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Posts Tagged ‘Collage art’

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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Traces 1

What a glorious time of year!  For a glimpse into how I experience our Northern springtime, you can access my Northern Reflections Blog.

Every vernal equinox floods my being with a freshly renewed appetite for poetry, and now for art as well.  I want to view art, immerse myself in art, and make art—so decidedly that I’d much rather make than bake!  (That is a good thing, as my husband is diabetic!)

At the moment I’m painting between intervals of getting acquainted with my new laptop.  It’s kind of like moving into a new-to-me house.  Now you may say, “Yes, but blogging on the internet is the same no matter which computer you use.”  That is partially true.  In fact, last week while I was computer-less I produced a blog entry on my I-Pad.  That was hilarious!

But blogging is becoming a challenge, rather than a relaxing piece of cake.  The WordPress geniuses (bless their hearts) have come up with what they think is an easier and more efficient format.  Quite frankly, it is HORRIBLE!  (Please, if any of you techies are reading this, consider keeping your original layout for bloggers!)

Today the original layout is available, but there are times when only the “new and approved” work page comes up.  Sitting at a computer for three hours when I’d rather be painting or sitting outdoors in the sun is simply the limit—not to mention (although I am mentioning) a dickey spine and other orthopedic issues which demand frequent variety of body motion.

But enough of computer talk, which to me is the epitome of boring conversation.  Let’s talk about the sounds, sights, and colors of Spring.  After producing a plethora of paintings throughout January and February, it dawned on me that my palette was getting darker and darker.  Like winter in my soul—which I never desire to have!

So I cleaned out the remnants of dark, and created a palette of light:  the colors of Spring.  Leaving segments of white paper as I paint assures me of a bright outlook.  But where darkness threatens to take over, there is always gouache.  Gouache is the watercolorist’s “911”—ever handy in most any art emergency.

What an apt metaphor—the 911 of gouache.  As you will see when you read my Northern Reflections Blog, poetry prevails in Spring.  Forever as I wrote poems over the years, I endeavored to make them “painterly” with colorful visuals via words.  Now I’m striving to make my paintings poetic, encouraging ideas and figurative language to leap out from the colors on my palette.

Spring in Wisconsin!  For this passionately headlong, invigorating, and mindlessly blithery moment I ask to be absolved of having to make sense!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, Spring 2015

Traces 2

And as the world spins, “Cats” will flourish in our beautiful Wisconsin swamps. ↓

The Cats Are Out!

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IF

When we lived up north a decade ago, I was part of a local writers’ group.  One of the members was an artist, and he had paintings on display in an area hospital.  At the time I thought that was the ultimate.  How wonderful for this man, how amazing!  I was totally absorbed in writing and self-publishing my book of essays and poems, A TIME UNDER HEAVEN.  It never entered my head that in just a few months I would pick up a paint brush, and consequently begin an entirely new life adventure.

I’d always enjoyed visual art and thought I would love to paint, but I kept telling myself I didn’t have any talent.  Upon mentioning this to my friend Dee, she said “Why don’t you just do it?”.  Something snapped that day, and I decided who cares about “talent”?  I’m just going to have fun!

When we moved to Southern Wisconsin, I joined PAAC—the Pewaukee Area Arts Council, a group which promotes many disciplines including photography, creative writing, and music.  I had thought my thrust would be what it always has been, writing and especially poetry.  But one meeting called for participants to bring paintings for Show and Tell.  A couple of artist members honed in on my watercolors and urged me forward.  To this day, I’m grateful for that encouragement*—and to my friend, Dee, who gave me an initial shove!

Currently, along with other PAAC visual artists, I have paintings on exhibition in four locales:  a chiropractic clinic, a bank, a family restaurant, and an area hospice.  We change our work every three months, to accommodate the new season.  This miracle (I will always consider it that!) benefits me in two ways:

1)  The gallery opportunities keep me painting purposefully nearly every day, a work which I enjoy immensely and find infinitely refreshing.  My desire is to hang something new every single time, in every place, rather than rotate a painting from one site to another—something I could do if necessary but would rather not.

2)  The paintings are growing larger!  Whereas my max was previously 16″ x 20″ (outside mat size), I’m now venturing into 20″ x 24″.  One of the gallery sites contains a long, high wall.  The 11″ x 14″ renderings which I happily hang in our home might get lost in that exhibition.  Larger pieces are appropriate for the other galleries as well.  And BIG is FUN!

Were paintings to exceed 20″ x 24″, I could work at our son Eric’s office in nearby Waukesha.  There I have a door on filing cabinets, all to myself.  So far I’ve used that resource for messy acrylics, collages, and water soluble oils, which I do very sparingly in the limited space at home in our carpeted bedroom.  Eric has hung a couple of the collages on his theretofore bare walls, to my great satisfaction.  (The approval of one’s family members is best of all!)

