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Archive for the ‘The American West’ Category

Shawl 1

Shawl 2

Just for fun, I’m planning a brief digression from palette presentations—in order to share some other arts that I’m passionate about.  Painting is a huge part of my life, but there are other huge parts as well.  For starters, FIBER ARTS.

I love to spin wool and knit, and I’ve had wonderful years of weaving countless garments, place mats, and rugs on two looms which are currently up in our Northern home, as there simply is no place to put them in our condo.  (But my two best spinning wheels, Jensen Wheels, are right here beside us in our living room.  They are an indispensable aspect of my lifestyle!)

For eighteen years, when we lived in the Town of Eagle in Southeastern Wisconsin, I raised a spinner’s flock of from two to eight sheep—fine wool breeds.  At that time, I taught Fiber Arts Workshops in our home.  I found a (rather crochetty) gentleman to make a large rustic sign for the entrance to our drive:  FIBER ARTS:  Spinning, Weaving, Knitting . . . .” plus phone info, etc.

But what a struggle, getting that sign custom made.  The sign artist was bent on refusing to make the sign as I directed because, in his rather vehement words, “The is no such thing as ‘Fiber Arts’ “.  Finally I won.  I had cash, and money talks.  But I’ll never forget my shock over someone trying to tell me that “There is no such thing as ‘Fiber Arts’ “.  Yikes!

Anyway, I’m as nutty about fibers, as I am about my paint brushes and tubes of paint.  Recently some friends and I have been knitting prayer shawls for the local Vince Lombardi Cancer Center.  Since a lot of shawls can be produced at a rapid pace I make shawls for family members, friends, and myself as well.  Recently I had a shawl ready for the Center, when I learned that a friend in Seattle has cancer.  So that shawl went to Seattle, instead of to the local Cancer Center.

The shawls are too much fun to make.  If they were any more exciting, I wouldn’t be able to stand it!  Each one is an original, one of a kind, in a variety of colors that might have made Old Testament Joseph weep with envy.   I love color, and I love to make up garments as I go along—incorporating pattern stitches.  If I discover that I’ve inserted a color that doesn’t fit, or a pattern that doesn’t add anything to the mix, I simply rip—sometimes many rows—and start over to get it right.

It’s good to include button holes and buttons—at least one per shawl.  This prevents the slipping and sliding that shawls otherwise tend to do.  The buttons are special, some hand-made clay or fabric creations from art fairs, and others from yarn stores.  Currently I’m working on a Southwestern shawl in New Mexico colors.  It will have two buttons, roses in a brushed gunmetal grey substance resembling pewter—made in France.  Finally I trim edges or interior areas with a double crochet or fringe, or both as in the above example.

Here is one more recent creation:  perfect for our newest family member, great-grandson Leonardo Aguilar II.  His Mexican Daddy says Baby Leo likes to be wrapped up “like a little burrito”.

Little Senor 3

Margaret L. Been, May 2014

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The Cliffs Were Weirdly Lit

I am greatly blessed with the gift of a visual mind.  When I read, the scenes described in a book loom large before my eyes in living color.  Although I dearly love words, it’s actually the pictures which words evoke that thrill me—or terrify me, whatever the subject of the text may be.  Plot and character development are “biggies” in successful fiction, but for me it is a sense of place and the scenery which rise up larger than life.  I’m perfectly happy with a virtually plot-less novel and one with few characters, if the book abounds in adjectives and adverbs which delineate a scene so vividly that I think I am really there—en plein air!

Visually oriented people are tremendously contented with being “armchair travelers”.  I can take extensive voyages, pilgrimages, and treks anywhere in the world—all from the comfort of my sofa or my “read in bed” 1/2 armchair which serves as a sit-up pillow.  (What an economical way to go!!! 🙂 )

One of my favorite American recent writers is Louis L’Amour.  Yes, Louis was tremendously skillful at plotting, and his characters are amazingly individualistic—never the fare of “canned” formula fiction.  But most of all, I love this author for his painterly writing.  And he is my first assignment in my self-programmed Autumn Painting Agenda of painting en plein air via literature.  With words before me, I can pick up my brush and render my take on the scene described.

The above watercolor on Arches (pronounced “ARSH”—it’s French) 140 lb. cold press paper was inspired by the following description in Louis L’Amour’s SACKETT BRAND:  “The sun was just below the horizon and the red rock cliffs were weirdly lit.  Out of the west a tiny puff of dust lifted, grew, and became a fast running horse.”

I’m very excited about painting passages of literature.  Additional Louis L’Amour scenes may be forthcoming, plus quotes from painterly poems—including my own poems.  From long before I found the courage to pick up a paint brush—in fact for most of my life since early childhood—I have happily painted with words.

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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The Haunted Mesa . . . inspired by Louis L'Amour's novel by that name . . .

In the above painting, inspired by one of my favorite novels—THE HAUNTED MESA, by Louis L’Amour—I began with the “dampen the paper/charge the paint/and back off” concept but backing off simply did not work.  Instead, I spent hours letting layers dry, painting new layers, sponging off muddy parts (Arches 140 lb. cold press paper takes a lot of sponging and reworking without falling apart), and much consternation to the point of nearly tossing the whole bit into the waste basket.  Hour after hour and layer upon layer, I just couldn’t seem to make the painting come alive.

