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Posts Tagged ‘Fine artist Barbara Nechis’

Blood Moon 1

Two nights ago, around 12:30 a.m., I woke up and as I often do in summer, wandered into our living room to open the patio door and step out to enjoy our nocturnal garden and courtyard.  I was “stun-gunned” by the sight that greeted me:  a blood red moon rising in a bluish purple and red sky, over the wildlife preserve to the east beyond our park.  I should have run for the camera, but—to employ a corny fictional expression—I stood transfixed.

The red moon was not fiction.  In the sky, traces of distant lightning flashed.  Minutes later the lightning moved in close, followed by gentle thunder and a steady, quiet rain which lasted until dawn.  Meanwhile, I went back to bed, thinking the red color had something to do with the stormy atmosphere—not surprising given our infamous SE Wisconsin summer humidity.  The previous day had been a scorcher.

The next day I couldn’t get that mysterious and almost eerie scene out of my mind, and I began trying to capture the experience of that sky at my paint table.  Above is my first attempt.  As I worked, I recalled reading in the Bible about blood moons.  Joel 2:31 states:  “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

Some preachers have connected recent blood moons with immediate fulfillment of the End Times prophecy.  But many diligent Bible scholars agree that this concept does not hold water.  In his 2014-published book, BLOOD MOON RISING, Mark Hitchcock wrote:  “. . . don’t get caught up or carried away in any speculation about some great cataclysmic event in 2015 surrounding the appearance of the blood moons.”

Obviously we are now after the fact of 2015, and although filled with plenty of global tragedy 2015 was very sadly just like many other years—unless you call the appearance of Donald Trump in the political circus a “great cataclysmic event”.  (He may think he is exactly that, but I for one do not.)

Regardless, the sight of a blood moon was a rare privilege which I’ve never before experienced, and may never enjoy again.  I did a bit of GOOGLING on the subject, and see that the June, 2016 phenomenon has something to do with the full moon occurring around summer solstice.  Not being a scientist, I can’t divulge any more than that from what I read—except that the Algonquin Indians called the June full moon the “Strawberry Moon”, not due to color but rather for the obvious reason of ripening strawberries.  That was an understandable and enjoyable bit of information.

Actually the June moon I witnessed did look something like a huge strawberry.  My subsequent attempts to improve the above “start” of a painting are even worse than the first, and I now wish I’d quit while I was ahead.  Here are Blood Moons 2 and 3:

Blood Moon 2

Blood Moon 3

Pretty awful.  I should have known not to round out the moon and create variety in the sky with (of all things) yellow and blue paint.  Those colors on top of the red turned the sky a yucky brown.  Duh!  Yellow and blue make green, and green plus red equals brown!  My great grandkids know that, because I demonstrated it for them.

I’ll keep working on this, and if not satisfied I’ll simply begin again.  Maybe I’ll let it all dry, and then try remedying the mess by adding water soluble oils.  Artist Barbara Nechis shares that she always finishes a painting, even when she knows it isn’t going well.  She finds that working on a perceived failure gives her the freedom to attack it wholeheartedly—and sometimes the results are surprisingly acceptable.  Barbara encourages her readers (and DVD viewers) by adding “It’s only a piece of paper”.   🙂

So I will continue messing about with my piece of paper, or I’ll start a new one of the blood moon.  If I come up with something frame-able, I’ll post it on this blog.  But please do not hold your breathe.  If you never see this effort again, we’ll move on to something else—maybe more flowers.

Wise artist, Barbara Nechis has also said, “When we try to compete with nature, nature always wins.”

Margaret L. Been, June 27th, 2016

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.Beautiful Bouquet for Jamie

Recently our Denver son, Karl, visited us “back East”—in Wisconsin.  He spotted a painting I’d done for his sister, our daughter Debbie,  Rather than continuing to lose you readers in a string of our family connections, I’ll simply state that after seeing the painting, Karl said, “I’d like one like THAT.”

