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Posts Tagged ‘Art Therapy’

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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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Karen's Patio

Recently a friend posed a question that has inspired me to ponder.  Knowing I’d only been making art for a few years, she asked, “Do you think you are getting any better at it?”

After pondering long and hard, I keep coming up with the same answer:  “No, I’m not improving—only changing.  And definitely growing!”  Not only growing in the sense of experimenting with my paints and stretching into areas I never dreamed of before, but I think I’m growing as a human!  After all, the intensive reading of art history and studying centuries of great art (mostly via books and periodicals, not galleries) cannot fail.  Learning any new thing will result in growth in comprehension and appreciation—and that growth fans out to impact many other areas of life.

I’m learning to see with fresh eyes—similar, perhaps, to the eyes of a child.  I’m discovering beauty in off-beat places—like the weathered and rustic back alley behind the stores in our up-north small town, and a case of colorful gelato in our local coffee bistro.  Just last week hundreds of teensy tadpoles slithering about in the shallows of the Rock River set my mental paintbrush slithering on hypothetical 140 lb. cold press paper.

More than ever before, I think in pictures and translate mental pictures into shapes not readily discernible to anyone but me.  When I paint a picture from my mind, or from an experience I want to remember, one or more facets of that scene or experience will surface in colors which convey mood and emotions.

Below you will see an example of painting an experience—a rendering which I shared awhile back, and am repeating in this instance because it shows the technique of expressing one or more facets to tell a story, rather than trying to replicate a scene in photographic detail:

Jamie and Leo's Day

The experience dates back to a wedding in September, 2013.  Family members and friends of our granddaughter Jamie and her sweetheart Leonardo were waiting outside of St. John’s mini cathedral in Delafield, Wisconsin for that moment when we could enter the church for the ceremony.  Anyone who has experienced the best of a typical Wisconsin autumn can reconstruct the scene in his or her mind:  warm sunshine, crisp air, blue sky, and the sleepy droning of cicadas.  The day—mellow beyond words.  Jamie and Leo—even more mellow and precious than the day.  When a scene or experience is mellow beyond WORDS, only a picture will suffice.

So in this rendering—“Jamie and Leonardo’s Day”—you will see sunlight, the Norman architecture of the St. John’s cathedral and campus, and the suggestion of trees in early autumn while the grass is still summer-green.  I could not begin to paint Jamie and Leo, but I could record the happiness I experienced at their wedding.

Growing through art.  Along with growing in ways to see, I’m growing in a tolerance for messes.  Life in process can be messy, but I’ve always been a neat freak.  From the onset of my art adventure, I’ve had to relax with messes and even enjoy them when they reflect a work in process.  There are paint stains on the carpet around my art table, and splatters on the strip of drywall behind where I work.  Part of the décor!  Evidence of a life lived with the exuberance of freedom from fussing and fretting about things that don’t matter!

No, not better.  Just changing and growing.  The painting at the top of this page is a rendering of my friend Karen’s patio.  I did this back in 2007, from a photo that I’d taken when visiting Karen.  I had my original painting reproduced at a print shop, to a place mat size, and then laminated—so we have placemats of Karen’s patio.  I also gave her some of the placemats, and she recognized her patio.

Were I to paint the same scene today it would be vastly different—not only because Karen is always assembling fresh details of vintage beauty in her home and garden, but because today I would not even dream of trying to reproduce a scene camera style.  Certain features of the patio décor would grab me, and I would express those features—colored by my mood and the essence of that day.

The mention of “mood” brings me to the realization that perhaps only in the arts can one’s subjective mood be the prominent and dominating factor.  In our everyday world, objectivity is absolutely essential—for survival, for accuracy in our work, in our understanding of other people, and for a correct view of life itself.

Contrary to much current thought, we live in a world which is objectively BLACK AND WHITE—in terms of TRUTH AND NON-TRUTH, GOOD AND EVIL, RIGHT AND WRONG.  But in the arts, we can express with subjectivity—life as we see and experience it, uniquely from the inside out.  Considering the countless benefits of (and reasons for) art, perhaps that is one of the greatest:  the arts are windows to subjective aspects of the human experience.

No, not better.  As far as I can see, just changing and growing.  At age 80, I’m blessedly free of a competitive spirit in my work.  Thus, art making is pure pleasure and excitement for me—devoid of any sense of struggle or drive which would mar my freedom, spontaneity, and joy.  If I can express just those three things—freedom, spontaneity, and joy—I’m delighted.  And completely contented!

