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Archive for the ‘The joy of making art’ Category

Waiting for spring. Meanwhile, ideas keep surging through my head. Art concepts are ever stretching.

Since Joe and I no longer need a vehicle, we gave our well-used Honda van to a grandson who is a seminarian at a local theological center, and his wife and two year old daughter—whose name happens to be, believe it or not, Margaret Been.

A garage only has to sit empty (except for all the garden and home maintenance junk lining the walls) for a couple of days before brain seeds sprout. An outdoor room! An outdoor studio for art making and spinning gorgeous fibers into yarn. A place where kindred souls can visit, and neighbors can pause. Ever stretching!

This IS Wisconsin, which means the feasibility of enjoying a garage room is limited to the three summer months (given reasonable summer weather) and a few days at each end of the spectrum (given some surprise weather in spring and fall).

We put a small mock fireplace in the room. The decorative fireplace uses one light bulb to simulate burning logs, and a fan to blow a bit of hot air when desired—mainly for ambience, and not sufficient to handle our weather in a garage. (Indoors maybe!)

But dreams persist. Every day I linger for a few moments in this bit of summer heaven, just dreaming and thinking about family members and friends whom I will invite for art and fiber days.

I have two permanent art-making corners indoors, and I produce in these studios non-stop. Two spinning wheels, plus baskets of merino and silk in a riot of colors whirl constantly in our living room where the resulting skeins of yarn dangle from hooks and surfaces.

Art displays, a table on which to work, an area for storing brushes, paints, papers and additional art tools, another spinning wheel, and a (possible) lifetime supply of additional fibers join me in anticipating warm weather in the garage room.

My art goals are ever stretching as well—including a return to collage art between actual paintings. A few years back, I did a lot of collages from random materials and whatever abstract inspiration blossomed moment by moment.

Collages differ just as every artist is unique. Some are decidedly geometric; some feature words, photos, images of people and buildings, or symbols such as numbers. Others are more organic, kind of like an unkempt garden of color and flowing shapes. Or a messy landscape with tangled trees or turbulent seas. And mountains, plenty of mountains.

The materials are legion: gorgeous Oriental papers—Kozo, Mulberry and Rice Papers, and Japanese Lace; common old cheesecloth, tissue paper, and gauze; aluminum foil; ribbons, greeting cards, pieces of musical scores, and decorative gift wraps; wool fleece, yarn, string, and bits of fabric; seasonal and party napkins—with the backing papers torn off so the napkin design is translucent and delicate; acrylic and gouache paints—metallic and otherwise; dried leaves, flowers, twigs, and herbs; templates and stencils; poems; torn up bits of my paintings that didn’t impress me very much—-yet didn’t warrant the trash bin. Some of my kitty Louie’s fur from his grooming brush—with Louie’s permission of course!

And mediums: molding paste, gloss, matt, sand, glitter gel, gesso, bead gel, crackle gel, YES paste (although anything acrylic such as the above listed mediums plus acrylic paint acts as a glue).

Above is a sample of my collage art from a few years ago. It reminds me of some favorite things, and still hangs in our living room.

And finally, a collage of various paints and textured mediums.

Maybe our new summer garage room will facilitate the creation of more way out art! Meanwhile, Happy Stretching

Margaret L. Been — April 3rd, 2020

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There are days when we want to paint, but do not know what! Times of desire and determination, but no actual inspiration.

That is most apt to happen to me during the winter months, “winter” meaning Wisconsin—where I am not inclined to wander around outdoors in the sub freezing and sometimes sub zero weather—-whereas in spring, summer, and autumn I spend considerable time outdoors. Since most of my inspiration comes from nature . . . well you can complete the thought!

Unlike many Wisconsin people, I am a winter wimp—contented to enjoy the beautiful snowy views from our cozy home rather than on skis, or in an ice fishing shack on a frigid lake.

Of course there is always nature outside our windows, at the bird feeders and across a quiet park to a forest and prairie preserve. But there are still times without a specific subject in mind for painting! And this year the snow and cold came early to our Badger State*. Like in October.

