or four.  Rewarding! )

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 257
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 12
Canada FlagCanada 12
India FlagIndia 6
Korea, Republic of FlagRepublic of Korea 5
Philippines FlagPhilippines 4
Sweden FlagSweden 3
Germany FlagGermany 2
Macao FlagMacao 2
Nigeria FlagNigeria 1
Romania FlagRomania 1
Japan FlagJapan 1
Australia FlagAustralia 1
Saudi Arabia FlagSaudi Arabia 1
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation 1
Italy FlagItaly 1
Finland FlagFinland 1
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 1

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.Beautiful Bouquet for Jamie

Recently our Denver son, Karl, visited us “back East”—in Wisconsin.  He spotted a painting I’d done for his sister, our daughter Debbie,  Rather than continuing to lose you readers in a string of our family connections, I’ll simply state that after seeing the painting, Karl said, “I’d like one like THAT.”

Wonderful!  So satisfying when someone likes your art, right?  But “one like THAT”—similar to, and in the time frame of, the above-pictured rendering–was done three years ago.  Now I’m trying to paint “one like THAT”, but I always come up with something different.

Maybe because of writing articles and stories for magazines and newspapers for decades, I’m sensitive to the ominous significance of plagiarism.  I have always been super cautious not to plagiarize someone else in my work.  Now that visual art has pushed my writing career to the background, I cannot even pick up a paintbrush and plagiarize myself!

Every individual who devotes huge chunks of time to art will attest to the fact that we change and grow.  I’m constantly exposing myself to different and new techniques and styles through books and DVDs.  When too weary at the end of a day to actually work in my studio (a card table in a corner of our bedroom), I immerse myself either in volumes of my beloved mid-to-late 19th century French artists or in the theories and works of present day water-media artists whom I find greatly inspiring:  Cheng-Khee Chee, Charles Reid, Barbara Nechis, Jean Haines, Shirley Trevena, Taylor Ikin, Clare Harrigan, and Karlyn Holman*, to name a few.

Although I never sit down at my art table with an open book or a DVD screen before me, I know that ideas for different approaches seep in through a kind of soul osmosis.  Constantly I enjoy delving and exploring fresh possibilities—even some that I’ve discovered on my own, such as mounding gouache on top of watercolors to achieve a textural effect resembling that of oil on canvas.

Hence I may never able to reproduce “one like THAT”.  But I’ll continue trying, and something will connect!  Scanned and emailed images of various new paintings are bombarding Karl, and when the right one appears on his computer screen he will reply, “Stop!  That’s it!”

One like THAT!

blue and old pottery 2

 

More Equinox

©Margaret L. Been, September 2014

*Many water-media artists tape their paper to a board before beginning to paint.  I prefer not to do this, as I enjoy tipping and wiggling my paper so that colors will run and form beautiful “cauliflowers”.  Some of the paper taping is done simply to prevent 140# cold press watercolor paper from buckling when wet.  Through her teaching, Karlyn Holman demonstrates the perfect solution for that—forever freeing artists for the need to tape their watercolor paper to a board.  Here is Karlyn’s wonderful trick.

Thoroughly wet the back of your finished painting.  Then make a sandwich:  a plastic placemat on a table or counter; clean paper toweling over the placemat; the painting face down on the paper toweling; another layer of paper toweling on top of the painting’s wet back; another layer of plastic placemat or whatever; and a large book, or several books, to weight down the sandwich.

Leave the sandwich overnight, and voila.  A perfectly flat painting.  If the watercolor paper is still damp, I repeat the sandwich process (omitting the wetting stage of course) until the painting is dry enough to mat.  COOL!  Thank you, Karlyn.  Wisconsin people are indeed brilliant!!!  🙂 )

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