Here is a very recent example called “Blue and Old Pottery”—done in gouache (with hints of watercolor and acrylic) on Yupo paper.  Not better, just changing and growing.  And different!  That’s part of the excitement of art.  No two paintings are alike!  🙂

blue and old pottery 2

Margaret L. Been — July, 2014

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Flower Children

“Flower Children”, as the above creatures on Yupo Paper are called, just happened by accident—but gave birth to a new-to-me process which excites me more than I can say!  For starters, the original is larger than my scanner/printer bed so that you are not by any means looking at the whole painting.

The elephant (I think that’s what they are) on the right has a much longer stretch of trunk, and the bottom of the piece is loaded with flowers.  On the left, the original painting contains a generous vertical column of flowers—thus adding balance and extra interest.  The flowers are mostly rose-hued and magenta, with splashes of white.

The blotchy quality is obviously due to Kosher salt.  But not obvious on the print is the raised texture, achieved with gouache over the initial watercolor washes.  I have used gouache before, but never to the extent of mounding it up so heavily—like oil paint.  This works on Yupo, but is not so effective on normal rag watercolor paper which will soak up some of the layers.  On Yupo (a glass-like synthetic surface), the paint cannot go anywhere but up.  The rugged textural effect of the original is visible through glass in a picture frame, but not on the reproduction.

So given those details, hopefully you can begin to imagine these funky flower children.  Gouache on Yupo has a brilliance, similar to acrylic, yet it can be thinned to transparency.  (I guess acrylic can also, but I’ve yet to try that.  So far I have not fallen in love with acrylic, like I have with gouache and watercolor.)

The above painting and the two below, which I did in the same week, are framed and hanging in our living room/dining area—hanging, yet nearly bouncing off the wall thanks to their vibrant color.  The combination of Yupo, watercolor, salt, and a build-up of gouache is something that I think I can reproduce while spinning off in many directions with an endless variety of subject matter.  No two renderings will ever be alike, because paint on Yupo does its own thing.

Meanwhile, here are the paintings which follow the “Flower Children”:

Castlewood Canyon 3

“Castlewood Canyon, Colorado”.  Also too large for my scanner.  There is more rock across the lower right on the original, and more vegetation on the left.  But the over-all effect has been reproduced.

End of the Day Glass Series 3

“End of the Day Glass” (series)  I’ve posted at least one other in this series.  Victorian glassware is a delight to me.  Glassblowers sometimes combined their leftovers at the end of the day and created one-of-a-kind whimsies that could not be reproduced—rather like paintings on Yupo paper.

Like the others, this one was a lot of fun.  The original, also large, contains more on the bottom and left.  The bubbly, blobby circles in the upper center formed themselves, and I was careful not to disturb them while dropping in a suggestion of blue and rose.  Then I fabricated the lower, slightly off center blob with my brush to extend the idea of the roundness of the vases (or whatever they are).  Again, Kosher salt created speckles, and here I squirted a bit of water from my small spray bottle, while tipping the Yupo to disperse the water and salt.

These are all tricks and techniques that a child could learn if he or she so desired.  And each finished work is always different from the last.  It’s a wonderful feeling to make something that is “uniquely YOU!” or “uniquely ME!”

Margaret L. Been, June 2014

 

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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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Boreal Twilight

It is the night before the night before Christmas—a time of great joy for our family (50 immediate family members counting children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, husbands, wives, and significant others).  There are also friends whom we consider to be family—some who have been an integral part of our lives for decades, our children’s close friends among them.

Meanwhile, this is an art blog.  How I love sharing art talk with kindred readers!  I’ve been thinking big time about the people who have encouraged and instructed me in this late-in-life experience which has become an absolute passion and joy!

My family has been an incredible support, and they like to have some of “me” on their walls.  Joe smiles when the UPS drops packages at our patio door—brown boxes loaded with brushes, tubes of paint, and huge increments of paper.  At one time he said, “Don’t artists use the 3 primaries to get all their colors?”  My answer was “Yes, that can be done, but just look at what manufacturers have produced in recent decades.”  Joe got the point, which is pretty obvious when one views the two generous containers in my studio:  one overflowing with partially squeezed tubes, and the other abounding in delicious brand new tubes waiting their turn to get squeezed.

The support of those whom I consider to be “real artists”, has been an amazing surprise and blessing at every turn.  By real artists I mean exactly that.  These are the individuals who were often drawing and painting as children—just as I was always writing a poem or an essay.  They are professional in every sense of the world—whether in teaching or selling (and frequently they are doing both).

