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Archive for the ‘watercolor crayons’ Category

Here is another British watercolorist who inspires me again and again through her books and DVDs.  Ann Blockley creates unforgettable, unique scenes which are, in her words unlike the “candy box scenes” we are accustomed to seeing.  Rather they are imaginative, and deeply personal—inspired by sights, sounds, and fragrances of familiar places around Ann’s home in the Cotswolds.

While demonstrating techniques for using watercolor in tandem with India ink, water soluble crayons and ink sticks, salt, plastic wrap, texture and granulating mediums (employed with a relaxed realization that the tools and techniques may decide their own path on paper, different from that which the artist has foreseen) Ann has challenged me not only to experience nature with all my senses, but also to take a deeper look at my photo books and computer files of favorite places I have lived:  to let the essence of these scenes penetrate my mind and heart, with the goal of more effectively expressing beloved places in my art.

The photos recall a lifetime of favorite places including:  my small-town Wisconsin  childhood home with a quiet stream at the base of our apple orchard; the Wisconsin Northwoods and waters where we vacationed when our children were young and where Joe and I lived full time for eight years beginning in 2001; my “home away from home”, Colorado where I spent a year at school, where Joe and I lived during his stint at Ft. Carson, and where we have visited many times since; more western vacation areas—Northern New Mexico and the farthest NW corner of Washington State; and our present home in Wisconsin’s Southeastern  Lake District:  a pleasant blend of small communities northwest of Milwaukee with lakes, rivers, woods, and a few remaining farms.

I will never live long enough to even begin capturing on paper the abundance of beauty which has underscored and punctuated my 83 years.  But I’m making a start, greatly motivated by the work and encouragement of UK artist Ann Blockley.  Here are a few of many scenes which I’m studying with a mind to painting—not with photographic accuracy but rather in response to their essence, in the coming year:

my-childhood-river

my-prairie

goldenrod

autumn-bog

DIGITAL CAMERA

under-our-windows

river-bank

gorgeous-clouds

Margaret L. Been — 1/22/17

NOTE:  If you GOOGLE Ann Blockley’s website, you are in for a TREAT!  MLB

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Textured Scenery

Watercolor painting has undergone a revolution in recent decades.  Once the stuff of faint, delicate washes and flat photographic detail, watercolor has become a medium of vibrant shades and palpable textures.  This is somewhat due to a plethora of new paint colors by many manufacturers plus products which add granulation, impasto, and crackles to the paints—and the liberating relaxation of what is acceptable:  including the use of salt, cling film, and tools for scraping.  (The most commonly used scraping tool seems to be a defunct credit card.)

I am grateful for the revolution.  As exquisite as they may be in the hands of a pro, those faint and delicate washes with photographic detail have never appealed to this amateur.  Much as I respect the age-old skill of the traditional watercolorist, I do not want “faint and delicate” on the walls of my home!  And I would not be true to myself if faint and delicate were my only options to paint.

Along with the watercolor revolution has come a fondness for the diffusion which occurs when wet paint is applied alongside semi-wet:  those beautiful “cauliflowers” and “blooms” such as you see in the upper right corner of the above rendering.  Once considered to be terrible, these blooms are now cherished by many artists.  Sometimes the blooms occur accidentally, but often they are intentional.  They can also be achieved by spraying water on semi-wet paint.  Actually I think that’s how I got the one pictured above.

I am going batty over texture.  The ethereal white streaks just left of center were made by wisping a layer of white gouache over paint which was dried under cling film.  The weird trees or whatever along the background were salted.  Table salt is okay, but since I love most everything Jewish I prefer Kosher salt.  The wildish plantings springing up on the right were done with a new kid on my art block—Indian ink.  And of course the green area was cling filmed while drying.  Not featured in this example are watercolor crayons and water soluble ink pencils which I frequently apply for texture.  And a great way to create speckles is to sprinkle sand-papered shavings from the end of a water soluble colored pencil, into wet paint.  Too much fun!

