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Archive for the ‘Winter Survival’ Category

winter-sunrise-4-1

Like many Wisconsin children in the 1930s and 40s, I loved winter.  We would race home from school, scarf down some hot cocoa and cookies, put on a few extra layers, and go outside to build snow forts or bombard each other with snowballs.  In the depths of winter, it would be almost dark by the time we quit and went inside to hang our wet wool snowsuits on a steam radiator to dry.  (Oh, the aroma of wet wool heating up!)

I recall several occasions where I realized I was getting sick and could feel a fever rising in my body.  Thinking the outdoor cold would squelch the flu bug (or whatever),  I’d avoid mentioning how I felt to my very solicitous mother, and stay outside as long as I could stand my hot cheeks and shivering self before going indoors and allowing myself to be put to bed with hot lemonade and honey.

(“Sick” was no joke in pre-penicillin days when front doors of homes frequently sprouted warning signs such as:  Scarlet Fever, Diptheria, Measles, etc.  Children were put to bed when they had a fever, no matter what!)

What in the world does all this nostalgia have to do with THE MESSY PALETTE?  Simply this:  Now I am 83 years old and I no longer LOVE winter!  I have become a WUSS!  Granted, snow is beautiful.  In fact, I actually go out and tramp around in the first couple of snowfalls.  But in recent years winter has gotten old very fast.  By March, when I’ve wanted to peel off layers of clothing and renew my store of solar energy, I have found the snowy cold weather to be absolutely annoying.

Now, suddenly, I am tired of being such a WUSS!  I have some really fun and funky leggings and tights, and a drawer full of lovely, colorful sweaters.  I can dress like a clown.  And I’m psyching myself up for winter with my paints.  Case in point is the above sample titled “Winter Sunrise.” 

Determined to put a positive spin on the days ahead, I have created a Three Pronged Plan:  1) putting on another sweater when the indoor temperature drops to 70 or 68 degrees, rather than bumping the thermostat to 75;  2) staying outdoors longer each time I need to take my beloved corgi out to do his jobs; and 3) the aforementioned—celebrating winter with my paints.

Sometimes old geezers* go into a second childhood mode.  Since our corgi Dylan LOVES to roll in the snow, maybe I’ll start rolling with him.  🙂

Margaret L. Been – 10/1/16 

*Yes, I know.  The expression “old geezers” is certainly not politically correct.  Yikes!  Who cares?  Anyway, I can use the label because I am one!  And proud of it!

art-statement-photo

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Eternally Snowing--Winter 2014--2

The salt trick is too much fun!  ↑ Here is “Eternally Snowing — Winter, 2014”, sprinkled with very coarse salt.  Our Wisconsin world!

But every year about now I begin dreaming, and my dreams morph into paintings.  Voilà “Windy Summer Day” ↓ .  This one was embellished with Kosher salt.

Windy Summer Day

After the painting dries the salt is scraped off, leaving textural marks plus a bit of “shine”.  The coarser the salt, the more of a job it is to remove.  A credit card works well for scraping, but hopefully not the card which is currently being used.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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For the last two decades, Joe and I have made a pilgrimage West at least once a year—frequently in the Winter or early Spring.  Our destinations were Colorado and New Mexico, and we combined our love for the West with a visit to loved ones who live near Denver.

This year, the trip is not happening—but never mind.  My paintbrush travels to the High Rockies of Colorado, to the adobe houses of Taos and Santa Fe, NM, and to those fascinating Cliff Dwellings on the Four Corners.  Just as I never tired of traveling West, I will always love reading about the West via documentaries, histories, and Louis L’Amour novels.  And likewise, I probably will never tire of painting the West.

My favorites of L’Amour’s novels are those mysterious tales of lost canyons, valleys, and ancient cities in the regions surrounding the Cliff Dwellings.  My mind paints as I read, and eventually the paint materializes on paper.  Hence the above pair—Lost Valley of the Ancients I & II.

The paintings are propped on another passion of mine—my piano.  A collection of Scott Joplin rags peeks over the painting on your right as you view the photo.  Playing a Joplin rag never fails to make me smile!  Such mellow music, with soul! 

To the left of Scott Joplin, sits my venerable book of classics by Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, etc., which are infinitely satisfying to play.  (That’s why they are classics!)  The book was my mother’s, and it dates to the late 1920s or early 30s.  Not only did she gift me with her love for music, and of course the music lessons, but she left me the actual music books to enjoy.  My fingers don’t flow as effortlessly across the keys as hers did, but with practise I can play.  Mom would be pleased! 

Meanwhile, with books, paints, and a piano I really don’t need a “vacation”!  It’s all here, at home!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Winter has finally arrived in Wisconsin.  The Northern counties were buried in snow a few days ago, and now we “Southerners” (just north of the Illinois border) are suddenly remembering what winter is all about.  Beautiful!  Pristine!  Cold!

The wind travels and moans through our lane, which is actually a wind tunnel between condo buildings.  I love the wind, so universal and all encompassing.  I could be on the Yorkshire Moors or Scottish Highlands, or at our home in Northern Wisconsin where the furies of winter rampage, and the wind would sound exactly the same.  For me, the music of wind is a lullaby at night and an invigorating motivator in the daytime.  