As a fumbling, embarrassed beginner (not that long ago—it was 2006) I never dreamed of getting encouragement from artists who know what they are doing.  But I soon discovered that collectively artists are actually the most out-going, supportive people on earth—creative souls who love nothing more than to share their passion while inspiring others to experiment and grow.

Most painters (and this is probably true in other visual art disciplines) realize that each of us is one of a kind.  We learn from each other, however each person’s work will have a signature which is unique.  There is art for all people, at all levels.  I certainly know the difference between the four to six digit paintings which hang in the most discerning of galleries, and my own art which may be displayed and very occasionally sold at an Art Walk on the sidewalks of our small neighborhood community.  I am contented, and tremendously happy to be a part of the entire scene!

I owe more than words can say to a friend, fine artist in pastels, and encouraging teacher in the gorgeous Wisconsin Northwoods—Diana Randolph.  I attended two of Diana’s workshops held at a school a couple of hours from our Northern home—one a drawing class and the other an introduction to those beautiful buttery, silky pastels.

Drawing was (and I admit still is) my very weakest thing (I can’t call it a skill)!  This is a sobering admission since the reading of Art History reveals that down through the ages drawing has been the very basis of art.  Years were spent, simply drawing.  Pre-Raphaelite English fine artist and critic John Ruskin believed that color should only be introduced after an intense discipline of drawing-drawing-drawing.  Sorry, John.  I simply couldn’t go there, and my heart does not leap at the sight of a pencil or charcoal stick.

But COLOR!  There I was immediately hooked/grabbed/enamored/and fulfilled—body and soul.  To add color!  Well I had been doing that in decorating my home and body nearly forever.  Why not add color to paper or canvas?  Diana’s pastels got me so excited that I ordered high quality soft and hard sticks, the right surface, the sandpaper, the solvent to smear in strategic spots, the whole bit—only to discover that pastel dust did nothing worthwhile for my tetchy breathing apparatus.

Realizing that pastels were out, I deduced that oils would also be a problem for this confirmed asthmatic.  So what was my logical medium for COLOR?  Water/water/water and wonderful 37ml tubes of watercolor.  (Winsor & Newton, Da Vinci, and American Journey all come in these large tubes.  I also love some Daniel Smith colors which are available in smaller sizes.)

Diana Randolph is the only “real life” teacher I’ve worked with.  But a long time friend, fine artist Jan Roberts, has also been a constant source of inspiration.  Jan works in most every medium, and I have three of her magnificent oils hanging in our home.

My bookshelves groan with contemporary watercolorists who have shared through their books.  I have studied via books and DVDs—reading and viewing over and over and then some.  Each of these artists is unique, and they have varying views on many aspects of what to do, and how.  All of them encourage beginners, and acknowledge that they once were novices as well.  (Maybe when they were three years old! )

Book and DVD studies are also refreshing and freeing!  I respond to some techniques and am not so crazy about others.  This, perhaps, is the birth of an artist’s voice—compounded from much exposure from books, films, and actual galleries whenever possible!  A person can never learn it all, and knowing that I am a student, forever growing, thrills me right down to my toes!

Here is my list of surrogate teachers in watercolor painting:  Americans—Charles Reid, Cheng-Khee CHEE, Barbara Nechis, Karlyn Holman (Wisconsin proudly claims Karlyn!), and Taylor Ikin (the “YUPO Queen”); Canadians—Karin Huehold and Linda Kemp; and British—Shirley Trevena and Jean Haines.  These are amazing teachers who differ in many ways—their main similarity being the creation of fantastically beautiful work.  Due to the marvels of technology, I have received email encouragement from some of these artists.  The profusion of encouragement never fails to remind me of Hans Christian Andersen’s THE UGLY DUCKLING.  I realize that I’m not quite a “swan”, but the swans have really made me feel like I belong—and this is a beautiful feeling!

Currently, I’m enjoying practicing a method from UK fine artist Jean Haines’ DVD, AMAZING WAYS WITH WATERCOLOR.  Jean begins some of her paintings with a single spot on the paper, and letting the subject reveal itself from that spot by streaking lots of color and water in a diagonal.  Jean stresses the need to let each stage dry completely, and to enjoy the beauty of each stage—the color fusions and the way a subject will evolve for future development.

