Posts Tagged ‘Art Teachers’

A Quiet Place

Our oldest daughter, Laura, took a watercolor workshop a few months ago with a friend whom she was visiting in Texas.  After they had applied some color in an initial wash the instructor said, “Listen to the paper.  The paper is talking to you.”

I love that, and think of it constantly.  When wet watercolors hit wet paper, the paper does indeed “talk”.  This is the stage where beautiful things happen, if we stand back and let them.  It’s human nature, at least my human nature to get involved, and try to fix things.  As a child I was diligently taught to think before doing—a survival skill necessary, or at least helpful, in most areas of life.  But when painting I still want to blunder in, and superimpose some preconceived concept on the wet paper.

Meanwhile, Laura’s workshop instructor and many other artists realize that each painting can be unique and exquisite if we just let the paper talk.  The delicate feathers and cauliflowers that form on wet paper were once spurned by watercolorists; now those same marks have come into favor.  They are treasured.

In her books and DVDs, British fine artist Jean Haines stresses the fact that many beginners tend to race into a painting with an agenda in mind, failing to relax and let things happen.  Jean paints practice washes on small scraps of watercolor paper at the beginning of every day in her studio.  She experiments with different color combinations and observes the hints of a possible subject created when the colors blend.  Sometimes these “practice” washes morph into a finished painting; otherwise, Jean saves them as inspiration for her larger work.

So I am learning!  After all, it is enjoyable to relax and let the paper talk.  And this one-way conversation in never boring.  Unlike some people, paper and paint never say the same thing twice.  They always have something fresh and spontaneous to share.

The above rendering is an example.  While the paper was talking I sprinkled salt in the sky area, knowing that the salt would enhance rather than interrupt the spoken message.  With my rigger brush, I lightly dropped colors into the foreground—letting them bleed onto the talking paper—and I streaked the point of a wooden knitting needle through the wet foliage which was forming on the lower left.  Then it was time to retreat to the kitchen, and hit our Keurig for a cuppa Joe.

When all of the above was dry, I seriously thought of trying to add more—perhaps a tumbledown fence in the foreground, or traces of a castle in the clouds.  But NO!  The paper had spoken, and I had nothing more important to say!

This painting, “A Quiet Place”, has been framed for the next exchange of work in local exhibits.  Now you are thinking, “She was supposed to be displaying winter scenes.”

Yes, but “A Quiet Place” will be hung in a hospice.  If I were in a hospice (as any one of us may someday be) I most certainly would not want to view any art depicting winter!

And you can be certain that as soon as my winter display quota has been filled I’ll go back to painting flowers, patios, ice tea pitchers, green mountains, and castles in the clouds—preferably after the paper has had a chance to talk.

Margaret L. Been — October 28. 2015

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Tissue Paper

A few weeks ago I turned 82.  That was a pile of fun.  My one-liner was:  “Now I can start being eccentric.”  Family members and friends cracked up over that.

To add to the delight a gorgeous flower arrangement arrived from the local florist; the flowers were ordered by our daughter Laura who lives in Bellingham, Washington.  There were 5 lovely scarlet roses in the bouquet, and they are now drying upside down in our home.  (I can’t discard a celebratory rose, and we have them hanging here and there.  Others are dried for the stash of pot pourri.)

As if flowers were not pleasure enough, their vase was wrapped in an amazing tissue paper—much sturdier than normal gift wrap, with a plastic-y feel to it.  The tissue paper went from the vase of flowers on the dining room table to my art table, and the above rendering is the result.

First I sculpted hills (mountains or whatever) and rocky areas onto 300 pound Arches watercolor paper with gesso, and then pressed scraps of the tissue into the textured areas—making sure to cover the tissue paper with the gesso.  (What fun to scrunch around in gesso and paper.  Some people never grow up, and never want to!  🙂  )

When that dried, I painted the scene.  You can see where the gesso and tissue* form lines, rocks, and gullies, but a photo doesn’t adequately represent the piece.  In reality the textures rise and fall, potentially inviting fingertips if we didn’t know that we are never supposed to touch the art.

This is a large painting, approximately 20 x 16,  Finally I’ve learned how to take a photo of a picture too large to scan.  A little pocket camera never did the job, as any white or even light area would turn out to be a huge blob of bleached out nothing.  But my i-Pad takes fantastic pictures.  I can lay the picture flat on the floor or stand it up and the I-Pad photo is as close as I can get to the real thing.

