Posts Tagged ‘Artist Jean Haines’

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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Summer Ripe

“Summer Ripe”—Margaret Been, July 2014 ↑

Over the years different artists have inspired me tremendously, through their books and DVDs.  A recent motivating “mentor” is UK watercolor artist, Jean Haines.  Here are two of Jean Haines’ resources which challenge me constantly:

AMAZING WAYS WITH WATERCOLOUR, Jean Haines SWADVD, TOWN HOUSE FILM.  Distributed in North America by:  The Artists’ Place, 1-800-278-7522. 

Jean Haines’ ATMOSPHERIC WATERCOLOURS . . . Painting with Freedom, Expression and Style © 2012, SEARCH PRESS.  This book is far beyond a tutorial.  Along with reprints of Jean’s art and a description of her methods, the text is a treasure to read again and again with more to be gleaned with every visit.

In the DVD, Jean stresses that her medium is watercolour and she uses as much water as colour.  A favorite method of hers is to flood the paper diagonally with water plus colour (more than one colour!), and let the paint diffuse and blend—literally doing its own thing.  From that beginning wash, a subject may emerge—or if the artist has a subject in mind, the paint may be gently coaxed into a semi-representation.  If Jean wants a mark on the paper to stand still, she will leave it alone to dry on its own; if she desires to produce an image, she will “invite” the paint to flow into a specific pattern or direction.

Jean advocates PATIENCE.  Patience involves relaxing and enjoying the process (all of my favorite mentors agree with that!).  She urges artists to savor each stage of a painting.  When beautiful things happen spontaneously it is far better to stand back and watch the paint at work, rather than get in there and mess around with a brush.  Time and again, I have proved that idea to be correct.  When something the colours have achieved is drop dead gorgeous, just leave well enough alone!

As all watercolourists attest, a thorough drying between applications of paint is essential for that see-through clarity which makes the medium so unique.  Oils, acrylic, and gouache (even when greatly thinned) cannot begin to produce the transparency of watercolour.  That’s why watercolour is sometimes considered to be the hardest way to go.

If total and rigid control is an artist’s goal, then YES; watercolours are difficult to manage.  But when allowed to flow and assert themselves, the process is stress-free and liberating.  Paintings will vary with individuals and the amount of time invested.  But, according to Jean Haines (and I believe her) most anyone who desires to be an artist can be one.

Obviously many (perhaps most) of the great painters down through history who excelled at detailed representational art have spent years in disciplined study under masters, to achieve their “masterpieces”.  But when a beginner like me—or a seasoned painter as well—is freed from the compulsion to “create a masterpiece”, amazing things can happen.  Inevitably, the result will be JOY!  Each of us is an “original” created by the Master Painter.  If art is our passion, we will be artists to some degree—and each of us will bring his or her personal voice to our work.

One cannot watch Jean Haines’ DVD or read Jean Haines’ ATMOSPHERIC WATERCOLOURS without getting excited, because Jean is excited about art making.  Her enthusiasm in “watching colours run all over the place” is downright contagious!  And art is one contagion of which I pray I’ll never be cured!

Colors and Beyond

“Colors and Beyond”—Margaret Been, July 2014 ↑

Note:  Jean Haines has also produced a second DVD and book.  Just GOOGLE “Jean Haines, Artist” for the details.  You will not be disappointed!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—July, 2014

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Under the deep 2

. . . one more trick, that is:  Isopropyl Alcohol Magic.  I first learned of this one from Wisconsin fine artist, Karlyn Holman.  Simply dip a paint brush or Q-Tip in alcohol, and spatter droplets onto your wet paint.  The “magic” works especially well on YUPO paper, because of it’s glassy surface where the paint sits without soaking in.  The droplets scatter the paint particles and cause whitish rings, often with a colored dot in the center—or fan out into interesting patterns resembling bacteria under a microscope.  You can see a microscope effect above, in “Under the Deep”.