On days without a subject in mind, I simply spray my paper, dab on some colors and let them rip—tipping and bending the paper to see what the paint will do. In the above case, I DID use a brush to create kind of a bowl shape—thinking perhaps the paint (plus a bit of India ink) would decide to make a still life. But that is ALL I did—except to jiggle the paper and then press plastic food wrap over the surface while the colors were still wet.

The next day, when I removed the plastic, I was astonished. There was the face and partial body of a kitty. The colors and plastic wrap had produced a kitty! This is especially amazing to me because ever since last March we have had the most wonderful feline pet—Louie—a precious gift to my husband and me, from one of our daughters.

Our Louie is not blue; he is a gorgeous gray and taupe tabby with black stripes and markings that match on each side of his body—like seams in a well tailored garment. But I have never been much concerned with realism in my art. And I do have a lot of photos of Louie, for realism!

Maybe there is something to our subconscious being involved in our art. But I’m satisfied to believe that the paint, covered with plastic wrap, did the job! Maybe some of you viewers see a canine friend in the rendering, rather than our Louie. That’s okay. We’ve shared our hearts and space with many dogs, as well!

Margaret L. Been — November 12, 2019

*Possibly some readers may not know why Wisconsin is called the “Badger State”. Back in the 1800s, Cornish miners settled here, and mined lead and tin from the hills along the Wisconsin River. Before they built homes, the early miners slept in caves dug into the hills—like the animal badgers prevalent in the area.

Hence, we are Badgers, and proud of it—even though some Wisconsinites cause confusion by walking around with a foam facsimile of a wedge of cheese on their heads. MLB

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There is no way I will spend much time indoors when summer is fleeting. Rain or shine I can be outdoors either on our roofed-and-sheltered-on-three-sides patio, or out in the gardens. Every possible ounce of soul food (plus actual vitamin D) is in the process of being stashed

Like our resident chipmunks scurrying hither and thither with their cheek pouches loaded, I am hoarding a storehouse of images with camera and paints. But rather than scurry hither and thither, I move as slowly and deliberately as possible—unwilling to miss any of the fragrance, sights, or sounds of summer’s demise.

This laidback mentality is something I desire to maintain year around, and often succeed—especially at my vintage age when life is carefree and just plain fun! But during summer’s demise, lazing around is no trick. It just comes naturally!

Even my paint brushes are relaxed. They scarcely move—letting the paint do most of the work with a bit of help from me tipping and bending the paper. With lots of juicy watercolor and gouache, the artist is simply a behind-the-curtains director—welcoming the ad-libbing and improvising that occurs on stage.

Such are the lazy days of summer’s demise. ENJOY!

Margaret L. Been — 9/4/19

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Last week I created the above atmospheric scene and was quite happy with it. So, in the above position I initialed the painting and then realized I had signed it upside down after matting. Not to be discouraged by anything, I covered the initials with my trusty friend, gouache. Then I accidentally dropped a bloop of gouache on the mat.

Next, I decided to simply paint the mat—rather than waste it by removing it, or adding another mat on the top. Also, I added a bit of mystery by gouaching over some of the color with white.

Above is the finale. This may not be a huge hit, but I had a lot of fun messing it up and making a funky rendering. Later in the week I received the following photo from my Granddaughter, Nicole, in Florida, of her daughter—my Great Granddaughter Josephine, using the same technique on a family photo. I decided that great minds think alike. And funky is cool! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — July 23. 2019

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Regardless of the lure of my gardens, and the joy of spinning Merino wool mixed with gorgeous silk, I am making art. Trees seem to be stuck in my head. Oh well—Monet and haystacks, Been and trees. Not that the comparison goes beyond the fact of repeating subject matter.

In fact, I have a hilarious protection against the plight of the over-padded ego; and I have shared this with countless friends who, like me, are attached to their I-pads. Or phones. Or laptops.

Here is my protection. Just GOOGLE: “Pig Who Paints” or “Pigcasso”. This character never fails to make me smile. And she also appears to be smiling on the several U-tubes that feature her producing art. Which proves that art makes us happy whether we are a person or a porker! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — July 16, 2019

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It’s that time again—when it’s all about flowers and most anything green. Spinach salads, trips to the local garden center to find more INDOOR PLANTS, dreaming of the outdoor gardens while the temperature beyond our doors and windows hovers below freezing, and frequently below zero.