Wonderful!  So satisfying when someone likes your art, right?  But “one like THAT”—similar to, and in the time frame of, the above-pictured rendering–was done three years ago.  Now I’m trying to paint “one like THAT”, but I always come up with something different.

Maybe because of writing articles and stories for magazines and newspapers for decades, I’m sensitive to the ominous significance of plagiarism.  I have always been super cautious not to plagiarize someone else in my work.  Now that visual art has pushed my writing career to the background, I cannot even pick up a paintbrush and plagiarize myself!

Every individual who devotes huge chunks of time to art will attest to the fact that we change and grow.  I’m constantly exposing myself to different and new techniques and styles through books and DVDs.  When too weary at the end of a day to actually work in my studio (a card table in a corner of our bedroom), I immerse myself either in volumes of my beloved mid-to-late 19th century French artists or in the theories and works of present day water-media artists whom I find greatly inspiring:  Cheng-Khee Chee, Charles Reid, Barbara Nechis, Jean Haines, Shirley Trevena, Taylor Ikin, Clare Harrigan, and Karlyn Holman*, to name a few.

Although I never sit down at my art table with an open book or a DVD screen before me, I know that ideas for different approaches seep in through a kind of soul osmosis.  Constantly I enjoy delving and exploring fresh possibilities—even some that I’ve discovered on my own, such as mounding gouache on top of watercolors to achieve a textural effect resembling that of oil on canvas.

Hence I may never able to reproduce “one like THAT”.  But I’ll continue trying, and something will connect!  Scanned and emailed images of various new paintings are bombarding Karl, and when the right one appears on his computer screen he will reply, “Stop!  That’s it!”

One like THAT!

blue and old pottery 2

 

More Equinox

©Margaret L. Been, September 2014

*Many water-media artists tape their paper to a board before beginning to paint.  I prefer not to do this, as I enjoy tipping and wiggling my paper so that colors will run and form beautiful “cauliflowers”.  Some of the paper taping is done simply to prevent 140# cold press watercolor paper from buckling when wet.  Through her teaching, Karlyn Holman demonstrates the perfect solution for that—forever freeing artists for the need to tape their watercolor paper to a board.  Here is Karlyn’s wonderful trick.

Thoroughly wet the back of your finished painting.  Then make a sandwich:  a plastic placemat on a table or counter; clean paper toweling over the placemat; the painting face down on the paper toweling; another layer of paper toweling on top of the painting’s wet back; another layer of plastic placemat or whatever; and a large book, or several books, to weight down the sandwich.

Leave the sandwich overnight, and voila.  A perfectly flat painting.  If the watercolor paper is still damp, I repeat the sandwich process (omitting the wetting stage of course) until the painting is dry enough to mat.  COOL!  Thank you, Karlyn.  Wisconsin people are indeed brilliant!!!  🙂 )

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Winged Life 1

“It is well to have some water in your neighborhood, to give buoyancy and to float the earth.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

We Wisconsin natives are akin to water.  Forming a border on three sides of our state (Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and “Old Man River”—the Mississippi) water defines whom we are, to a great degree.  I grew up with water—a friendly creek at the base of my family’s property, a summer lake home, the gorgeous Black River bluffs outside my grandparents’ door, water/water/water.

For eight years Joe and I lived full time on a quiet flowage with the Big Elk River just around the corner from our bay.  A favorite summer pastime of mine was to take my paddle boat, a book, suntan lotion and plenty of iced tea plus peanut butter and jelly sandwiches up the river where I dozed, read, swam, and ate my lunch.  The latter was a bit foolish, due to a plethora of black bears nearly as abundant as water in the vicinity.  As the years passed, we got more savvy about bears and Joe put a stop to my solitary picnics—but I could still paddle upstream, read, doze, and swim.

Now we live not on water, but surrounded by lakes and rivers in the unique Lake Country of Southern Wisconsin.  A considerable benefit of water proximity is the abundance of winged water life:  an abundance we enjoy every single day from March through mid-November.  Great blue heron, sandhill cranes, Canada geese. and many kinds of ducks fly over constantly, along with additional shorebirds such as sandpipers and egrets.