The above watercolor and gouache, “Sunspeak”, is “hot off the palette”, and framed in a 20″ x 24″ ready-made dark blue frame.  Beautiful ready-made frames are available at the BEN FRANKLIN store a few miles from our door.  Colorful frames have consistently dominated our walls at home, but suddenly I began to crave the mellow warmth of wood—maybe because we’ve had winter/winter/winter around here since early November.

Now my husband and I have begun to explore the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store (actually there are two of them close by) where we find lovely wooden frames for the proverbial song.   A measuring tape has taken up permanent residence in my handbag, and we search and measure at least once a week.  Joe removes the backing—paper or thin board, staples, whatever, and secures the hanging wires on the frames.  I line each frame up in Joe’s work area—either vertically or horizontally so he knows which way to attach the wire.

Here’s a sample of a recent painting presented in a St. Vinnee’s frame:

Wood Frame 1

My art is a series of baby steps, I know.  There are real artists out there with real training and real ability!  But every little baby step is a MIRACLE!

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

*NOTE:  I can’t say enough about the value of encouragement.  I’m continually amazed by the generosity of artists I’ve met—people whose work far exceeds my wildest dream.  Quite honestly, I didn’t always experience encouragement from fellow writers; my writing approbation came from contests, sales to magazines, and from people who enjoyed reading what I wrote.

I’ve often pondered why that should be so.  Perhaps writers tend to be more introspective than a lot of people and thereby preoccupied with whatever they are thinking.  I admit I’ve been that way at times—especially when processing the deeper things in life.  But to encourage another person is such a joy!  I’ve basked in that joy through teaching writing classes over the years.

Like writers, visual artists are tuned in to the world around them—to seeing and experiencing.  But then writers must retreat into the process of distilling their gleanings into words.  Words are miracles too,  But writing is a LONELY craft, at best—and it does demand periods of detachment.  We may be satisfied with our words, while wondering if anyone else will ever read them.  And maybe no one ever will—thus the conduit to sharing is severed.

Conversely, artists translate their impressions into explosions of shapes and color.  Regardless of level of expertise or lack of it, these visuals provide gratification.  We are tremendously fulfilled when we are pleased with our colors and shapes.  We can SEE our work, and others can see it as well.  Varieties of art are endless; each one of us is unique.  This very fact, plus the perk of seeing with our eyes, may create a glorious freedom to encourage others, and be encouraged!

Now isn’t the introspective writer coming out in this discourse?!  Gnawing, ruminating, analyzing, processing thoughts into intangible words?!  No wonder we writers can become ingrown toenails, even oblivious.  Time to go back to the palette and let the colors fly.  🙂

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Swamp Fire

Awhile back I experienced a kind of “painter’s block” where I felt like I would never again be able to paint anything which might serve to slightly elevate my very low blood pressure, let alone anyone else’s.  This has happened to me fairly regularly over the past six years in which I’ve been making art.  Because I love art with a passion, I refuse to give up where my painting is concerned and I’ve discovered ways to boost my psyche out of any potential creativity block.

Along with “keeping on keeping on”, it helps immeasurably to add a new medium or avenue of expression to the art-making so that the process never becomes routine.  I have no desire to become stylized by reproducing cookie-cutter, look-alike work; hence I’ve added gouache to my watercolor stash and periodically I produce collages from a large collection of saved “everything” in terms of visual appeal, textural quality, and treasured memorabilia.  A new-to-me paint color, often from a new-to-me manufacturer, is another exciting form of recharging my art batteries and crashing through the artist’s block.

DVDs and books by artists are an ongoing source of inspiration to me.  I view and read them over and over, constantly finding something fresh and applicable.  Hence I have not one but many teachers.  Recently I received an absolute no-fail “block-buster” via a new-to-me DVD, by a new-to-me artist/art instructor:  British watercolorist, Ann Blockley.

Ms Blockley’s love for nature springs to life through her exquisite paintings achieved with a variety of methods.  She uses acrylic ink, oil pastels, and other materials in her work, reflecting a vitality and sense of beauty in the smallest details of nature alongside a background of landscape bordering on abstract forms which I find tremendously compelling.

Ann’s color choices leap over any possible boundaries which might threaten to confine a painter enamored with, or driven by, objective realism.  Much as I appreciate the incredible skill represented in realistic art, my head and heart are stirred by work that overcomes those boundaries—work that embodies mystery and stirs the imagination.  If I want realism, I enjoy photography—another fantastic art.