Up until now, all of my paintings have been done on either Arches 140# cold press (as above) or slippery YUPO paper.  I have held off ordering rough textured paper due to the accelerated price thereof—feeling that I should wait until I have a reasonable idea of what I am doing with my paints.

Well, I’ve been sloshing around in the colors for eight years now and recently I decided it was time to move on.  I ordered one sheet of Arches 140# rough surface, to see if I would like it.  Today I began to work on that first sheet.  Ha!  It was love at first brush stroke.  The rough texture causes far more irregularities with its crevasses and gullies, than one can possibly achieve on other papers.  So I just ordered three more sheets.  The sheets are 22″ x 30″.  I get a lot of paintings out of the big sheets, and these will go along way toward making our Wisconsin winter more pleasant.

Also, I really took a plunge, and ordered one sheet of 300# cold press.  Again, a price leap.  A sheet of 300# rough texture paper would have been even more pricey.  One step at a time.  The 300# papers do not buckle, no matter how wet they are.  So there is no need to dampen the back of a 300# painting and weight it down between paper towels and plastic mats laden with my huge atlas.

Little by little I am getting spoiled.  But I’m into painting for the long haul.  As long as the Lord keeps me on earth I hope to dink around with my brushes and explosions of color and texture!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, December 2014

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Winged Life 1

“It is well to have some water in your neighborhood, to give buoyancy and to float the earth.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

We Wisconsin natives are akin to water.  Forming a border on three sides of our state (Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and “Old Man River”—the Mississippi) water defines whom we are, to a great degree.  I grew up with water—a friendly creek at the base of my family’s property, a summer lake home, the gorgeous Black River bluffs outside my grandparents’ door, water/water/water.

For eight years Joe and I lived full time on a quiet flowage with the Big Elk River just around the corner from our bay.  A favorite summer pastime of mine was to take my paddle boat, a book, suntan lotion and plenty of iced tea plus peanut butter and jelly sandwiches up the river where I dozed, read, swam, and ate my lunch.  The latter was a bit foolish, due to a plethora of black bears nearly as abundant as water in the vicinity.  As the years passed, we got more savvy about bears and Joe put a stop to my solitary picnics—but I could still paddle upstream, read, doze, and swim.

Now we live not on water, but surrounded by lakes and rivers in the unique Lake Country of Southern Wisconsin.  A considerable benefit of water proximity is the abundance of winged water life:  an abundance we enjoy every single day from March through mid-November.  Great blue heron, sandhill cranes, Canada geese. and many kinds of ducks fly over constantly, along with additional shorebirds such as sandpipers and egrets.

Along with these seasonal neighbors, our little garden and patio area host year round friends—cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, etc., and summer residents:  Baltimore orioles, mourning doves, robins, and those occasional warblers which stop enroute to northern nesting sites.  And throughout the year, we watch nature’s undertakers—the turkey vultures soaring with their frayed wings over the woods beyond the park, while scouting for a decaying meal.

Winged life is as much of whom we are as the water which surrounds us.  Thus it follows that birds appear in my art, along with water and wild woods.  Also, frequently present are something we do not have in Wisconsin but rather are native to my “home away from home” state—Colorado.  Obviously, that “something” would be mountains.  We paint what we love!  For me that also includes clouds and mist hanging over the water, woods, mountains, or whatever.

Just as we writers have a voice, ever developing as we live and grow, artists also speak through their work. I began in 2006—trying to paint realistic scenes which were at best colorful, but at worst totally humdrum and thoroughly uninspired.  I’ve saved many of the early renderings, and I can’t get over how unoriginal they are.

Not skillful enough to produce a beautiful photo-realistic scene (which I greatly admire from fine artists!) it was only when I cut the fetters that had bound me to standard, realistic shapes and colors that I realized I actually do have an artist’s voice.  Through books and DVDs, fine artists Barbara Nechis and (Wisconsin’s own) Karlyn Holman encouraged me to cut loose and sing!  With my one and only true “strength” which is color, this was (and is!) possible.