Meanwhile, serendipitous treasures frequently pop up when I remember to keep my eyes open.  What next?  Life is full of surprises.

Margaret L. Been—September 7, 2015

*It’s occurred to me that one might simply walk into most any florist shop, and purchase this exciting tissue paper!

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In recent weeks I’ve been aiming for “big”, as in paintings to fit a 20″ x 24″ outside mat size and frame.  This is a stretch for me, and so far rather difficult to manage.  In fact I have only produced a handful of renderings which I am bothering to mat and frame.  All is not lost when big doesn’t work however;  I crop bits and pieces out of failed work and at least get something out of the deal.

Obviously the biggies will not go through my scanner.  Were someone to want a print of the large art, we’d have to let Office Max do the job, and that’s definitely a good option.  Featured above is one that did fit on the scanner—an 11″ x 14″ outside mat size which I have called “Limberlost” after a great book which I’m certain most readers will know.

Along with size, I’ve been experimenting with heavy weight paper—300 lb.  This supposedly doesn’t buckle when wet, but actually it does to a degree.  There will always be an unsightly bulge somewhere, and unlike the 140 lb. paper the heavier weight doesn’t flatten out nicely when dampened and placed in a paper towel and plastic mat “sandwich” loaded down with books.  So when I use up this order of 300 lb. paper, I’ll return to the 140.  Just had to try it.  I also ventured into new-to-me papers, but I still prefer Arches.  (Pronounced “Arsh”—it’s French.)  Again, I just had to try something different.

One of many things I’ve learned from books and DVDs is that every artist has his or her favorite paints, paper, and brushes.  These are personal choices—each with its own good features.  I like American Journey paints, available from CHEAP JOE’S.  Of the many artists whose work I’ve studied, only one—Taylor Ikin—recommends American Journey.  I also enjoy Da Vinci watercolors and gouache, and at present I know of no one else who uses them.  Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith are excellent, and extremely popular.

Ahhh—BRUSHES.  Oddly enough I like, even love my paper and paints, but I’m crazy about brushes.  Of the many I’ve accumulated, a good assortment of Daniel Smith Aquarelles (Round and Flat), a couple of Isabey Kolinksy Round Sables, and some of the Jack Richeson Flat 9010 Signature Series rise like cream to the surface.  The 2″ Richeson Wash brush is so beautiful and precious, I’m tempted to line it up on our antique settee, along with my Teddy Bears.  Soon I’ll shop (online) for a Richeson 3″ wash brush (if there is one) to accommodate the large paper.

Even with painting nearly every day, I have never worn out a brush.  I coddle and care for them like they were babies— washing them gently in (my homemade) soap and warm water, and drying them with a soft towel.  Of course the brushes are stored brush end up, in clean jars.

The tools we use are special, regardless of the trade.  I know that every chef has his or her favorite pans, molds, egg whips, or whatever.  And every carpenter has a favorite hammer.  So I’m just a wee but daft about brushes!  I’m fairly certain that additional papers, paints, and brushes will make their way into the stash; we never know all there is to learn.  It’s all about growing and experimenting!

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Another teacher has joined my DVD library:  Canadian watercolor artist, Karin Huehold.  Her 120 minute lesson has opened up still more enticing possibilities for me.  In fact, I was so excited last night after viewing Karin’s DVD—A Little Watercolor, that I simply couldn’t sleep.  So I got up, traveled the distance of about 10 feet from the bed to my bedroom art table, and went to work.  (My husband can sleep through anything, and he loves having a happy woman!)

Karin cuts a (presumably) 22″ x 30″ sheet of watercolor paper into 72 little sections.  Her method of cutting is amazingly quick and accurate—for the moment Karin has lost me on that one.  I’m experimenting with her technique on Wisconsin’s own Strathmore 140 lb. cold press note papers, each card being 5″ x 7″.   Any that I like too much to mail out can then be floated mounted (without a mat) on 8″ x 10″ backing board, while leaving the other 1/2 of the note card for another painting.

Karin begins by wetting the top 1/3rd to 3/4s of her tiny section, leaving a thin dry strip of paper under the wet part, and wetting a strip at the bottom.  Then she charges color (any color, the artist’s choice) into the wet sections.  Naturally the paint stays on the wet areas, leaving the dry strip intact.  After a few seconds or moments, she inserts detail by painting into the background—a line of foliage, a few individual trees, or a moon.  The moons are created by wrapping facial tissue over any round object and stamping.  I used an empty plastic pill bottle for my moons.