Winter wind means business.  It’s cold, brutal, unfeeling, and unforgiving.  Yet as I hunker down and enjoy the peace and respite of winter weeks indoors, I can dream of those winds to come—always howling through our wind tunnel, always sounding like wind, but heralding new seasons:  the March wind—boisterous, vandalizing, arrogant, and presumptuous; the April wind—capricious as an April Fool’s joke, yet whispering change; and the winds of May—melodious, enticing, redolant with lilacs.

Lilacs!  Yes, I can dream!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Winter is beautiful, at least in Wisconsin.  Winter is a wonderful time for hunkering down and losing track of time while immersed in creative activites.  A winter walk can be enjoyable, when we are buffered in layers against the elements.  And the cup of tea or cocoa upon returning home is reason for euphoria.

I love to paint the seasons.  Above, you will see my rendering “Deep Powder” in watercolor on YUPO® paper.  Below you’ll find the same painting, scanned and digitally altered.  Maybe that one should be called “Deep Powder at Evening”.

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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We have huge mountains of snow piled all around our building, created by the ever faithful plowers and their machinery.  The gentle hill leading to the park outside our front door is heaped high, and it looms like a wall of white in our patio door view.  Joe calls the hill “The Matterhorn”.  Dylan loves to run up The Matterhorn on his long retractable leash.  Then he lies down and rolls his cylindrical little body back down.  He does this several times each day, with a look of sheer euphoria on his face.

Dylan’s currently favorite pastime notwithstanding, I am thinking “enough’s enough”!  I’m ready to move on to the next items on the agenda–thawing winds and mucky March, eventually leading to warm breezes and vistas of GREEN!

Except for the pretty Valentines I received, all decorative vestiges of winter have been packed away.  Most of my red glassware has been stowed in a china cabinet–having been supplanted on tables and open shelves by Vasoline glass, clear crystal, pressed glass, and Depression era glassware in delicate shades of aqua, lemon yellow, and pink. 

I’m buying a live house plant every time we shop.  Even WALMART (called “WALLY WORLD” by our son, Eric) has live house plants.  Joe thinks we don’t have room for more plants, but I keep finding extra space by stacking the pots on footstools and extra tables in our windows, and hanging them from cute little wrought iron hangers–courtesy of HOME DEPOT. 

Then there are fake flowers–actually quite lovely.  Yellow “tulips” grace a wall planter fashioned by a friend who is a potter.  The phony posies have even made it outdoors to our garden.  A farmer’s antique milk can filled with pink “roses” hangs on a trellis, along with a garland of “forsythia”.  The riot of pink and yellow warms our view, otherwise dominated by the snowy Matterhorn!

My choice of apparel goes into a state of denial this time each year.  When I was little (a few centuries ago) I tried to quit wearing long cotton stockings in February–while begging my mother to let me wear knee socks or ankle socks instead.  I can recall Mother folding her arms and staunchly refusing my requests.  She always said, “You are rushing the season“!

Now I can wear whatever I want, and I’m still rushing the season–albeit with caution.  I refuse to wear brown, grey, or black skirts again until next fall.  But it’s easy to pull a poufy, flamboyant gypsy skirt over my WINTER SILK long johns.  Sheer, romantic style blouses can be draped over a cashmere sweater in a springy hue.  Strands of colored beads never fail to complete the picture of a funky woman who refuses to brook any more winter in her life–at least for a few months!

Meanwhile, I keep checking online for our zip code’s 10 day forecast.  It’s WINTER TIMES 10!  Oh well, I’m having a lot of fun–in my deluded state of DENIAL!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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The days are stretching out at both ends.  Every year about now, I go into a state of abject euphoria over the growing daylight and anticipation of our wet and wonderful, cold, fragrant Wisconsin spring.  Here in Southern Wisconsin, one can get euphoric by mid-February, as the redwing blackbirds will probably be back by early March.  In the past we’ve seen and heard them about 40 miles southeast, in the town of Whitewater, by the last week of February.  If we get any sort of a thaw in the next couple weeks, we’ll be Whitewater-bound for dinner at a favorite steak house there–and our first “hello” to the returning redwings.

Each year about now I get a power surge to change things around in our home, especially in my writing and painting studio which–since we moved “south”–is located at one end of our sunny bedroom.  Yesterday I accomplished a great re-do of the studio, so everything is lovelier now and more convenient.

The butt-ugly laptop, scanner and printer are tucked into an obscure corner and covered by gorgeous handwoven runners, when not in use.  Most prominent now are my easel, brushes, and paintings in process.  The accoutrements of art are beautiful, while writing  paraphernalia tends to be an eyesore in this age of technology.  Quill pens, inkwells, and parchment were indeed beautiful to behold–but not so efficient as my butt-ugly computer and attachments.  Hence the disguise, in woven works of art.

The above desk is one of two in my studio, along with two work tables.  A small TV hunkers under another woven runner.  The TV is not hooked up for reception, Heaven forbid!  It’s simply here for viewing my art tutorial DVDs, JEEVES AND WOOSTER, and other beloved British productions.

A power surge!  In a few weeks, that great silent power will surge underfoot, and we’ll have a revolution of GREEN!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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