When I paint what I love, invariably someone else will love it as well.*  Time and again, I’ve offered a family member to choose from a group of paintings and he or she will pick what I like best.  For 2 summers now, I’ve presented to a jury—to select paintings for inclusion in a summer exhibit at our local arts center; and each time the jury has chosen the paintings I prefer.  I would never paint primarily to please others, but it seems a given that when we please ourselves others are pleased as well!

So curvilinear shapes of birds, trees, mountains, and flowers are continually surfacing—those things I love best.  Having been translated from years of living in a semi-wild environment to a suburban locale, occasional abstractions of buildings and bridges will appear.  But nearly always, these traces of man’s ingenuity float among masses of curvilinear shapes—often the shapes of winged life!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

*Note:  often when painting what I love, I think of a late fine artist in oils who painted what he loved—while amassing a fortune because so many others (including the Walt Disney Company) loved his work.  Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” came to a tragic end.  Yet his art tells me that despite his very human failings, he had a beautiful soul!

From blog browsing I’ve discovered that Kinkade’s paintings are controversial.  Many object because they are either:  1) too realistic; 2) not realistic enough; 3) too idealistic; 4) not credible because one cannot tell where the light is coming from; 5) too commercialized; 6) ugly because they are popular; 7) not ugly enough (this critic believes that “real” art should be ugly because he believes that life itself is ugly); and 8) on and on ad nauseum.

I’m working hard on trying not to get unnecessarily angry,  but these comments have taxed my resolve to the max.  Although Kinkade’s art is not what I would choose to adorn my home, I believe that a valid function of the fine arts is to rise above the mundane while attempting to express a beauty intended for man before he (or she!) bit into that apple.  My belief stands unaltered by the stupid criticisms listed above.  Each artist has his or her personal concept of beauty, but striving for beauty is certainly a worthy raison d’être!

I question whether or not those critiquing Kinkade’s work are actually artists.  My exposure to the art world has revealed to me a tremendous spirit of love and acceptance among those involved because:  1) making art is never easy, although it may look easy to the uninitiated viewer; and 2) every artist should be considered free to make art as they see life. 

This spirit of love and acceptance has also caused me to realize that a penchant for beauty need not be the driving force behind all who make art.  Showing life as it really is in this fallen world is also valid, along with showing even the ugliness of some people’s “reality”—whether or not I like that kind of art.

Some critics maintain that Kinkade was not a “real artist” because he was intensely popular during his career.  He has been called a “hack”—a term normally applied to writers who produce for profit.

Hello, critics.  Have you ever heard of William Shakespeare?  I rest my case, although I might add, perhaps you “. . . doth protest too much, methinks.”  Shakespeare’s HAMLET, Act III, scene II.

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Happiness 1

It may be assumed that every craftsman (or woman) who loves the craft also loves his (or her) tools.  The carpenter loves his hammer and saw, the chef loves his knives, the plumber loves his wrenches, the photographer loves his camera, and perhaps the dentist even loves his drill—although that does sound a bit weird.

But this craftsman (actually, woman) loves HER brushes, paints, papers, and all those miscellaneous accoutrements known to the watercolorist.  There are many fine brands of supplies available.  Like most people who love a craft I do have my favorites.

My “Messy Palette” is a JOHN PIKE.  There are many palettes out there, and most of them look fantastic.  My favorite brushes are Daniel Smith’s aquarelles—flat and round in several sizes, Jack Richeson’s small flats, and Robert Simmons’ 2″ SkyFlow wash brush. 

The paints on my palette are mostly AMERICAN JOURNEY—wonderfully vibrant buttery-quality paints in more colors than I ever dreamed of.  I tend to buy mainly the transparents and skip most of the earth tones, as they can be created by combining two primaries and adding a complement.  Sometimes, if I want an opaque touch, I use a bit of gouache—any brand.  There are a few WINSOR & NEWTON colors that I keep handy: New Gamboge, Olive Green, Brown Madder (really a chestnut red/brown), and the Winsor Blues—green shade and red shade.  The Winsors are drop-dead gorgeous, and they bleed/diffuse/blossom/fray into whatever colors are next to them creating amazing art with no effort on the part of the artist.  (Some individuals do not like the blossoms and diffusions, but I love them.)

