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Archive for the ‘The joy of experimenting with art’ Category

ink 1

Recently I attended a workshop on the use of alcohol inks.  The class was held in a studio a few lovely country miles from our home, in a neighboring community.  There were 15 of us in the workshop.

Alcohol ink only works its great magic on a non-absorbent surface, so we used my beloved Yupo paper for our introduction to the medium.  For our first of 3 renderings, the instructor talked us through a basic technique which we all followed; we made rings of dots from drops of the ink, in colors of our choice, then blew through a straw to move the ink around.  We added more blobs, blew some more, etc.

The beautiful freckles on the above sample, my 1st, were created by holding the surface of the work up horizontally and spraying horizontally from a bottle filled with Isopropyl Alcohol.  The bottle needs to be significantly up and away from the painting so that the drops will fall gently on the paint, rather than in torrents—which would send the colors flying in additional directions.

From these humble beginnings, each of us created our first alcohol ink art, and every painting was totally unique.  Clone-type workshops are currently in vogue, where a group of people follow a formula and all come up with nearly identical paintings—wine consumption notwithstanding.  I have heard raves about these gatherings, as if they were some kind of a Renaissance Revolution.  But conformity and uniformity in art are unspeakably dull, I think:  as lackluster as painting by number.  An art class such as the one I’m describing, where each participant makes something different and one of a kind, is a GOOD CLASS!

For our second rendering we were encouraged to make a close-up of flowers popping up out of grass.  The instructor had one of her paintings as a sample.  A few in the class mimicked the leader’s choice of colors and format, but most of us simply did our own thing.  Here is my #2:

ink 2

We concluded with one more piece.  My #3 was my very favorite, but alas; the next day, I sprayed all 3 paintings with a fixative, got the spray too close to the surface of #3, and caused the ink to revitalize and run.  So #3 got altered, not to my liking.  Nonetheless, it is pictured below:

(Try to imagine that the magenta blur on the top half of the painting is not really a blur, but rather a hint of foxgloves hanging like bells—as in the lair of the Foxy Gentleman in Beatrix Potter’s TALE OF JEMINA PUDDLEDUCK.)

ink 3

Blurred foxgloves nonetheless, the alcohol ink workshop inspired me.  In July, the same instructor will show us how to apply the medium to glass, metal, and ceramic tiles.  Meanwhile, I’m eager to share this newly-discovered art with my great-grandchildren* who live nearby.  Too much fun!

Margaret L. Been  —  May 29th, 2017

*Divided between Wisconsin, Florida, Minnesota, and California, Joe and I have 18 great-grandchildren.  And #19 is scheduled to appear in South Carolina on Christmas Day, 2017. 

Now wasn’t that a sneaky way to get in a big brag?!!!  🙂

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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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Here is a bold venture:  a painting which turned out to be too large for the ready-made frames at our local craft stores.  I had grabbed an entire sheet of Yupo® and had a blast, painting and thinking I would crop the finished work to fit a 24″ x 20″ frame which I had on hand.  But I was pleased with the entire piece, and couldn’t figure out where, if any, I wanted to sacrifice part of it.

A brainy idea:  custom framing.  This is pricey indeed, and I will not do it very often.  But the result is satisfying.  Below you can see The Big One on a living room wall:

Wall 2

AW.JPG

Many layers of gouache were piled onto this painting, over washes of watercolor.  Actually called “Waterfall”, this rendering evokes memories of a real waterfall we had on our 14 plus acres up north, where we lived full time for eight years.

Our land bordered on two roads, one up and one down a hill.  Our home was on the downhill road, next to a lake.  In the spring, snow and ice melted from the above road and roared downhill to our back yard, over boulders and brush.  The sound was stirring, and so loud that it resonated through closed windows.  In the summer, the waterfall morphed into a trickling downhill creek—always refreshing to sit beside on one of the big boulders.

How beautiful to have mellow memories, and then to paint them (and have them framed)!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

NOTE:  Obviously I couldn’t scan this painting on my home scanner, so I photographed it with my cell phone.  Because the piece was framed with non-glare glass I could do that.  But I failed to get the entire bit into the top photo.  In the shot of the painting on the wall with its surrounding environment, you get a better idea of how the waterfall fans out at its base.

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Ex 4

Ex 2

Ex 3

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Years ago I giggled when I heard of art instructors telling workshop participants:  “The paper is talking.  Listen to the paper!”  But now, in my eleventh year of art-making and experimenting with different watercolor grounds, I no longer giggle.  Paper talks!  Paper says different things about the paints and techniques applied.  For a fun demonstration of this fact, I did an almost identical landscape on the above four papers using identical techniques, with a slight variation in my DaVinci artist grade* colors.