Along with these seasonal neighbors, our little garden and patio area host year round friends—cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, etc., and summer residents:  Baltimore orioles, mourning doves, robins, and those occasional warblers which stop enroute to northern nesting sites.  And throughout the year, we watch nature’s undertakers—the turkey vultures soaring with their frayed wings over the woods beyond the park, while scouting for a decaying meal.

Winged life is as much of whom we are as the water which surrounds us.  Thus it follows that birds appear in my art, along with water and wild woods.  Also, frequently present are something we do not have in Wisconsin but rather are native to my “home away from home” state—Colorado.  Obviously, that “something” would be mountains.  We paint what we love!  For me that also includes clouds and mist hanging over the water, woods, mountains, or whatever.

Just as we writers have a voice, ever developing as we live and grow, artists also speak through their work. I began in 2006—trying to paint realistic scenes which were at best colorful, but at worst totally humdrum and thoroughly uninspired.  I’ve saved many of the early renderings, and I can’t get over how unoriginal they are.

Not skillful enough to produce a beautiful photo-realistic scene (which I greatly admire from fine artists!) it was only when I cut the fetters that had bound me to standard, realistic shapes and colors that I realized I actually do have an artist’s voice.  Through books and DVDs, fine artists Barbara Nechis and (Wisconsin’s own) Karlyn Holman encouraged me to cut loose and sing!  With my one and only true “strength” which is color, this was (and is!) possible.

When I paint what I love, invariably someone else will love it as well.*  Time and again, I’ve offered a family member to choose from a group of paintings and he or she will pick what I like best.  For 2 summers now, I’ve presented to a jury—to select paintings for inclusion in a summer exhibit at our local arts center; and each time the jury has chosen the paintings I prefer.  I would never paint primarily to please others, but it seems a given that when we please ourselves others are pleased as well!

So curvilinear shapes of birds, trees, mountains, and flowers are continually surfacing—those things I love best.  Having been translated from years of living in a semi-wild environment to a suburban locale, occasional abstractions of buildings and bridges will appear.  But nearly always, these traces of man’s ingenuity float among masses of curvilinear shapes—often the shapes of winged life!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

*Note:  often when painting what I love, I think of a late fine artist in oils who painted what he loved—while amassing a fortune because so many others (including the Walt Disney Company) loved his work.  Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” came to a tragic end.  Yet his art tells me that despite his very human failings, he had a beautiful soul!

From blog browsing I’ve discovered that Kinkade’s paintings are controversial.  Many object because they are either:  1) too realistic; 2) not realistic enough; 3) too idealistic; 4) not credible because one cannot tell where the light is coming from; 5) too commercialized; 6) ugly because they are popular; 7) not ugly enough (this critic believes that “real” art should be ugly because he believes that life itself is ugly); and 8) on and on ad nauseum.

I’m working hard on trying not to get unnecessarily angry,  but these comments have taxed my resolve to the max.  Although Kinkade’s art is not what I would choose to adorn my home, I believe that a valid function of the fine arts is to rise above the mundane while attempting to express a beauty intended for man before he (or she!) bit into that apple.  My belief stands unaltered by the stupid criticisms listed above.  Each artist has his or her personal concept of beauty, but striving for beauty is certainly a worthy raison d’être!

I question whether or not those critiquing Kinkade’s work are actually artists.  My exposure to the art world has revealed to me a tremendous spirit of love and acceptance among those involved because:  1) making art is never easy, although it may look easy to the uninitiated viewer; and 2) every artist should be considered free to make art as they see life. 

This spirit of love and acceptance has also caused me to realize that a penchant for beauty need not be the driving force behind all who make art.  Showing life as it really is in this fallen world is also valid, along with showing even the ugliness of some people’s “reality”—whether or not I like that kind of art.

Some critics maintain that Kinkade was not a “real artist” because he was intensely popular during his career.  He has been called a “hack”—a term normally applied to writers who produce for profit.