My papers are Arches 140 lb. cold press and YUPO (pictured above).  I consistently alternate between these two supports, as I like them equally.  They are totally different—Arches being the traditional rag paper great for transparent laying, and YUPO being a glasslike surface which is non-absorbing and full of funky surprises.

Then there are the miscellaneous items:  a candle for creating a wax resist; scraping tools such as a credit card (an obsolete one) and a small paring knife; a pan scrubber to scrunch across wet paper for blurry effects; old knitting needles for painting scratchy lines; rubbing alcohol for spattering and making snowy blurbs or ocean waves; Q tips for dabbing; a toothbrush (not the one I use on my teeth) for spattering the alcohol or blotching the paint; salt and my soapmaking cosmetic powders to create texture and interest; plastic wrap and waxed paper for pressing into wet paint to create rocks, etc; a couple of drinking straws to blow paint around on the support; spray bottles containing various liquid paints; a large and small spray bottle for spraying water—one with a large spray and one with a fine mist; dummy matts in various sizes; a deckle edge scissors for cropping when necessary; facial tissues for making clouds and mountains; paper towels for wiping brushes; water containers; water soluble ink pencils and watercolor crayons for drawing on the support (I rarely do this, but when drawing is needed the ink pencils and watercolor crayons are better than graphite pencils because when dampened the ink and crayon marks blend into the paint); sandpaper and nail files for scraping ink pencil into wet paint and making textured color blobs; Winsor & Newton Texture Medium which creates a grainy surface to paint over—great for rocks and trees; and more.

Happiness 2

I have named the above photos “Happiness 1 and 2.  You can imagine why I gave them that name.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©

NOTE:  I order my painting supplies online from Daniel Smith, Jerry’s Artarama, Dick Blick, and Cheap Joe’s.  As far as I know, the wonderful American Journey paints are only available from Cheap Joe’s—and only Daniel Smith carries Daniel Smith’s aquarelle brushes. 

Some supplies may be found in an art supply store.  But the stores normally price the stuff higher than the online suppliers do.  The selection in stores is often sadly limited.  And only online can I find American Journey paints! 

I do recommend professional rather than student quality for all painters and would-be painters—even for children who seriously love to make art.  It’s worthwhile to splurge here, and cut corners elsewhere. 

Inferior quality products simply do not satisfy.  Early encouragement and pleasure in a discipline are terribly important.  We would never want our children to learn music on an off-key, tinny piano—and there is no sense in being penurious with art supplies IF we can somehow manage to buy the best.

Hereby smolders a potential blog topic for http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/  Parents often manage to buy costly athletic equipment, electronic stuff for their kids, name brand clothes, or a new and bigger house.  WHY?  In my world art/music/drama/crafts/books are infinitely more important than any of those “latest things” that many seem driven to purchase! 

I’ve always been contented with frayed furniture and an outdated TV (which I rarely watch).  I love dressing “to the nines” in resale attire and eschewing the “latest fad”.  But I spend BUCKS on music, art, and books!!!

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Quality of life is enhanced by many arts and crafts.  I have long sung the praises of fibers—plus the joy of spinning wool, knitting, and weaving cloth for garments.  Quilting and other forms of needlework are timeless ways to express beauty, fill household needs, and afford satisfaction and fulfillment.

But in recent years I’ve come to realize that there is something special about paint—most any kind of paint—or chalk, if pastels are one’s medium of choice.  I have actually seen people (children and adults alike!) smile with amazement and breathe a new dimension of “soul air” during excursions into the world of paint and brushes which I frequently host at our dining room table.

A child making art is a wondrous sight to behold.  A child’s lack of fear is liberating and joyous.  A very young child probably doesn’t know a lot about the world’s great art; thus he or she is not intimidated by comparison—that insidious “Phantom of the Classroom” which can create paralyzing apprehension in older students. 