Then I accidentally turned the paper (to what I’d thought was) upside down, and voilà—THE HAUNTED MESA materialized before my eyes.  I like this one as much as any I’ve ever done.  I guess my punch line is, in the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in . . . .”

The painting is large enough that it wouldn’t completely fit into my scanner.  (It will be matted and framed to the outside dimension of 16″ x 20″.)  But I was able to scan aspects which especially appeal to me:  the yellow-green sky and the faded background layers, as well as a good amount of the alizaron crimson/permanent magenta/ultra-marine violet foreground. 

The cloudy areas in the foreground were created by randomly rolling a wadded up facial tissue over the freshly painted, wet surface.  I’m just a bag of funny tricks!!!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Variations on a theme can apply to more than music.  Here ↑ is a southwestern scene which I made with Elegant Writer® pens, on 140# greeting card paper—specifically for water media art.  You write with the pen, and then go over the lines with a damp paint brush and wonderful things happen.

Then I ran the scanned and filed picture through a couple of different options on my HOME PHOTO STUDIO® program, an economically priced alternative to PHOTO SHOP®.  Voilà!  Variations on a theme.  ↓

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Those of you who also visit http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/ know that our patio is, for me, a very special bit of Heaven.  It opens through sliding doors right outside our living room, so it seems like we live outdoors year around.  The patio is beautiful in winter, piled with drifted snow, but it’s especially wonderful in spring, summer, and autumn.  It faces due east, and is sheltered by a roof and the rest of our building from all but the east wind.  We face a park and nature preserve—beyond which is the wild end of Lake Nagawicka—so wildlife abounds in the neighborhood. 

Canada geese, great blue heron, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures, and hawks soar across the open sky over our park every day.  We are surrounded by lakes in our corner of the world, so shorebirds as well as field and meadow flyers are at home here.  Occasionally sea gulls venture inland from Lake Michigan, in search of food.  (I often see gulls at shopping centers where people are apt to drop a potato chip or some pop corn.)  Recently a cormorant cruised over our park—exciting, as in the past I’d only seen that large bird in Wisconsin’s far North wetlands. 

To make bird and cloud watching, reading, and sipping iced tea on the patio complete we needed some funky art—preferably with my beloved Southwest flavor.  A gallery wrapped canvas and some acrylic paints did the job, and now we have art for living outdoors.  I sealed my rendering (“My Santa Fe”) with acrylic gloss medium, so barring blizzards it should be weatherproof.  I’ll bring Santa Fe in late next fall.  Meanwhile, the painting is living outdoors—with me!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2012

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One point most artists agree upon is the wisdom of painting a favorite subject again and again—as a series or a lifetime of renderings, as evidenced in Monet’s many water lily paintings.  If the subject is something we dearly love, it will always hold our interest and we can capture this love in a plethora of colors, aspects, viewpoints, and styles. 

From little on, I have been fascinated by the vanished culture of the cliff dwellings in the four corners—Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico—and other parts of the “Grand Circle” surrounding Mesa Verde where these states meet.  The history of the area is fraught with enigma, unanswered questions, and infinite speculation concerning how the people lived and why they abandoned their cities in the cliffs.  The area itself abounds in beauty which borders on the bizarre.

Although the term “Ancients” has been applied to many past cultures around the world, and even to fictional space aliens, the “Ancients” who capture me are those historic people who maintained a working civilization in the Grand Circle from approximately 1200 B.C. to 1300 A.D.—the Anasazi (meaning “ancient”), or Ancient Pueblo Native Americans.  Many sites in the Grand Circle are named after these people, who are generally referred to as “The Ancients”.

I have traveled in the Grand Circle, and I never tire of reading about the area—its history, cultural ruins, and theories as to what life may have been like for the cliff dwellers.  In recent years, my interest in the Southwest USA has intensified from reading many novels by Louis L’Amour set in that locale.  Not only does this author describe the region in painterly paragraphs which virtually pop off the page and into one’s imagination, but he creates an aura of mystery about the people who lived there—and fictionalizes this mystery into “cliff-hanging” plots which have kept me reading far into the night on several occasions.

Given my love for the Southwest, and my love for Louis L’Amour’s books, it is not surprising that aspects (usually dreamed up and fictionalized) tend to fall off my paintbrush onto paper.  The above, “hot off the palette” piece is titled Lost Amethyst Mine of the Ancients.  This is pure fiction.  I have no knowledge that the Ancients did any mining, or that there is amethyst quartz in the area.  Thus far I have found no online documentation that mining may have been part of that ancient culture.  I simply capture what comes to my mind when I think of Western mines and the culture of the Ancients.  I also love the color of amethyst!

I’ve been painting the Southwestern theme for months—and my zeal shows no indication of flagging.  Awhile back I produced a “favorite” which I named Lost Canyon of the Ancients. I may have posted it before, and a cropped version of it appears above in the header, but in any event here it is again:  ↓

This above bit of fantasy is now framed and hanging over our (electric) fireplace. 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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