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Archive for the ‘Watercolors and Gouache’ Category

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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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Growing more and more enamored with abstraction, especially that which is soft-edged, flowing, and organic as opposed to geometric, hard-edged, and harsh, I was tremendously pleased with the above 24″ x 20″ rendering—so pleased that I framed it and the mysterious painting is hanging high in our living room, brightening up the entire wall.

When I study the painting, I imagine different scenarios:  a moonlit swamp; a campfire; the triumph of light over darkness and joy over sorrow; the vicissitudes of a long life on earth.  The print which you see does not do justice to the colors therein; they vibrate and rock.  Recently, the “vibrate and rock” appealed to a seven year old great-grandson/friend who came for a visit and art making.

“I want to do one like that,” Deacon decided after studying my various paintings on our walls.  Then he excited me up to my earlobes by saying, “I like the way the colors run together.”  Do I have a kindred soul here, or what?

Deacon proceeded to create his own mystery painting.  He learned that simply painting color over color with a loaded brush creates blackish-brownish mud, which I praised and applauded because children’s art is ALWAYS wonderful.  Then I showed him how gently introducing colors to different areas of wet paper, while jiggling the paper to let the wet colors mingle, causes mysterious marks never to be reproduced in the exact same way.

There wasn’t time to introduce salt and plastic wrap which add texture to a painting, but hey—we quit art making in order to fly kites with Deacon’s great-grandfather (my Joe) in the park outside our front door.  Kites are important, and highly symbolic of our free and funky Boho lifestyle.

My, aren’t we full of metaphors and similes today!?!  Having written poetry most of my life (since I could first wield a pencil or pen), I tend to think in metaphors and similes.  They are everywhere and—like paintings and kites—the colorful ones are the most fun! 🙂

Margaret L. Been  —  May 2nd, 2018

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When I began art making in in 2006, I entertained a short period of thinking each rendering had to be of a different subject.  But I quickly realized how silly that was, having had some exposure to art history in college.  Didn’t Monet do a lot of haystacks?  And lilies?

And how about Degas with his ballerinas?  Winslow Homer at sea?  Not to mention (but I will) Georgia O’Keeffe with her massive flowers and striking New Mexico scenes.  Not that I am placing myself on a level with the above, but rather to simply say it is good to paint favorite subjects again and again.  Each work will differ from its predecessor, and there is infinite variety possible via palette, season, details, mood, and the list goes on.  Again and again.

I like to do waterfalls, ships in peril (I don’t want to BE on one, just to paint it), trees waving in the wind, adobe structures, gardens, bowls of fruit—and pots, pitchers, bottles, and jars often in the setting of a windowsill.  There is something about the bones of structure, even in the evanescent ideas I like to present.

At the top of the page you see what is one of my very first attempts at watercolor.  In a book, I’d found a repro of a painting by Fine Artist Jeanne Dobie, where she portrayed bottles in a window not by painting the bottles themselves but rather through showing the liquid color contents of the bottles surrounded by white paper representing light.  Pretty leaky bottles (mine—Jeanne’s were stunning).  But that was 2006 and it was what it was.

The next one down is a quick colored pencil sketch through the window of a rented condo in Santa Fe NM, where we spent a wonderful Easter week with our son, Karl, and his family in 2008.  The NM scene is followed by three more window bits with stuff in the windows, then followed by an albeit primitive and super child-like rendering of Milwaukee’s South Side as viewed through a lobby window at St Luke’s Hospital where my husband was undergoing cardiac care.  That painting, as odd as it is, is close to my heart because of the stressful time it represents in our family.  Painting IS therapeutic!

The domes of Milwaukee’s South Side, historically Polish and Serbian, are followed by a 2013 window scene—getting just a little bit more presentable.  Then comes a 2016 scene which I like a lot.  The print doesn’t do the painting justice, as in real life the colors and shine are noteworthy—and so is the real life size, which is 20″ x 24″.  I like wet, blurry effect, which was achieved with Gum Arabic.  (I tend to get that name mixed up with what I put in my gluten-free baking:  Xanthum Gum.  I hope I don’t get the gums mixed up in the cookies!))

One more of blurry bottles.  I like the frayed and fringy effect in the yellow/purple on the right side—produced by wet color introduced alongside another, slightly drying paint.  This works best on wet paper, and I love it even though it drives some watercolorists crazy.