In her DVD, Ann Blockley stresses what most artist’s value:  painting what we love, from our experience.  Although Ann paints in her studio (a charming antique outbuilding surrounded by her lush garden on her English country property) she gathers inspiration in time spent outdoors with nature in all seasons.  She sometimes sketches details which capture her interest when walking, and gathers information concerning subject matter to develop in her studio—along with branches of seed pods, leaves, and flowers which bring nature indoors.

I feel akin to this artist, as I never never can go for a walk without bringing in something:  pine cones, some fallen nuts (even just nutshells cleaned out and abandoned by squirrels), stones, leaves, dried on the branch flowers, etc.  Our visiting great-grandchildren love to sort through my numerous stones and rocks—plus shells that I’ve collected myself on inland beaches along with gorgeous ocean shells which have been given to me by friends who spend time on ocean beaches.  Thus, after viewing the Blockley DVD a few times, the above rendering of a swamp emerged.  Like THE GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST, I have always loved swamps, and Joe and I were privileged to live overlooking a Northern Wisconsin swamp for several years.

So thanks to one more British artist, I have leaped over another incident of artist’s block and I’m re-energized—raring to go on.  My list of favorite and most inspirational water media teachers, through books and DVDs, has grown again.  The list includes one Canadian artist, one American, and four from Britain.  Those stats tell me that since the venerable art of watercolor painting (or rather watercolour) was long-ago perfected in England, we “colonists” can be eternally grateful for our heritage!!!  I know that I am!!!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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Castle at Oban, County Argyll #2

Have you ever noticed the plethora of paintings that abound at garage sales, resale shops, and sometimes even in an antique mall?  These works, often created by people like you and me (home-grown, everyday artists as opposed to those who are world class or at least widely known) may be sold for anywhere from $15.00 to 75 cents by the artist himself or some family member who simply doesn’t have space (or an inclination) for “Grandma’s art”—or whatever else it might be.

I have purchased a lot of these works at rummages, and I’m always happy to make room for them in our home—even if it’s a bit of floor space against a cabinet or desk.  I marvel at the skill represented in “rummage art”, and always wonder why it’s up for grabs at a ridiculous price rather than adorning someone’s wall, or standing in the studio of its still-producing creator.

Perhaps in many of these cases, the artist just quit making art.  Somewhere along the line he or she lost interest in the process—while quite possibly thinking:  “I’ll never be “good enough”; so why bother?”

Most artists (whether well known or otherwise) agree that given an absolute passion for making art and access to good quality materials, anyone can be an artist!  Of course along with the passion and the materials, one must be willing to devote time—lots of time—to one’s chosen medium of expression.

Likewise, most painters agree that every artist encounters periods of self-doubt—days when nothing goes right in the studio, and times of incriminating flashbacks where we consider a previously accomplished piece far superior to anything we are producing at the moment.  In my life-long discipline and profession of writing, this experience is called:  “Writer’s Block”.

As a writer, what have I done with Writer’s Block?  I’ve gone right on writing.  Thus, with what we can call “Painter’s Block”, I am determined to go right on painting—regardless of whether or not my chimes (or anyone else’s) are ringing over the work in progress.  There are ways to deal with the dry spells, and sometimes even prevent them.  Here are a few:

1)  Periodically invest in new-to-you colors of paint, from different manufacturers.  There is nothing like squeezing a generous blob of fresh, gooey paint from a brand new tube onto one’s palette, to give a person a kick in the rear (reminiscent of the commercial for V-8 Juice®).

2)  On “down days”, generate prints from your computer file of your own scanned-in art.  I produce lots of 3″ x 5″ prints, and affix them to artist quality blank stationery by Strathmore—a fine company located right here the Fox River Valley Paper Kingdom of Wisconsin.  I rarely buy commercial greeting cards or stationery anymore, as I have a huge inventory of art to share.

3)  Try a different technique, paint medium, or variety of art.  Periodically I branch out into gouache, and get excited all over again with its possibilities in combo with transparent watercolors.  On days when the watercolors don’t flow the way I want them to, I may move to my collage table and get atrociously messy with acrylics paints and mediums plus my bins full of saved “everything under the sun”—from Oriental papers, cheesecloth, feathers, sequins, ribbons, family photos, dried flowers and leaves, symphony programs, theatre tickets, wedding invitations, old letters, and scraps of yarn—to dog hair.

Recently I ordered a set of Winsor & Newton water soluble oils.  This is tremendously exciting, as traditional oils are off-limits to my tetchy breathing apparatus.  Scientists have discovered a method of changing the molecular structure of the oil base (linseed oil, most likely) so that “oil paints” will dissolve in and clean up with water!  No turp, no toxic fumes.