Jean demonstrates painting cockerels (of course that’s UK for roosters).  She loves cockerels and so do I having raised numerous fancy breeds of cockerels (I think I’ll call them that!), hens, and chicks for eighteen years on our little funny farm in Eagle, Wisconsin.  So I have been experimenting, and here is one of my studies—called “Overdressed for the Occasion”.

Overdressed for the Occasion 2

It will undoubtedly take many more “bloggings” to share the countless ideas I’ve incorporated from books and DVDs.  I hope to do that in 2014.  But this blog entry has grown so long, I wonder if anyone will make it to the finish.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to edit a single word of thanks to all of my teachers, and to you readers.  You mean so much to me!!!  🙂  Merry Christmas!!!

Margaret L. Been, December 2013

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Sweet Irony 2

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare’s Juliet, ROMEO AND JULIET

I’m amazed when I tour our local art gallery and view huge four digit (as in $6000) paintings—abstract renderings on gallery wrapped canvas panels—bearing the vague name:  “Untitled”.

Two questions prevail.  Was the meaning of the work so intrinsically personal that the artist could not divulge whatever he was thinking?  Or did the art, once completed, fail to bring anything specific to the artist’s mind?

I probably will never make $6000 art.  But whatever I make, I’ve vowed that I’ll never title a painting “Untitled”.  I will not cop out!  Perhaps my work would smell as sweet (or not sweet!) sans a name, but I’m going to think up something definite to call every one of my creations.

Admittedly, once I cut loose on YUPO® paper anything can happen.  Whereas I normally start with a subject in mind on Arches (pronounced “ARSH”—it’s French) 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, on YUPO I do not burden myself with representational responsibilities.  The paint on the glass-like surface leads the way, surprises me, responds to a minimum of manipulation, and literally “does its own thing”.

(Although I never embraced the violent or destructive activities of the 60s and 70s, I do have a bit of residual Hippie in me.  The earth mother crafts glammed on and stuck, although I’ve refined them and added a lot of pizzazz, and so did the concept of free expression in art—which, in retrospect I realize to be my birthright.  I always did and I always will EXPRESS FREELY in one way or another!)

So finding a name for a painting is sometimes a challenge, given the slippery slide of paint on YUPO.  Sometimes I have to prop the finished piece up and gaze at it for a few days.  But mostly a name surfaces, along with the last swipe of the brush.  Often a title appears in the wake of whatever might be lingering in my head as I paint.

The above happy rendering is called “Sweet Irony”.  It is sweet and it is ironic; while painting I was processing an annoying past event which ended with an amazing surprise turn.  The surprise has made all the difference in the world, and now the event carries sweet rather than bitter implications.

Again, to quote my beloved old bard:  “All’s well that end’s well.”

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A Place Within

I have been studying art history, and I’m constantly realizing how little I know while rejoicing in the fact that I have time to learn.  Especially since the Parisian Art Revolution which began in the 1860s when those “isms” which warm my heart began to develop in rapid succession, my head spins as I sort out the many fascinating developments of art. 

There is one particular aspect of pictorial language that resonates with me, a language which I understand from the inside out:  the language of color.  Here I’m thoroughly at home in my adopted country of visual art.  I’m on familiar ground, surrounded by artists with whom I could chat at a sidewalk café most anywhere in the civilized world. 

Perhaps that’s because my art is completely subjective.  Like my poetry, my art is a place where I’m free to express myself—a world within.  Even more than the components of light and shadow, typical of the Old Masters’ works, color speaks to me!  As effectively as poetry, color portrays that highly personal inner place—my soul. 

This art adventure parallels a new stage of life, a transition from country to community living.  Thirty three years ago, in the press of demanding circumstances, my husband and I moved to a country home where (like Thoreau at Walden) I could learn to live deliberately.  From that country home we moved to a wild location where there were more deer than humans, a visibly large population of black bears, and a substantial number of timber wolves.  Beautiful background for feeding the soul. 

I believe that God created each of us with a personality to be shaped and honed as He wills.  For nearly thirty years He shaped my world within through nature and solitude and (like Thoreau) I actually learned to live deliberately.  Then suddenly we were translated to a community setting.  My husband and I did what we never thought we could do; we moved from our haven of wild serenity to the accelerated pace of a city suburb—albeit quiet, and definitely not urban. 

And here I am, still living deliberately.  Meanwhile, what am I learning from art history?  I’m learning that art really is all about freedom, even freedom from the isms.  

For me, that means freedom to express my world within—specifically through COLOR

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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