The end of our lane contains a pristine white mountain, where the plow has heaped snowfall after snowfall so that we in our condo community can get out of our garages. This is Wisconsin, USA, and that snow mountain may be with us for several more weeks. But all I can think is FLOWERS.

The above allusion to flowers has seen many mutations since its beginning in late January. Several times it almost got pitched in the recycle bin, but with each frustrating session I came back with renewed vigor and determination. I simply had to have something to show for the New Year!

This painting is 16″ x 20″, and is now framed in a lovely antique wood frame, on the wall beside my piano. I like the rendering, but up until a couple of days ago I definitely did not! Here is why: It started out with a photo realism approach—something that normally doesn’t work for me! The flowers were a dark magenta, with blobs of yellow here and there and something that was supposed to represent sky—in overly predictable blue.

The magenta was overpowering. My well educated husband walked by my art table and preempted my thoughts by commenting, “It needs some white.”

So I attacked the magenta flowers with white gouache (always my friend in coverups.) But somehow the white took over. More yellow. More magenta. Then some alizarin crimson to deflect the winey magenta.

Then more yellow to light it up even more, more blue to anchor the piece to the table—but this time aqua blue, always a winner. This all sounds fast and frenzied, but it took weeks punctuated with days for drying (I tend to gob the paint on thickly), excursions to our local medical clinic where our body parts are kept in running order, and time out to eat and be sociable. And sometimes I slept.

Finally the paper was so clotted with layers of watercolor and gouache IMPASTO style, that I had a fleeting sense of nausea. “You are going to have a bath,” I almost shouted at the paper which was actually curling up on its edges from the barrage of paint.

A bath indeed. Not a shower, but a soaking in our kitchen sink. I brought the dripping mess back to my table and plunked it down thinking I would attack it once again, as it began to dry. But then the magic appeared.

The gross top layers of paint were gone. Somehow much of the yellow had turned to a soft green when blending into the aqua. The magenta/crimson combo had turned a light lavender when confronted with shades of blue. While the paper was still damp, I covered it with plastic food wrap and squished the wrap with my fingers to create creases.

When I removed the plastic the next day, I felt like apologizing to what I found—a lovely bit of art for which I could hardly take credit. As is so often the case, the paint knows best! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — March 2nd, 2019

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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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How good that our celebration of Christmas falls at the darkest time of the year.  Granted, the timing falls in line with ancient pagan celebrations.  But the birth of Jesus Christ is the birth of the One True Light of the World.  And the darkest days around the winter solstice signal the gradual ascent of the sun back to our hemisphere.  

Meanwhile Psalm 139:12 tells us,“Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You,” NKJV

In our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no darkness.  When HE decrees darkness on the earth, through the rotation of our planet around the sun, life continues to thrive in the secret darkness beneath the earth.  And out of that darkness, comes new life—the flowers of spring.

We have an abundance of florists and greenhouses to span the darkening days of the year; yet there is nothing like the real thing—-blooms and greenery bursting forth from warm soil.  Fortunately for the artist, a semblance of new life in spring can prevail throughout the year!

Merry Christmas, to you readers who are literally all over the world, in case I cannot get back to this blog until next year.  I appreciate you so much!

And may you always have flowers!

Margaret L. Been — December 16th, 2018

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British fine artist Ann Blockley advocates picking an art subject about which one is passionate, and then building a file of photos, sketches, word descriptions, etc. dealing with the topic.  Eventually this resource will continue to seep in and ultimately create significant art.

I love the concept of building the resource file.  One subject very dear to me, a place where I spent some beautiful university and early marriage years, is the state of Colorado,  So I have been building a file of pleasant memories, focusing on that drop dead gorgeous part of the USA.

Specifically prominent in my memory is the environs of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs—where my husband, our first child Laura, and I lived in 1956.  Our home was four rows of cottages up from Canyon Avenue on a foothill looming over stately Victorian mansions, where the wealthy of the late 1800s and early 1900s gathered to drink the allegedly-healthful waters of Manitou Springs.