First, I applied clear water to a wide horizontal strip at the top, and a smaller swath on the bottom—leaving a dry streak between the wetted areas.  Then the top wetted strips were washed with blends of phalo and French ultramarine blues—and the sky areas were sprinkled with Kosher salt.  Avoiding the dry parts, I added color to the dampened below sections:  red, green, gold, and a bit of blue—while, as always, letting the paints mingle on the papers rather than on my palette.  On each piece, I pressed plastic food wrap onto the bottom area while the paint was still wet.

The papers represented are, from top to bottom:  1) Yupo paper with its especially unique voice, particularly in the way it talks back to applications of plastic wrap; Numbers 2) and 3) 140lb sketching pad paper—American Journey available online at CHEAP JOE’S, and Canson available at many chain craft stores; and 4) Arches 140lb cold press paper by the sheet, available at online art stores (and neighborhood fine art stores, if you have one.)  (Arches is pronounced “Arshe”.  Remember it’s French, and I may scream if you pronounce it like those golden thing-a-ma-jiggies on the MacDonald’s fast food signs!)

Yupo has no tooth whatsoever; rather it has a shiny, slippery surface so it will always make it’s own statement, without even trying to imitate.  You may notice a smoothness because of a lack of tooth on the 2 middle papers as well:  the sketch pad papers.  Also, note that on the 2nd of the smooth-surfaced sketch pad papers the food wrap film caused the paint to slide up and nearly obscure the strip which I had left white and dry.

The Arches 140lb cold press displays more texture around the salt, and somewhat more under the plastic film, due to the presence of tooth.  And on the Arches sample there is a charming bit of “cauliflowering” where wet paint has oozed into the dry area, also caused by tooth.

(Cauliflowers will normally be very prominent on paintings where wet colors collide on Arches 140lb cold press and comparable fine papers—especially when freshly painted strokes touch not-yet-dry parts.  Traditional watercolorists will practically do headstands to avoid cauliflowers, while I perform similar gymnastics just to make sure that I create and preserve them!  “Different strokes for different folks!”)

Different papers have different stories to tell.  By listening (LOOKING!) you can begin to ascertain what more you might want to add or change to complete the work, or do alternatively on another kind of paper.  In the above cases, done mainly for the purpose of illustrating variations in papers, I have done nothing more to any of the samples.

Margaret L. Been —  April, 2017

*My husband and I are blessed with many great-grandchildren.  (Dare I brag?  Well, I’m going to:  we are blessed with 18 of them—so far!)  Frequently, we have art days at our dining room table; what a delight!  Although I sometimes let the very young children slosh around on the economical sketch pad 140lb papers before launching into the high quality “Arshe” sheets which I nearly always use for my own finished work, I am terribly fussy about 2 aspects of art for all ages:  good brushes and artist grade paints.  No matter how young the beginner, good quality brushes and paints are essential.  Poor quality yields disappointing results, and the potential future joy in a pastime of art-making is not to jeopardized:  not at my table!!!

And that’s no April Fool!

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Another DVD I watch and absorb again and again is Taylor Ikin’s DANCING WITH YUPO.  This Florida-based fine artist’s (1 hour, 58 minute) tutorial has probably done as much, if not more, to free me up and send me painting on my way—as any other resource in my sizeable home library of books and DVDs.

The huge secret (but not REALLY a secret!) is Taylor Ikin’s use of YUPO® paper, which is actually not paper but rather a shiny washable plastic–coupled with her method of always standing and moving around* while working, and using totally-generous, extra-humungous amounts of paint mainly applied with a 2″ or larger square brush.

In her DVD Taylor Ikin depicts a downhill stream tumbling over rocks, with a forest in the background and lots of wild growth along the banks.  Taylor begins by spritzing the sheet of YUPO with her spray bottle of water, and applying thick brush loads of rich undiluted colors for woods, water, foliage, rocks, and botanical stuff along the forest floor and riverbanks.

Taylor slosh/slosh/sloshes with brilliant, juicy straight-from-the-tube watercolors abundantly slathered on her brush which has been dipped in a commodious bucket of water.  (I normally use marinara sauce jars large enough to accommodate my 4″ wash brush, and a gallon ice cream pail for my water supply—the pail for rinsing and letting the pigments settle on the bottom, and one or two of the glass jars for fresh clean water.)

Then with her clean wet brush, Taylor begins to delineate water from land, while creating chunky textural tree shapes in the background.  Next, the forest foliage and groundcover evolve.  With YUPO, this is super easy, as any swipe of a brush or paper towel brings the wet painting surface back to its original white and ready for more action.  (When the paint is dry, a wet brush or wet paper towel will restore the white.  And if unhappy with any stage of the process on YUPO, one may hold the piece under a gushing faucet or float it in a bathtub of water.)