And finally, the 12″ x 16″ pictured below is my very latest studio creation.  The wood on the window was textured by dropping Winsor & Newton Texture Medium onto the wet paint with a pipette or medicine dropper—one more tool of the trade available with acrylic ink bottles, or from your local pharmacist.

Since I will probably go on doing window scenes, along with Peril at Sea, etc., I am covering the latest in this series with one name, “Dans la Fenêtre”—because I am besotted with the FRENCH LANGUAGE (in which my proficiency is nearly zero on a scale from one to ten.  🙂

Margaret L. Been — March 18, 2018

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I often giggle when I think of what comes out of my studio in contrast to the work of gifted, well-schooled artists!  Highly skilled artists may be among the most generously-encouraging-to-beginners group of professionals on earth.  We all are included in a vastly diverse culture where there is a place for most anyone at any level and inclination.

But I have a library of art books—both “how to” tutorials by well-known artists, and tomes of art history and criticism.  I love to study these books, and I do know the difference between classic art and smoke and mirrors—my off-the-cuff “hashtag” for a bag of tricks which I am delighted to share with any beginner who is eager to paint and willing to spend hours each week, building an inventory of paintings in his or her studio.

My 12″ x 16″ rendering below is titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, and it is composed of tricks that my seven-year-old great-grandsons could perform if they decided to sit or stand still long enough,  I began by slathering gesso on the 140# cold press paper to create rocky slopes.  After the gesso dried, I sprayed the surface with water and applied different watercolors—jiggling the paper so the paints could blend and do their own thing,  When those paints dried, I streaked a thinned application of white gouache here and there to add mystery and a sense of age to the rocks.  Voilà.  Smoke and mirrors.

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The next example displays a couple of favorite tricks:  plastic wrap and salt.  (I use Kosher salt, but any will do—creating slightly varying effects).  The paper used here is Yupo, that glass-like surface which is not really paper, but rather an amalgamation of chemicals.  (There is no middle ground with Yupo.  Artists either love it or hate it.  The lovers are the “let it all hang out” group of which I am one, and the haters are the perfectionists who do well with lots of control.)

Where you see crinkles and wrinkles, that is where the plastic wrap was applied.  It takes a long time for the paint to dry under plastic wrap on Yupo, and less time on a rag surface which is absorbent.  The spots and phased-out parts were done with salt.  The salt technique is far more spectacular on rag paper than on Yupo.  The painting at the top of this page shows the result of salting the wet paint on rag paper.  Salt can make snowflakes, clouds, stars, dandelion fluff, and many additional effects,

Thus you can see that whenever art making is a person’s dream, it can be done.  And every dream will materialize differently—as each of us is unique.  What fun we can have, sharing our ways to implement the smoke and mirrors!  🙂

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I came up with another excuse for putting off blogging:  my mouse died.  After countless years with my pet mouse, he (it) bit the dust.  I simply cannot get the hang of keyboarding with my pinkie.  But now I have a brand new purple mouse from Office Max, and I’m eager to blog.  I LOVE the color purple!

Obviously, the long skinny panel above wouldn’t fit into my phone camera without showing the surround of our front door and a rug.  But you get the idea that by February in Wisconsin those of us who do not care to ski, skate, or roll in snow are dreaming—even pining—for spring.  Nowhere does this longing express itself more blatantly than in our home.  Flowers are blooming all over the place!

This gallery wrap canvas experienced many mutations.  The pink at the top began as foxgloves, those deadly but lovely bell-shaped flowers that always remind me of Beatrix Potter’s foolish duck who laid her eggs under the “protection” of the Foxy Gentleman who lounged among the foxgloves.

My foxgloves were rather ugly, so I tried to morph them into tulips.  The tulips were equally unpleasant, so I dabbed away—adding gouache—until the tulips became those fragrant blossoms that most anyone can render convincingly:  lilacs.

Yes, May!!!  Next down the line were purple irides (otherwise known as irises), something I can normally manage to paint because of their ruffles.  Then more lilacs or maybe pink irides, and finally my beloved mertensia—Virginia bluebells.

A lot of gouache was layered onto this watercolor flower arrangement, giving the panel a nice textured effect.  I painted the sides with acrylic, because when I spray the finished panel with an acrylic fixative for preservation it is easy to cover the flat surface—but the sides are harder to spray.  I want to make sure my gallery wrap panels will last, at least for a few decades and perhaps longer.

In a little over two weeks, daylight saving begins.  Hurray!  And it’s already spring within the walls of our home!  🙂

Margaret L. Been — 2/23/18

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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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