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Posts Tagged ‘Abstract Expressionism’

On the Edge 2.JPG

Glancing back over decades of freelance writing, I don’t recall ever experiencing that dreaded infirmity called “Writer’s Block”.  Perhaps that is because, as I am doing at this moment, I always wrote from real life rather than fiction–although I love to read fiction at well as documentary and other forms of non-fiction.

The term “Writer’s Block” amuses me because my writing has always been a form of talking.  I certainly have never suffered from “Talker’s Block”.

Art is different.  Frequently I have a spell where I think I can never again produce anything “suitable for framing”.  Many artists have similar periods when they struggle with doubts and a dearth of that nebulous thing called “inspiration”.  My antidote for Artist’s Block is simply to plow right through it.  There may be days of frustration over perceived failures, but I find comfort in keeping on and working through the block.

Oxymoronic as it may appear, my dual approach to the block is to:  1) try something totally new either in subject, materials, or methods and 2) try to bang out something that has worked before.  Above is a sample of both options–a sailboat in trouble, an often rendered subject but this time in acrylics, still new and challenging to me.

Our family had many years of pleasant sailing on local inland lakes where falling in the warm water meant a fun swim and turtling the boat made for uproarious storytelling in retrospect.  But one family sail was not so pleasant.  In our cub boat we foolishly set out from a quiet cove which was sheltered from the elements, with the plan to explore one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior–the Great Lake which allegedly “never gives up her dead”. *

And if you know the Great Lake–at least the two that I’ve experienced, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior–you are very familiar with the adjective “COLD”!

Anyway, we left that quiet cove, out into the immense lake (I believe the second largest inland water in the world–the first largest being somewhere in Russia) and horrendous winds bombarded us seemingly from all directions.  There were five of us in the boat–my husband, myself, our two teen-age sons Eric and Karl, and our lab/collie Duffy.

I praise God for my husband Joe’s Viking DNA.  He miraculously sailed us back to land with the help of the boys.  Duffy and I were ballast.  We huddled in the bottom of the boat, praying–at least I was praying.  I hung on to Duffy as hard as I could, and I think he was as terrified as I was.

So why in the world do I love to paint sailboats in trouble?  More than reliving an experience, I think the reasons are motion and water, since both make for interesting visuals.  Motion and water are easy for me to paint.  And due to incorporating acrylic paints which are still stretching me, the above painting titled “On the Edge” (part of a series) proved to be a complete therapy.

Voila.  Once again I’ve immerged from the block.  Three happy starts of paintings were produced in my studio this very evening.  The starts are happy enough that I decided to share my method of working through the block!  🙂

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*I knew the phrase about Lake Superior “never giving up her dead” came from Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot’s classic ballad–“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” which helped to immortalize that historic 1975 tragedy.

Also I wondered if the phrase had actually been a traditional saying, perhaps passed down through Native American cultures in the region.

GOOGLE only reinforced the fact that the saying came from Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, and I can find no extra specific info.  But the following Wikipedia quote indicates that Lake Superior’s reputation is well-founded since Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes:

“The Great Lakes, a collection of five freshwater lakes located in North America, have been sailed upon since at least the 17th century, and thousands of ships have been sunk while traversing them.  Many of these ships were never found, so the exact number of shipwrecks in the Lakes is unknown; the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum approximates 6,000 ships and 30,000 lives lost, while historian and mariner Mark Thompson has estimated that the total number of wrecks is likely more than 25,000. 

“In the period between 1816, when the Invincible was lost, to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, the Whitefish Point area in Lake Superior alone has claimed at least 240 ships.”

Margaret L. Been — October, 2018

 

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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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ink 1

Recently I attended a workshop on the use of alcohol inks.  The class was held in a studio a few lovely country miles from our home, in a neighboring community.  There were 15 of us in the workshop.

Alcohol ink only works its great magic on a non-absorbent surface, so we used my beloved Yupo paper for our introduction to the medium.  For our first of 3 renderings, the instructor talked us through a basic technique which we all followed; we made rings of dots from drops of the ink, in colors of our choice, then blew through a straw to move the ink around.  We added more blobs, blew some more, etc.

The beautiful freckles on the above sample, my 1st, were created by holding the surface of the work up horizontally and spraying horizontally from a bottle filled with Isopropyl Alcohol.  The bottle needs to be significantly up and away from the painting so that the drops will fall gently on the paint, rather than in torrents—which would send the colors flying in additional directions.

From these humble beginnings, each of us created our first alcohol ink art, and every painting was totally unique.  Clone-type workshops are currently in vogue, where a group of people follow a formula and all come up with nearly identical paintings—wine consumption notwithstanding.  I have heard raves about these gatherings, as if they were some kind of a Renaissance Revolution.  But conformity and uniformity in art are unspeakably dull, I think:  as lackluster as painting by number.  An art class such as the one I’m describing, where each participant makes something different and one of a kind, is a GOOD CLASS!

