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Posts Tagged ‘acrylics’

Acrylic2

Back after a long hiatus—time enough for a new hip, a lazy summer, and plenty of physical therapy.  But artmaking was a huge part of the therapy.  Standing is easier for me than sitting, no matter what.  And regardless of whatever this body is up to, if I can create something I am a happy woman!

Above is a 20″ x 24″ painting that should be titled, “Love/Hate”.  Being a bit vociferous about opinions, I have long claimed that I hate acrylics.  They have seemed so fake appearing and stupid to me—stubborn, inflexible, hard to shove around, incapable of producing those wonderful watercolor “cauliflowers”, and totally lacking in subtlety.  Especially when gouache can do the job of building depth and texture, although gouache needs to be preserved with glass or an acrylic (there is that word!) fixative–and acrylic paint needs only itself for permanence.

Then, amazingly, I came across books and a DVD by a new-to-me British artist:  Soraya French who has painted in most all media, but absolutely LOVES acrylics.  The material struck me as somewhere out there, to begin with.  But after reading, re-reading, viewing, and reviewing, “somewhere out there” closed in on me.  Soraya French has pried open my closed mind.

I recently completed “Love/Hate” and still was not sure which it was:  love or hate.  The piece went through many mutations, layer upon layer, changes of theme and subject matter, as well as variations of color dominance.  But hey, that’s acrylics:  layer upon layer.

While the painting was at its final stage of dampness, I truly thought it was tacky—like something one might win at the county fair for knocking off a row of mechanical ducks.  But suddenly the piece was dry and it took on a whole new life.  I kept staring at it, as it penetrated my psyche.  Hate disappeared, and Love became at least a “Like”.  The painting is now hanging in our dining room.

Love/Hate has a new name.  My original idea was to suggest autumn foliage.  The foliage changed to bare branches for winter, sailboat masts on a stormy sea, finally returning to the tree motif—but with an attitude more like spring than autumn.  So the new title is “An Autumn That Looks Like Spring”.  Fitting, as we have had a gloriously warm/hot September, and today is once again in the high 70s.

For me, trees are like lilies and haystacks to Monet—although repetition is where the comparison ends between Claude and me.  Rather ridiculous to mention the two of us in the same sentence.  But I am as genuinely obsessed with trees, as Monet was smitten with his favorite subjects.

Over the summer and my surgery-recovery-period I did some more trees, with a focus on texture and application of mixed media along with watercolors and gouache:  soft pastels, hard pastels, oil pastels, India ink, Derwent Inktense Sticks, and water soluble crayons (all of artist quality as anything less would prove disappointing).  Here is some of that harvest of trees:

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More Tree Textures 2

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In closing, I urge you to check out Soraya French’s website.  Another inspiring British lady—who has re-opened the doors to individuality, personality, and freedom in art.

Whereas from around the turn of the 19th/20th century right up to a couple of decades ago, freedom of expression in art was “trendy” (almost a given), in recent years there has been a definite swing back to photo-realism:  creating recognizable art such as “The Old Village Bridge”, “Apple Farm”,  “Country Church”, or realistic city scenes.

In our Wisconsin neighborhood, a familiar scene is the church with three spires high on a rural hill.  The site is called, “Holy Hill”.  It has been painted realistically more times than I can imagine, and a rendering of Holy Hill is recognized by anyone who has been around here for any time at all.

Beautiful!  Such art requires great skill, and deserves its place of respect.  But it is not, generally speaking, the art I desire to have much of on my walls.  More and more, I am drawn to mystery, unanswered questions, and the energy of abstraction–or semi-abstraction with a touch of realism, all with a focus on being as beautiful as possible.

In the arts, I see no value in trying to reproduce the ugliness of much of the world.  Art is a precious commodity, a timeless gift in keeping with great music and poetry—bestowed upon us to lift our souls.  Yes, we can and should portray all of life in terms of great sadness and poignancy as well as great joy; but the means of portrayal can be beautiful and the message behind the means, one of hope and anticipation of a better world.

Isn’t that why our Creator God has allowed us to reflect a token of His creativity, by making things with the gifts and resources He has provided for us—that we might in some tiny way attempt to fashion a better world?

Margaret L. Been  —  October 3, 2018

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The Softness of Dawn I

Recently my husband and I were treated to a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where an exhibition of Rembrandts was on display.  My art museum experience is limited, so I was the quintessential country bumpkin—totally awed and “wow-ed” by the size and richness of Rembrandt’s paintings.  (However, most of them were self-portraits.  One portrayal of Rembrandt goes a long way!)

Obviously, there is nothing like the medium of oils to capture depth and complexity of texture.  Acrylics may mock the effect, yet somehow they look “so acrylic”!  Meanwhile due to the fumes and my dicky pulmonary tubes, oils were never a consideration for me when I began my love affair with art. 

But I have no regrets!  I’m totally besotted with my watercolors—more and more as time passes and I become more versant in the beautiful language of transparency.   

The above rendering was achieved effortlessly—in fact all I did was charge transparent paint onto wet paper.  The water and paint did the rest.  This technique is intensely satisfying.  There can never be a duplication or a knock off, when an artist steps back while letting the materials make the art. 

This humbling experience reminds me that maybe I’m not really an artist at all—but rather just a facilitator.  Obviously, Rembrandt and others of his genius—past and present—really have been and are artists.  But for me, I’m thoroughly delighted with “The Gift to Be Simple”!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

NOTE:  Although most water soluble paints (including acrylics and gouache) can be thinned to a modicum of semi-transparency, some watercolors are highly transparent.  Any watercolor starting with the word “Quinacridone” will be transparent, as will many of the Winsor & Newton paints.  As well as Winsor & Newton, I also use (the very affordable, professional quality) American Journey Paints.  American Journey has a gorgeous bluey-greenish transparent color called “June Bug”.  

Regardless of brand Permanent Magenta, Alizarin Crimson, Dioxazine Purple, Indigo, and French Ultramarine are normally transparent.  Gamboge (a gloriously rich yellow) is semi-transparent.  These, along with June Bug, are major players in most of my paintings.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Those of you who also visit http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/ know that our patio is, for me, a very special bit of Heaven.  It opens through sliding doors right outside our living room, so it seems like we live outdoors year around.  The patio is beautiful in winter, piled with drifted snow, but it’s especially wonderful in spring, summer, and autumn.  It faces due east, and is sheltered by a roof and the rest of our building from all but the east wind.  We face a park and nature preserve—beyond which is the wild end of Lake Nagawicka—so wildlife abounds in the neighborhood. 

Canada geese, great blue heron, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures, and hawks soar across the open sky over our park every day.  We are surrounded by lakes in our corner of the world, so shorebirds as well as field and meadow flyers are at home here.  Occasionally sea gulls venture inland from Lake Michigan, in search of food.  (I often see gulls at shopping centers where people are apt to drop a potato chip or some pop corn.)  Recently a cormorant cruised over our park—exciting, as in the past I’d only seen that large bird in Wisconsin’s far North wetlands. 

To make bird and cloud watching, reading, and sipping iced tea on the patio complete we needed some funky art—preferably with my beloved Southwest flavor.  A gallery wrapped canvas and some acrylic paints did the job, and now we have art for living outdoors.  I sealed my rendering (“My Santa Fe”) with acrylic gloss medium, so barring blizzards it should be weatherproof.  I’ll bring Santa Fe in late next fall.  Meanwhile, the painting is living outdoors—with me!  🙂

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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