Archive for the ‘Winter Survival’ Category

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! ūüôā

Margaret L. Been — March 2nd, 2019

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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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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.¬† ūüôā

Margaret L. Been Р10/1/16 

*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!


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Eternally Snowing--Winter 2014--2

The salt trick is too much fun!¬† ‚ÜĎ 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.¬† Voil√† “Windy Summer Day” ‚Üď .¬† 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.¬† ūüôā

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!¬† ūüôā

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!¬† ūüôā

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¬ģ 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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Yesterday my true love, Joe,¬†and I had a “normal day”–if any day can ever be called that.¬† Our daughter is healing amazingly well from cardiac arrest, with her faculties intact.¬† She is scheduled to go home on Thursday, just 2 weeks after the crisis.

Joe and I celebrated by taking time out just for fun.  We ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant, enjoying the colorful decor and friendly service in the place along with our meaty/cheesy enchiladas. 

Then we proceded to an activity which delights both of us in different ways–a trip to an antique mall.¬†¬†Joe and¬†Baby Dylan¬† (our corgi) relaxed in the¬†warm van, dozing and listening to Wisconsin Public Radio while I spent a portion of infinity browsing in the store.¬† Since WPR sets my teeth on edge and Joe gets weary in antique stores, this arrangement suits us both.

I find it tremendously theraputic, to wander amongst old things:¬† vintage clothing, 40s kitchen kitsch, Victorian glassware and china, primitive pots and enamelled kettles, ornate¬†sterling silver and silverplate,¬†faded pictures and tattered books, and old furniture–either aged and polished to perfection, or¬†scarred and chipped.¬† (I like “scarred and chipped” most of all!)

The antique mall yielded 2 treasures:  a vintage sheep picture in a gorgeous old shabby chic frame, and a Royal Albert cup and saucer decorated with blossoms and REDWING BLACKBIRDS! 

Although I love English tea pots, cups, and saucers, I have a strange confession to make.  I am not inordinately fond of hot tea!  (Iced tea, whoopee and hooray!)  I collect a plethora of tea paraphernalia just for the aesthetics, while consuming huge quantities of full strength, leaded COFFEE every day.  

This morning I’m sipping rather than chug-a-lugging my coffee, from the Prince Albert redwing cup placed on its dainty saucer.¬† With redwing blackbirds¬†at hand, can spring be far behind?

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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