Hello, critics.  Have you ever heard of William Shakespeare?  I rest my case, although I might add, perhaps you “. . . doth protest too much, methinks.”  Shakespeare’s HAMLET, Act III, scene II.

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I love music, and the music I favor varies with my mood.  Some days are just right for Pavaratti, Yo-Yo Ma, or most any Philharmonic.  On other occasions my ethnic roots surface, and only Celtic will do. 

Drums and skirling pipes stir me to a point where I visualize my Campbell of Argyl ancestors pacing and piping with that characteristic dignity and reserve known to few outside the Scottish Highlands.  I’m so enamored with the pipes, that I’ve prematurely (I think, anyway) procured a piper to play “Amazing Grace” for my going-home celebration. 

We have a sizable library of Irish CDs.  A thoughtful mindset calls for poignant ballads, best rendered via harp.  We have several harpists on discs.  The ambience of harp music has a way of transporting the listener to another world.

Rollicking, high energy days call for the Chieftans, the Irish Rovers, or the Clancy Brothers.  Their ballads include accounts of pubs, pretty wenches, that famous Irish anesthesia—whiskey, travelers bound for “Cali – forn – I – aye” (in search of gold, no doubt), and lovers wandering hand in hand beside rivers and green woods. 

Recently I was making art in the evening.  I decided I wanted to paint autumn, because that’s where we are at the moment.  I tried to focus on red, gold, and orange—with a little terra cotta and burgundy thrown in—attempting to capture the brightest autumn imaginable, vibrant with sugar maples.  But for some reason, my brush kept making forays into the greens on the palette—or sometimes into yellows and blues.  My masterpiece in process kept jumping out of season—recalling summer.

Why did this happen?  It dawned on me that a melody and lyrics had been rolling in my head all day, and the music continued to roll as I painted.  I’d played the Clancy Brothers that morning, to provide a peppy background and beat for a day of spinning some gorgeous wool roving into yarn.  Consequently my mind kept echoing:  “He whistled and he sang till the green woods rang, and he won the heart of a lady.”

The result of such a brainwashing simply had to be green woods!  And here it is, on that amazing YUPO® paper.  🙂

Fine artist Barbara Nechis warns against “self-plagiarism”—in other words, painting the same scene or object over and over.  I’ve wondered if I am doing that with my plethora of trees, rocks, and rivers.  But I paint what I love, and I’m in good company.  Claude Monet certainly repeated himself with water lilies and haystacks.

Obviously, as Nechis points out, the solution for painting in series is to vary each rendering so that one is saying something new about the subject with each work:  using different colors and shapes, and striving for a diversified mood with each painting. 

There is no reason why trees have to be grey/black/brownish.  They can be purple, pink, or blue.  Leaves don’t have to be green in summer and red/yellow/gold in autumn.  They can be lavender or black.  I’ve painted fiery red waters (the Shenendoah River actually is red), green and burgundy skies, and every available color of rock. 

If only children, from 2 years old to 90, could realize that we are FREE when we pick up a paintbrush!  If we are truly free in our art making, we can constantly repeat ourselves with impunity!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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After six years of direct painting either on wet or dry paper, I’m finally developing the courage to tackle the essence of traditional watercolor art—transparent layering.  Up until recent weeks, any forays into layering that I did were accidental—and if these attempts yielded anything better than the artist’s dreaded “mud”, then they were the quintessential “happy accidents”.

Perhaps I’m a bit thick headed!  It has taken years of constant immersion in books and DVDs—especially by watercolorists Barbara Nechis and Wisconsin’s own Karlyn Holman just for me to decide to focus on layering.  What a satisfying focus!  The subtle nuances of the initial wash shining through subsequent layers of varying color is a never ending source of surprise and delight.  One never knows what will emerge, and each painting is different from the last.