For our second rendering we were encouraged to make a close-up of flowers popping up out of grass.  The instructor had one of her paintings as a sample.  A few in the class mimicked the leader’s choice of colors and format, but most of us simply did our own thing.  Here is my #2:

ink 2

We concluded with one more piece.  My #3 was my very favorite, but alas; the next day, I sprayed all 3 paintings with a fixative, got the spray too close to the surface of #3, and caused the ink to revitalize and run.  So #3 got altered, not to my liking.  Nonetheless, it is pictured below:

(Try to imagine that the magenta blur on the top half of the painting is not really a blur, but rather a hint of foxgloves hanging like bells—as in the lair of the Foxy Gentleman in Beatrix Potter’s TALE OF JEMINA PUDDLEDUCK.)

ink 3

Blurred foxgloves nonetheless, the alcohol ink workshop inspired me.  In July, the same instructor will show us how to apply the medium to glass, metal, and ceramic tiles.  Meanwhile, I’m eager to share this newly-discovered art with my great-grandchildren* who live nearby.  Too much fun!

Margaret L. Been  —  May 29th, 2017

*Divided between Wisconsin, Florida, Minnesota, and California, Joe and I have 18 great-grandchildren.  And #19 is scheduled to appear in South Carolina on Christmas Day, 2017. 

Now wasn’t that a sneaky way to get in a big brag?!!!  🙂

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Here is a bold venture:  a painting which turned out to be too large for the ready-made frames at our local craft stores.  I had grabbed an entire sheet of Yupo® and had a blast, painting and thinking I would crop the finished work to fit a 24″ x 20″ frame which I had on hand.  But I was pleased with the entire piece, and couldn’t figure out where, if any, I wanted to sacrifice part of it.

A brainy idea:  custom framing.  This is pricey indeed, and I will not do it very often.  But the result is satisfying.  Below you can see The Big One on a living room wall:

Wall 2

AW.JPG

Many layers of gouache were piled onto this painting, over washes of watercolor.  Actually called “Waterfall”, this rendering evokes memories of a real waterfall we had on our 14 plus acres up north, where we lived full time for eight years.

Our land bordered on two roads, one up and one down a hill.  Our home was on the downhill road, next to a lake.  In the spring, snow and ice melted from the above road and roared downhill to our back yard, over boulders and brush.  The sound was stirring, and so loud that it resonated through closed windows.  In the summer, the waterfall morphed into a trickling downhill creek—always refreshing to sit beside on one of the big boulders.

How beautiful to have mellow memories, and then to paint them (and have them framed)!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

NOTE:  Obviously I couldn’t scan this painting on my home scanner, so I photographed it with my cell phone.  Because the piece was framed with non-glare glass I could do that.  But I failed to get the entire bit into the top photo.  In the shot of the painting on the wall with its surrounding environment, you get a better idea of how the waterfall fans out at its base.

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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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under

far-out

No, I haven’t been lazy since the last entry.  But most recent renderings have been too large to put through my scanner—like 16″ x 20″ and 20″ x 24″.  Large paintings can be photographed, but that never works for me as well as a scan.

Featured above are a couple of little guys that I’ve sandwiched in between the biggies.  In the top painting, the watery effect was achieved with thinned white gouache drifted randomly over the rocks.  The second painting was experimental, with lots of goopy gesso topped with acrylic bead gel.  When the gesso and gel were thoroughly dry, paint was added to drizzle and drip on the textured ground.

Meanwhile, I currently have a hole in my head.  Maybe that’s not so funny as it sounds, but HEY!  Let’s laugh.  Arthritis is the creator of a one centimeter gap, causing (GOOGLE this one!) a diagnosis of Atlanto Axial Instability.  In plain talk, I’m a BOBBLEHEAD—the treatment of which, at this stage and perhaps in lieu of surgery, is a very fashionable neck/head brace fitted for me at our local Hanger Clinic.

The pleasant young man who fitted the brace commented that I have a long neck.  Then he chuckled when I shared that my maiden name is “Longenecker”.  I doubt very much that he caught the double entendre cached in my name; he is too young.  Had he fully grasped the joke, his chuckle might have been a guffaw.  Moreover, unless you readers have connections with the 1930s and 40s you may not realize that once upon a time the word “neck” was a verb as well as a noun—with “necking” being an active, enjoyable present participle!  🙂

Grammar and vintage fun aside, my brace is downright elegant.  With a red tint in my hair, I look something like Queen Elizabeth the First.  So what in the world does this stream of consciousness wandering have to do with art?  Namely, this:  for years I’ve painted standing up, with my head bending over a waist high table.  Now that I’m de-bobbled by a neck brace, this position is no longer comfortable.  When the head falls forward and down, I feel more like Elizabeth the First’s motherthe Unfortunate Anne.

I refuse to stop painting, so what to do?  Joe and I cuddled on the couch with my I-Pad, and scrolled down pages of standing easels.  Unanimously we concluded that spending an arm and a leg just to accommodate my compromised head would be stupid.

Then suddenly a light went on in said head:  my sturdy, adjustable music stand.  Although my violin retired from active duty years ago, the music stand has continually served in the capacity of displaying art.  Now the music stand has morphed into a standing easel.

Voila!  There’s always a way to make minor adjustments—even major ones when needed.  Life is GOOD!  🙂

music-stand

Margaret L. Been — November 20th, 2016

NOTE:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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