As the lesson progresses, Karin gets more detailed.  Any of her methods may be translated to larger sheets of paper.  But the little guys are delightful—and I write a lot of snail mail letters every week.  I haven’t bought stationery or prepared note cards for years, because I love to make my own. 

I had so much fun banging out a few note papers in the dead of the night, that my mind was whirling when I finally went to bed—and I still couldn’t sleep.  Some of us are like that, when we are enthused.  (Tonight I’ll gladly crash.)  The fruit of my night owlery is displayed on this page.  I went to bed thinking that the blue sky cards were okay, but the reds were not so great.  However this morning, when I got up and checked the dried paintings, I liked the reds even better than the blues!  I scanned them all into my computer, so after the originals are mailed out I can produce prints for gluing on to more note papers. 

Karin Huehold’s style of communicating is so relaxed, friendly, and whimsical that I feel like I’ve spent 120 minutes with a good friend or a cousin after viewing her lesson.  I’d gladly toss her an apple if I could, —all the way to Alberta!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  Any artist scrutinizing these pictures will know that the textured areas on the red sky paintings were caused by sprinkling table salt into the paint before it dried.  For some unknown reason, my husband thinks this is uproariously funny!  I’m showing him that I have a bunch of tricks up my sleeve!

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In six years of painting, I’ve been blessed with the best of teachers—the first one in actual classes, and the rest via books and DVDs. 

I was borderline terrified to sign up for an art class.  But I knew of a teacher in our Northern Wisconsin area, Diana Randolph*, so I pushed my limits and enrolled in her drawing workshop.  All my life I’d told myself I couldn’t draw worth a hoot, but I reasoned that—even if I was a total disaster—the drive through the beautiful woods would make it worthwhile.

Diana Randolph is a fine artist in pastels.  Her style of teaching was (is) so amazingly friendly and helpful, that I left the class realizing I probably could learn to draw (albeit primitively).  At home I embarked on a disciplined program of drawing the things I loved:  trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, rocks, sea shells, tea pots, etc. 

Next, I attended Diana’s class on pastels.  I fell in love with that rich, silky medium—and eventually purchased high quality hard and soft pastels.  But alas!  My asthma would not permit use of the sticks.  I’ve discovered that even outdoors I cough over my pastels.

Oil paints were out of the question, for a reason similar to that of pastels—only with oils the culprit would be fumes rather than dust.  What was left?  Watercolors!  I began sloshing watercolor paints around on paper, was immediately smitten, and have never looked back.

For me, learning has always been exciting.  I have been learning one thing or another all of my life.  But learning to paint has proved to be the most exciting, the most satisfying adventure of all.  I’ve acquired many books and DVDs on watercolor painting—some that I never read or viewed more than once or twice because they were drop dead boring, and others which are so wonderful that I re-read or re-view them again and again.  Here is a list of my favorite watercolor teachers via books and DVDs:

Charles Reid—He was my first teacher in the watercolor world.  I found one of his books in a library, purchased a copy for myself, and am forever grateful to Charles Reid for his relaxed style which appears spontaneous but actually is very carefully executed.  Now I have more of his books, plus two DVDs where I can watch the artist in process.  From him, I learned that the shadows cast by a subject are as essential to a painting as the subject itself.  Although many watercolorists have been inspired by Charles Reid, I think I could recognize one of his paintings most anywhere.  He’s a master at lost edges, subtle backgrounds, and an appearance which my husband and I call “blotchy”—but thoroughly beautiful.

Karlyn Holman—Karlyn is another Northern Wisconsin fine artist.  She can handle all kinds of materials, but her watercolors are signature.  She’s an expert at drawing everything under the sun—from people, to landscapes, to architectural details—and in her own words, “If you can draw it, you can paint it”.  From Karlyn’s books and DVDs I learned, among other things, the use of triads (combinations of the primaries:  red, yellow, and blue) charged on wet paper to create an underpainting. 

Barbara Nechis:  From Barbara, I’m slowly learning to control wet shapes on wet paper—although I’ll never achieve her level of excellence!  Thanks to Barbara’s books and DVD, I gained the courage to begin transparent layering.  From viewing her DVD (and from other artist’s books) I’ve learned a lot about which colors are transparent and which are opaque.