There are some guiding principles for the process:  thin layers of transparent paint work best, with gradual rather than radical color variations, and each layer must be thoroughly dry before applying another.  Some artists speed up the drying with a hair dryer.  I simply move on to another project, and give each wash more than enough time to dry.  It’s fun to go from painting, to soap making, to knitting, to my piano, to a good book.  After all, the name of my stage in life is LEISURE WITH NO STRESS—and that’s a wonderful thing!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how beautiful a city scene can be, when venerable old (or tasteful new) architecture is accented by gardens and the natural life which abounds therein.  Years ago, my husband and I traveled 2200 miles of back roads in Scotland, Wales, and England—staying at sheep farms along the way.  On the last day of our vacation we took a train from the village of Dorking to London, a journey of about an hour.  As the train catapulted (British trains do exactly that!) through back alleys of London residential neighborhoods, I was totally charmed by the gardens complete with picturesque potting sheds in even the tiniest back yards.  The plethora of vines and plantings pressed against old buildings (some being centuries old!) was a sight I love to recall. 

From that day on, I’ve passionately loved the English garden look—not those formal, ostentatiously groomed plantings on the large English estates but rather the cozy “cottage gardens” which ramble in profusion outside back doors of country and city homes across the UK.  When delineated by stonework, a wall, some fencing, or some other architectural detail, the cottage gardens exude a timeless sense of nostalgia and ambience. 

I have created the cottage garden look outside my own door with perennials, culinary herbs, and “garden art”, and this is the kind of garden I love to paint.  Hence the above rendering, the most multi-layered watercolor I’ve done to this date.  Things are finally clicking inside my skull, and I think I’m “getting it” at last!  🙂

My favorite part of the above painting is the shading of hues above and within the arc which represents some kind of architectural detail.  But I also like the “in your face” flowers which shout at you from the foreground.  These were painted in gouache, that wonderful opaque watercolor which builds texture similar to oils and acrylics but does not destroy one’s precious high quality watercolor brushes!

I like to say I am 1/2 Celt, as my mother’s family surnames were either Scottish or Irish.  But according to my records, many of these ancestors married people with English names—Blake, Wood, Soper, etc.  So it figures that I immediately felt at home when I discovered the English cottage garden, and have been (at least mentally) living in one ever since!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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In her book, WATERCOLOR FROM WITHIN, fine artist Barbara Nechis writes about starting a painting without having any particular plan or goal in mind.  She sometimes begins by making a shape on the paper, following up with more shapes, eliminating strokes that she doesn’t want to save, and continuing until the paint and water suggest a subject.

What a fun, “win-win” way to work!  With no expectations, there can be no disappointments!  I’m currently disciplining myself to use 140# watercolor paper on a regular basis, in addition to the YUPO paper which I am daft over—so that I won’t forget how to work on genuine rag paper. 

Last night I used Barbara’s technique of just letting the subject happen—a method that works beautifully on YUPO because one can always wash off the undesirable blotches.  On watercolor paper, it’s trickier and far more challenging to convert less than wonderful brush strokes into something we can live with.  You can see the result of my playful labors, above.  I began with the petal thingy in the center, and to begin with it was too “petal-y” and too red to suit me at that moment.  Then I added yellow, to mellow it out.  (Mellow yellow.)

The right side of the petal thingy really offended me—so I sought to cover part of it with permanent magenta, and then a swipe of dioxazine violet.  I went a little batty then, and waved my brush hither and thither—creating more “petals” and those pointy/streakies which I love so much—covering lackluster areas with layers of different colors.

At first glance at the finished work, I thought—oh, it’s just a bunch of flower shapes.  But then the light dawned.  Forgive the pun.  My painting reminded me of something that goes off half cocked (another pun) at dawn.  Here’s a clue, if you don’t see the subject with your own eyes:  Once upon a time I had a bunch of these (live critters) and they went off half cocked every dawn—driving some of our suburban neighbors to distraction.

I named this amazing bit of fun “. . . the dawn’s early light”.  (I thought of naming it “Oh say can you hear by the dawn’s early light?”, but was leery of being disrespectful of our nation’s flag.)