When Taylor feels her initial rendering is satisfactory, she recommends letting the painting dry**, perhaps even overnight.  When dry, the work is ready for tweaking and fine-tuning:  as Taylor puts it, deciding “What will make this a better painting.”  Now is the time-consuming stage of lifting, re-applying the shapes in a different way, making new shapes, removing colors, adding new colors, standing and looking at the work from a distance, holding the painting sideways/upside down/and in a large mirror, etc.  (I sometimes tweak and fine-tune for hours over a period of days, or even a couple of weeks.  My YUPO paintings usually consume more time than those on Arches 140# rag paper, because the YUPOs provide flexibility and so many more options.)

I have read books and watched tutorials by other YUPO artists, and quite frankly I have not warmed up to their work.  Excellently crafted, but simply not what I would want to hang on my walls.  But Taylor Ikin’s work has that magical quality to which I am inexorably drawn. Try GOOGLING her, and maybe you will be drawn as well.

YUPO is the perfect ground for the abstract realism style that I love.  It is perhaps the easiest surface for beginning painters to use because (unless you desire to create detailed, representational art that resembles a photograph) YUPO is encouragingly NO-FAIL  Every blob and drip of paint that blends with other drips and blobs will be beautiful.  A few quick blasts of diverse colors on wet YUPO are often “suitable for framing”.  But when more painstaking hours are invested, the rewards are even more incredibly satisfying.

One can play forever, with just one sheet of YUPO, painting and rinsing off the paint, experimenting with colors and brushstrokes.  Or finger strokes.  I have rediscovered the joy of finger painting, due to the fact that I have long hair and lots of it.  Frequently I spy a wisp of my hair in a work in progress. I dislike hair in a painting almost as much as I hate to find it in my food!  In the process of removing a hair with my pinky, gorgeous swirls will surface on YUPO.

Texture is easily achieved on YUPO—either by the application of modeling paste to make mountains, rocks, and tree trunks, or by dribbling texture medium onto the painted surface.  Salt and cling film (plastic food wrap) build texture as well.

The acrylic inks are vibrant on YUPO paper.  Another favorite technique is the slathering of gouache over water-colored areas.  The gouache may be built up impasto, to fashion floral still lifes or wild landscapes, while looking amazingly like oil paint.  I always spray my finished YUPO paintings with an acrylic fixative; this not only prevents smudging and smearing paint forever, but the fixative makes a lovely shine (although matt fixatives may be used if so desired).  Also, the acrylic spray will prevent the impasto gouache areas from flaking.

Thank you, Taylor Ikin, for your continual inspiration from DANCING WITH YUPO!  I have always loved to dance!  🙂  Here is a fresh off-the-messy-palette YUPO piece by moi.  It is titled “Irides”.  I can’t stop painting irides.  Although I’m certainly not to be compared with Monet (YIKES!) that master and I do have something in common:  repetition of a beloved subject.  Monet did haystacks and water lilies among other topics.  I do irides, along with woods, mountains, etc.  What a good life!

more-irides

Margaret L Been — February 25th, 2017

*Standing and moving around are the way to go, for me, as I have chronic orthopedic pain for which constant movement is the best medicine.  The pain ramps up greatly at night when I am lying in bed.  Rather than lie there and hurt (that would be STUPID!) I get up and move around our home—yes and sometimes dance, to the waltzes of Erik Satie as well as WITH YUPO.  🙂

**I am not a fan of drying paintings with a hair dryer, and rarely do this.  But once I tried it on a YUPO piece.  Not good!  Too much heat, too close to the painting ground and voilà—shriveled-up art.

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Brian Jacques’ REDWALL Chronicles* are a treasure trove in every way:  gripping cliff-hanging plots, amazing characterization, plenty of humor—both subtle and downright slap-stick hilarious, AND painterly descriptions on every page.

Now I have the entire series of 22 novels, and am reading them in order.  Currently, I am into the 4th book, and have begun underlining or otherwise notating passages which may move my brushes and paints into action.

Above is another rendering of “Mossflower Wood and the Quarry”.  When I first painted this 24″ x 20″, I positioned the rocklike slabs at the top, and the nebulous tree shapes and foliage at the bottom of the horizontal format.  After matting and inserting the painting in its protective, clear plastic envelope, I accidently turned the piece “upside down” and immediately decided that I would hang the “upside down” as “right side up”.  That’s part of the fun of abstract art; it’s flexible and open to many interpretations!

Margaret L. Been, 1/26/17

*I have an inkling that Brian Jacques was a fan of Charles Dickens, judging from some of the hilarious names in the REDWALL Chronicles, especially the names of the scoundrels who are typically personified foxes, rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels,  and predatory birds:  names like Dripnose, Halfnose, Skinpaw, Ashleg, Ratflank, Darkclaw, Deadglim, Fishgill; and these are merely starters.  🙂

 

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