Cheng-Khee Chee:  A professor at the U. of Minnesota in Duluth, this Chinese-American fine artist is skilled in a variety of methods—all demonstrated in several of his DVDs.  From him I’ve learned to use Japanese masa paper which, when damped and painted upon, fractures its sizing to render a batik effect—ethereal and lovely.  Chee paints everything, from nature scenes to glimpses of life on urban streets.  But he is best known for his sensitive paintings of koi.  These fish are to Cheng-Khee Chee what water lilies were to Monet.

Taylor Ikin—I’m thankful that DVDs don’t “wear out”—at least mine haven’t yet—because Taylor Ikin’s DANCING WITH YUPO disc would be in shreds by now.  Her teaching is so exuberant, while laced with ongoing commentary and humor, that I feel she is my friend.  She introduced me to Yupo paper, and I return to her demonstration constantly to learn yet one more nuance of color values and technique—and simply to enjoy watching her manuever her paints on this challenging glasslike support. 

Also, Taylor introduced me to my favorite brand of paints:  American Journey.  They come in 37ml tubes, and are more affordable than most other artist quality watercolors.  (I would urge any beginner to invest in artist rather than student grade materials.  We need to be encouraged from early on— and fine quality paints, brushes, and paper do make a difference!)

Shirley Trevena—This fine artist is a watercolourist, the “our” signifying British—or at least British influence.  She is English, I mean really English—with all the quiet elegance, plus subjects which I love:  flowers, household objects, china fruit bowls, jugs, and textiles.  Shirley departs from traditional English watercolor art by direct painting rather than the layering of washes, and by juxtaposing her still life objects with a refreshing disregard for perspective and angle of view.  A vase may be standing straight up in one of Shirley’s paintings, while the fruit bowl may be tipped forward (with the fruit tumbling out) to display the pattern of the bowl. 

Like the others mentioned above, Shirley teaches art without fear—and the priority of being one’s own self, finding one’s personal look, etc.  She also promotes “Destroying a Painting”.  This means to attack the finished painting with water, abrasive tools, whatever you can get your hands on to make it (in her own words) “even messier”.  (British humor, which in Shirley’s case results in poignantly beautiful art.  Several times I’ve tried to “destroy” a painting, and it looked destroyed!)

Clare Harrigan—Scottish artist Clare Harrigan is a free spirited colourist who specializes in shape making, while creating abstract but somewhat recognizable subjects with vibrant colour contrasts and unique design.  Clare combines oil pastels, watercolor crayons, and acrylics with watercolours to achieve a variety of moods and effects.

Jeanne Dobie—I have saved Jean Dobie for the last, because I’m currently engrossed in—and finally getting a handle on—her color theory as demonstrated in her book, MAKING COLOR SING.  I have had the book for three years, and its contents are finally sinking in.  Jeanne promotes what she calls “mouse color”:  the use of greys and browns to create a gradual transition from dark to mid-tone, to light.  The transition can be expecially breathtaking when shades of the brighter, more intense colors are drawn into the neutral area so that the eye experiences a slow awakening from dark to light. 

The above example is my first conscious attempt at Jeanne Dobie’s color concept.  I used purple and yellow to make the greyed browns in this painting, and finally charged a bit of the red and yellow from the bright area into the mouse color to assure a transition for the eye.  So much fun, I may never stop!  🙂  

The trees on the above picture are a “DUH”, formed by placing strips of masking tape on the paper before painting.  After the background was formed, I removed the masking tape and added color (or colour) with my water soluble ink pencils and crayons.  Also, I re-dampened the surrounding backgrounds so that some paint would bleed into the trees.

Who knows which teachers I’ll discover next?  Meanwhile, there are loads of inspiration right here on my bookshelves and DVD screen!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Note:  Diana Randolph is a beautiful poet as well as artist.  She’s just had a book published, Beacons of the Earth and Sky, combining her poems and prints of her gorgeous pastel art.  This book is a treasure.  Diana’s poetry is as “painterly” as her pastels, abounding in imagery.  When read silently all of the senses are evoked.  When read aloud, a soothing musical quality prevails.

In the contemporary poetry scene, Diana’s work is exceptional because it is profoundly upbeat.  Although she recognizes the severe and heart rending issues in today’s world, Diana’s poems exude that life-affirming spirit known to those of us who are close to the heartbeat of nature—in tune with the changing seasons of the year, as well as the seasons of life.  Also, I consider Diana Randolph to be a kindred soul because of the love for her family, reflected in her poetry. 

Beacons of the Earth and Sky is available via www.redberybooks.com/ .  If you love poetry, art, and the natural world, you will definitely treasure this book!

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