4)  Take out a dud which you very fortunately neglected to file in your trash bin.  (Some flops are worth saving, for reworking.)  The above-pictured example was a really stressed out piece of Arches 140 lb. cold press paper—apparently “ruined” on both sides with failed attempts at a landscape.  I had one more go at vigorously scrubbing* the paper, removing all but faint tints of the paint.  (Arches holds up remarkably under such abuse—whereas some other brands of 140 lb. paper will not).

Due to the scrubbing, virtually all of the sizing was removed from the paper, creating a totally different effect from work on fresh, clean Arches cold press.  Without sizing, there is no resist and the paint soaks and soaks.  Therefore any paint containing sediment is apt to look more “sedimentary” with this process; the paint soaks away and the sediment remains—along with the scribble scrabbles of fiber which surface when you were destroy your paper.  Never mind all that.  Just keep plugging along, to see what will happen!

Not all my duds are as satisfying when reworked as this one, which is called “Castle at Oban”—because it recalls a trip my husband and I made to my ancestral home of Argyll.  Scrubbing the living daylights out of paper can create a total mess, but my Scottish Castle turned out to be kind of moody.  I like it.  It enabled me to work through Painter’s Block, and the very next day I created a work that truly delighted my heart.  Here it is:  Kingdom at Sea”.  I must have castles on the brain—and probably beautiful Scotland as well!

*A fantastic aid for scrubbing out paint, is the MR. CLEAN “Magic Eraser”®.  This unbelievable product removes stains and spots from all over the home, as well as on art paper.  My husband says, “It’s just a sponge.”  But I never knew a sponge could do what MR. CLEAN accomplishes with his “Magic Eraser”!

Kingdom at Sea

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Keeper of the Cave

Over the past seven years, I’ve accumulated a sizable library of art books and DVDs—some to which I refer constantly, year after year, and some that I shelve or give away after a couple of readings or viewings.  Certain qualificatons are common to those resources which I keep for reviewing:  1) My “keepers” are more focused on the history and various philosophies of art than on one person’s step by step “How To” instructions; 2) The resources I treasure are normally not into strictly accurate photo-realism; and 3) Artists which resonate with me are those with an “art value system” similar to mine. 

None of the above criteria are intended as a judgment of skill or the lack of it.  Obviously, most artists and instructors who have authored books and DVDs are vastly talented, experienced, and professional—far beyond any level which I will ever hope to achieve.  Rather, my choices of keepers as opposed to non-keepers deal with personal preferences and (I have to admit) a wee bit of subjective prejudice.

The hot-off-the-palette painting pictured here is a case in point concerning my #3 qualification per the factor of art value system.  A recently purchased DVD provided a demonstration of painting breathtakingly beautiful rushing rivers and textured rocks.  I ordered this disc because I love rivers and rocks.  Along with trees, mountains, sunsets, flowers, and fruit, rivers and rocks are about as representational as I get—and I do not represent any of these very accurately. 

I learned a lot about creating texture from the case-in-point DVD, and will probably play it again; however one detail presented by the artist placed the demonstration outside (or at least on the fringes of) my art value system.  To paraphrase, the artist said, “Beware of critters that tend to surface when you are painting with watercolors on a wet surface.  Go over your work carefully to make sure that no critters have appeared—and if they have, be sure to paint them out.”

Okay, I thought!  Here we part ways.  I love critters, both real and imaginery, and one of the many things I’m passionate about in artmaking is the tendency of critters to appear on wet paper.  Yes, I go over my work carefully while looking for critters.  But I do not eradicate them; I capitalize on them—building upon them and, as in the above scenario, adding further definition. 

Adding detail is especially easy on YUPO® paper, which I’ve used in this instance.  The paint does not soak into the surface, as it would do on watercolor paper (which is not actually paper, but instead cotton or linen).  While floating on the hard, shiny YUPO, paint is free to wander hither and thither—diffusing into nearby paint, doing its own thing, and frequently birthing critters which can be readily developed to maturity.

“The Keeper of the Cave”, as the star of this entry’s art is called, first materialized in the form of a long tail and a face.  That’s all.  But it wasn’t long before he (or she, but I think it’s a “he”) acquired ears and a lumpy body with a semblance of feet.  One of his dishes was apparent immediately, before I went in and refined the painting.  But I gave him another dish.  Maybe one is for food and the other for water.  Then there seem to be some gemstones in The Keeper’s cave, and also sunlight from an outside entrance—possibly positioned in front of the painting where you and I (the viewers) are sitting or standing.  We’ll have to duck to one side so that we won’t block his sunlight.

My husband thinks this painting is “a little weird”, and you may as well.  That’s okay.  🙂  But I really like it.  I think the critter is rather sweet.  He’s a Keeper!

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