Then, just this week I did still another “Underwater” (below) and discovered a variation of the alcohol trick.  Wanting to move the microbes around a bit, I sprayed water on them while they were still wet—shattering the rings and sending them scurrying, while creating a marbleized look.  Not knowing when to quit, I went even further.  In some areas I applied alcohol before the paint, causing a kind of resist which also sent color particles scurrying.  As the paint dispersed, sedimentary colors deposited speckles simulating texture.


I was delighted with this seemingly inadvertent happening and the additional ideas to share with children and adults who occasionally join me for a day of painting at our dining room table.  Then I recalled something fine artist Jean Haines says in one of her DVDs—that there will always be more to discover about watercolor.  According to Jean, when we experiment we may stumble on something new—at least to us.  Admittedly, when I heard Jean Haines say that, I figured I’d probably not be one of those pioneers.  But now, here is a discovery indeed—a mutation of Isopropyl Alcohol Magic.

If life were to get any more exciting, I don’t believe I’d be able to handle it!  🙂

Margaret L. Been . . . January, 2014

NOTE:  In “Under the Deep”, alcohol formed the dots, blurs, and blobs.  But the sea-creature type points, prongs, and “flowers” were formulated with my paint brush.

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Always Time for Tea 2

At the start of a new year, I like to take a life inventory—reviewing the past year and setting my future course in light of all I’ve learned from successes and failures.  In the area of art making, the possibilities for growth are endless.  I will never learn it all, and thus I’m free to thoroughly savor the process!

Most recently I’m absorbing all I can from DVDs and books by two English watercolorists—Shirley Trevena, and Jean Haines.  I cannot begin to do justice to their art by way of description.  But you can check these fine artists through their URLS:  http://www.shirleytrevena.com/ and http://www.jeanhaines.com/ .

As you will see from her website, Shirley Trevena creates complex transparent layers in her work—carefully glazing over under-layers which are completely dry.  Her drawing skills and grasp of perspective are stellar, but Shirley has a refreshing way of presenting different aspects of her still life paintings from varying angles.  A pitcher may be straight up before your eyes, while the fruit bowl next to the pitcher is tipped on its side so that fruit tumbles out—almost into the lap of the viewer.  I believe this technique of abstracted form and presentation of irregular dimensions began with Cubism.  I find the method tremendously freeing, and it creeps into most of my still life patio scenes—i. e. an iced tea pitcher on the patio floor and an upside down lawn chair precariously dangling from a tree.

From Jean Haines, who also excels at transparent layering and drawing with paint, I’ve discovered the creative freedom of a diagonal wash.  I confess that over the years of experimenting I’ve found the traditional wash method (beginning at the top of the page and systematically working down in horizontal strips of uniform size) just a bit BORING.  Yes, I know; I’m odd!  🙂

Often, Jean begins in an upper corner, and randomly streaks paint diagonally to the bottom of the paper.  She introduces color upon color, letting complements fuse into gorgeous in-between shades.  Then, from the subtle blending of colors, Jean Haines gently begins to extract her subject.  Like Shirley, Jean will often reveal only part of a subject.  Just as Shirley paints fruit which may be missing a bite or two, Jean will delicately allude to the star of her painting:  perhaps a dark nose and one ear buried in fluff, unmistakably representing a small furry dog—or one indigo eye with a white dot and streaks of colorful feathers embellishing her cockerels (which I’m trying to render—see the last entry before today’s).

Both of these fine artists stress unabashed COLOR!  From their time-honored tradition of skillfully muted atmospheric English watercolor painting, these ladies continue their great national heritage by exploding into new areas of vibrant atmospheric color.  Both Shirley Trevena and Jean Haines stress the priorities of slowing down, thinking about each stage, and thoroughly enjoying making one’s very own individual art—different for every person who picks up a brush!

Gather ye rosebuds

Margaret L. Been, January 2014

Note:  My two paintings featured in this entry are:  “Always Time for Tea”, and ” ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds’ “—inspired by Robert Herrick’s poem.

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