The child who has never been scolded for “going outside the lines”, or fed the hideous lie that there’s only one way to make art, is indeed blessed—and may go on to a lifetime of painting.  Adults who have suffered the travesty of having their early work critiqued by clueless, insensitive “teachers” need to throw off the shackles of negativity.  Art is for everyone—for every person on earth who desires to paint!

Each Thursday, I enjoy helping out for a few hours at the Delafield Arts Center—a nonprofit, community outreach to people of all ages.  This (7500+ square feet) facility offers classes in visual art and poetry, musical events, and galleries of exhibits.  We also have a Community Room for shows by local groups—schools, and various art organizations. 

Currently, the Community Room at the DAC is featuring Waukesha, Wisconsin’s DONNA LEXA ART CENTER—an organization “providing an art program for students with disabilities, promoting creative dignity and community integration”. 

Each week I stroll through that exhibit, view the art, and read the artists’ statements and bios.  I always leave that room with tears in my eyes and a smile in my heart.  One cannot view the DONNA LEXA exhibit without realizing the healing and life-enhancing qualities of one of God’s greatest earthly gifts:  ART! 

You can see this for yourself, on www.donnalexa.org/  .  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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“Water Media Art” rather than just “Watercolors” would be a better summary of what I love to do.  The above piece contains 4 different kinds of water media, all working together to produce interesting effects.

The twisted vines were created with Elegant Writer® pens, by SPEEDBALL.  These felt tip pens are incredibly fun.  You write or draw with them, and at this point your work simply looks like lines.  Then you go over the lines with a small damp round brush, and the lines activate into a painterly blur.  I bought the pens at our BEN FRANKLIN store, but any craft store which carries calligraphy materials will probably stock the Elegant Writer®.  I found black, green, blue, red, and brown pens. 

The watery blobs on the branches were formed by dabs of wet watercolor crayons.  I have a tin of 24 LYRA AQUACOLOR® crayons, and there are other brands. 

The dense clusters of magenta flowers (at least I think that’s what they are) were painted with gouache—an age old paint which I’m beginning to enjoy a lot.  Gouache is simply watercolor paint with white paint (which is opaque) added.  One can make gouache by adding white paint to any watercolor, but I purchased tubes from one of my online sources.  Most art paint manufacturers offer gouache.  The opacity of the gouache contrasts beautifully with transparent watercolor paints or crayons.  It can be used as is, or blended into watercolors for variations of tone and hue.  Not clear on this computer scanned version, but noticeable on my original, is the raised quality—rendering the feeling of velvet.  This texture appeared because I layered the gouache over applications of the watercolor crayons.  With gouache, one can build an impasto look, and even to a slight degree simulate oils  (Oils are forbidden fruit for me, due to lung issues.)

One “Buyer Beware” concerning gouache.  Unless you work in acrylics and have brushes set aside for that medium, make sure you do not buy an acrylic base gouache.  There are probably several brands, but the one I have seen is TURNER ACRYL GOUACHE®.  This would ruin your watercolor brushes.  However, any acrylic media can be used in connection with watercolors, watercolor pencils or crayons, and watercolor based gouache so long as you have separate brushes for the acrylics.* 

(I do use acrylics in my collages.  The permanent, stay fast quality of acrylic paint works well where many layers of paint and an assortment of extra materials are applied.  Many layers can be painted on without the danger of smudging.   I do my collage work on gallery wrapped canvas.  Rather than covering with glass, I apply 2 coats of acrylic gloss medium for archival purposes—and the piece will last.  Meanwhile, viewers can run their hands over the collages and appreciate the textures.)

Finally, the background in the above piece was dabbed with water and a few drops of watercolor paint.  Voilà!  Watercolor plus!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Note:  Occasionally I apply acrylic Interference® paints by GOLDEN, to add a pearlescent glow to a watercolor painting.  But I am hyper about keeping the brushes separate, as my watercolor brushes are beloved—and they should last longer than I will!

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