In 1956, Colorado Springs was a sleepy Southwestern town of about 27,000 people—only slightly disturbed by the presence of the military, of which my husband was a part at Fort Carson.  Construction of the Air Force Academy began about the time Joe left the army for civilian life, when we returned to our native Wisconsin.

When we lived in Manitou Springs we were a young family, and we had only a primitive box camera in our limited stash of possessions—plus just a bit of extra cash for buying film.  I have only a few snapshots from that era, and naturally they are closeups of Laura—our darling first child.

So to resurrect the familiar scenic views of our neighborhood, I resorted to GOOGLE, and “he/she/or it” referred me to everything I could recall and more—views of Williams Canyon, The Cave of the Winds, the charming adobe houses and motels along Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City, and of course The Garden of the Gods which we could see from our high-on-a-foothill bathroom window in Manitou Springs.

I printed out a stack of the online photos for my file, and added a string of my own sketches, rough watercolor and colored pencil renderings, plus word impressions—samples of which are pictured above.

The above drawing of a building is noteworthy—not my crude sketch but the history of the Colorado Springs area landmark, a mini castle called Glen Eyrie.  Glen Eyrie was built in 1871 by General William Jackson Palmer—the founder of Colorado Springs.  “The Glen”, as the castle is frequently called, is set on 750 acres.  There are 97 rooms of scenic Old World ambience, now tastefully refurbished with every modern convenience.

I recall this building to be dark and mysterious in 1956, and I always wondered about it when we drove by.  Whether or not refurbishing by new owners as of 1953 had begun when we lived in the neighborhood of The Glen, I cannot recall.

But if you GOOGLE “Glen Eyrie” as it is today, as well as it was before remodeling, you will see an amazing transformation in keeping with the castle’s Old World charm.  The “new owners of 1953” were and still are a Christian Campus and Community Ministry, THE NAVIGATORS* with a combined emphasis on evangelism and Biblical discipleship.

Glen Eyrie serves as a year-round NAVIGATORS’ conference center, especially meaningful to me as two of our six children were successfully “navigated” through the University of Wisconsin system via the NAVIGATORS.  Both our son, Karl, and daughter, Martina, have spent fruitful times at Glen Eyrie.

Thus my art file is building.  I am still waiting for some fantastic art to emerge, but oh what fun anyway!  Thank you, Ann Blockley.

Meanwhile, since all of Colorado and New Mexico are special to me, I do have a backlog of paintings inspired by vacations in those states.  Come along and see for yourself.

 

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And more!

Margaret L. Been — November 14th, 2018

*THE NAVIGATORS MINISTRY was founded by an evangelist, Dawson Trotman (1906-1956).  Trotman died while rescuing a young girl from drowning in a water-skiing accident, in New York State.  Since then, the ministry which Dawson Trotman began has resonated world-wide.  The Navigators Ministry has been used by God to save countless individuals from spiritual drowning. 

A beautiful picture of the truth of Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

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Two Rivers Paperr 1

. . . the art must go on.

I am currently a one legged wonder, due to surgery upon surgery.  In 3 plus weeks I hope to be able to stand and paint but at the moment art has become a sit down affair.

Very fortunately this hiatus has included something wonderful:  handmade papers from a company called Two Rivers, deep in the British countryside.  This amazingly textured paper is produced in the centuries old pre-industrial revolution method of paper making, and it is beautiful beyond description.

I have a sketchbook of heavy watercolor sheets, and have indulgently ordered two more books.  The Two Rivers Paper is making convalescence a joy.  I feel my art does not warrant the quality and expense of the paper, but hey.  If I could, I might consider traveling to Britain to see the locale of such a delight as this handmade paper.  Since personal travel is out, I am letting the paper travel to me.

The textured paper goes well with my assortment of mixed media materials–in the above sample:  Van Gogh Oil Pastels, Elegant Writer Pens, Derwent Inktense Sticks, Derwent Watersoluble Ink Pencils, Sharpies Ultrafine Markers, and a few dashes of Da Vinci Professional Grade Watercolors.

Each evening I render an addition to my sketchbook.  While I am looking forward to standing again and working on the full sheets of paper, also from Two Rivers, the present is GOOD–making art Wherever, However.

Margaret L. Been — 11/09/18

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