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Even though I will always consider myself a student and a “beginning artist”, my favorite books by artists are not the beginner’s “how to” books.  These are generic in content, and they often infer that there is “one way” to do art.  The basic and necessary info on how to run a wash, dry brush vs. wet on dry or wet on wet, plus the properties and characteristics of various paints, papers, and brushes, constitute only a few pages in any book—and those instructions may be found online, involving the printing out of perhaps 2 or 3 sheets of paper.  The basics do not warrant the price of purchasing an entire book, if that book is limited in scope.

Most of the material in a beginner’s “how to” book demonstrates how that particular author/artist puts a painting together, as if his or her method were set in stone.  The most typical approach is to draw a picture with a pencil, and then paint in the picture.  While I have never been claustrophobic in elevators or caves, I confess to wanting to scream and run when I look inside a “how to” book that stresses some sort of method of painting within lines.*  The line technique may produce a predictable look, but that look is simply not my heart’s desire.  For me it would be about as creative and individualistic as messing around with a “paint by number” kit.  The only way I can negotiate lines is to draw them for starters, and then ignore them by painting over (and outside) them!

The art books I love are in a special class by themselves.  They are deeply readable with profound insights on which to chew, and I read them over and over and over every single week of my life.  Rather than feeling trapped, I want to be challenged and recharged—eager to explore more, experiment more, try more, dream and imagine more, and push out any preconceived walls that might threaten to enclose me.   

The “how to” book presents recipes, and of course recipes have their place—especially in baking, where chemistry is involved.  But a thought provoking art book will progress beyond recipes, into the infinitely exciting and challenging world of ideas.  The “how to” art book will show you how to paint like someone else, but a meaty art book will encourage you to paint like you!

In an earlier post I mentioned WATERCOLOR FROM THE HEART—by fine artist, Barbara Nechis.  This book details the author’s philosophy of art, her sources of inspiration, and many samples of her exquisite paintings along with a description of different techniques she employs—with the idea of inspiring other artists to experiment and venture into their own uncharted territory:  in essence, to find that personal “voice”.  So helpful is this book to me, that I wish I could personally thank its author for the exilarating sense of freedom I derive from reading it.

Another treasure in my art library is A PASSION FOR WATERCOLOR—Painting the Inner Experience, by Stefan Draughon.  Like WATERCOLOR FROM THE HEART, Stefan Draughon’s book delineates her journey in finding her own way and discovering her very own art. 

Finally ABSTRACT AND COLOUR TECHNIQUES IN PAINTING, by Clare Harrigan is a gem which I read again and again.  Don’t be fooled by the word “techniques” in the book’s title.  The word far exceeds “how to”; rather it explores many dimensions of seeing, understanding, and expressing in terms of a variety of media—ultimately leading to the discovery of personal “techniques” which may or may not be considered, according to the reader’s choice. 

These favorite books along with DVDs—DANCING WITH YUPO DVD by Taylor Ikin, and WATERCOLOR FROM WITHIN by Barbara Nechis—comprise my ongoing Art Study Program.  More resources may be added as I find them, along with inspiring biographies of well known artists from the past.

I know that basics are important.  We need to learn the rudiments in order to develop skill—in art, and most everything else in life.  Techniques are worth studying.  But we should never be in bondage to someone else’s idea of what works in art.  That’s where reading way beyond the beginner’s “how to” book is essential.  Each artist is unique, every means of expression is individual, and every style is personal.  My reading must augment all that is in me to produce work which is totally my own—unique, individual, and personal—so that I can continue to derive tremendous soul satisfaction from making art! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*I believe that most every child has an innate art spirit.  But teachers and parents who instruct eager children to paint or color within the lines compromise one of the greatest deterrents to human creativity. 

I know people who absolutely WILL NOT pick up a paint brush simply because they were scolded as youngsters, for “going out of the lines”.  Due to negative feedback in early years, these adults are bunged up and terrified to try anything which is not prescribed, dictated, or specifically outlined with “how to” instructions from another person.  The bunged up person has never known the joy of escaping from a potentially soul-destructive box!

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