Posts Tagged ‘Monet’

Ever beautiful in my eyes, are collages which tell a story solely through color and texture.  There is something wonderful about art that doesn’t have to hide behind glass.  I finish my collages with an acrylic gloss medium, so they will last for at least many decades—and probably centuries.

A couple of years ago, an older woman who had been painting most of her life challenged my proclivity for imaginative art.  She said, “There is so much beauty out there.  Why would you want to paint anything other than a scene as it really is?”

I could have answered, “How wonderful that you can replicate nature exactly as it is.  I didn’t think even the most sophisticated cameras could do that!”  But my childhood training in graciousness would undoubtedly have stopped me.

Most of my abstractions contain enough familiar shapes to provide clues of reality.  Actually, I enjoy making some representational art as well.  On occasion I like to paint still lifes, cityscapes, or tree-lined country roads.  When I’m very tired, or when my disintegrating back rachets me out of bed late in the evening, I’ll seek refuge in painting a vase of flowers or the familiar territory of my patio garden.  There will invariably be a touch of fantasy, whimsy, or color that nature never intended—but the finished painting will clearly say “Flowers” or “Patio Garden”. 

My off-the-wall fantasy emerges on days when I’m supercharged.  Invariably, it is the off-the-wall renderings that please me the most.  They broadcast LIFE, ENERGY, COLOR, and FREEDOM—those inner qualities that keep me believing I’m young even when my family and doctors know better.

In any art conversation, we need to delineate between “art” and “ART“!  Lower case art is what I do—at entry level, of course.  Lower case art is what I see in our local galleries.  Lower case art exists at many levels—the bottom strata of beginners like I am, and the advanced layer of veterans who price their work in four digits on the left side of the period.

Then there is ART—those paintings hanging in museums which I’ll probably never visit in person.  I visit this kind of ART online, or via magazines, and I’m thrilled to shreds.  Given the size alone of much fine ART, a real life viewing might finish me off. 

Regarding upper case ART, I favor those works which somehow augment or supplement reality.  Monet was a master at turning gardens and ponds into breathtaking fragments of light and color; to me, his work is the ultimate in excellence and appeal.  But there are realists who move me to the bone as well.  Andrew Wyeth’s poignant “Christina’s World” is heartbreakingly sensitive, and I believe it ranks among the world’s greatest ART.  

We artists are known to grow, and sometimes change in the process.  We may use a brush indoors today, or pour our paint outside and spray it with a garden hose tomorrow.  We may paint barns one year, and strange creatures from the bottom of the ocean in the next.  We may paint a dog that looks like a dog, or—in my case—dogs that look more like people.  That may be because I’ve always viewed my dogs as people.  But that’s totally beside the point!  🙂

“Art” and “ART“!  There’s room enough on our planet for all of it—and for all artists, whether we are representational, moderately expressionistic, or thoroughly off-the-wall!  We should never have to defend what we like to paint, or why!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Hydrangeas in Bavarian Bowl

Every writer understands that we write our best about those places and things we love.  Novelist Willa Cather was steeped in the regional history of her Nebraska roots, and wrote poignant novels of pioneer life on the Great Plains—O PIONEERS and MY ANTONIA, among others.  Hamlin Garland, born on a farm in the hills of Southwestern Wisconsin, wrote about the hardships of Wisconsin farmers—THE ROSE OF DUTCHER’S COOLY being a memorable classic.  English-Canadian poet Robert Service lived and worked in the Yukon in the early 20th century, and left a legacy of Yukon lore in the form of ballads.

The importance of places and things we love applies to artists as well.  The great English watercolorists Constable and Turner immortalized the English landscape, and captured its atmosphere.  French painter Monet featured his gardens, and Matisse poured his soul into congenial still lifes and domestic landscapes around his home in France. 

Most of the contemporary artists whom I read about spend time in Italy.  The antiquity of that country, its quaint villages, and scenic vinyards—plus the classical art tradition and historical context of Venice, Florence, and Rome—have provided centuries of inspiration for artists.  I like to study paintings of Italian street scenes, with laundry strung between windows outside of ancient apartment buildings.  I’m sure that were I to travel to Italy, I’d want to paint it as well.  But at this point, painting Venice or Rome would be a static undertaking for me—lacking in authenticity simply because I’ve never been there.  I love Italian food, Italian opera, and Italian people, but I’ve never experienced Italy.

What are those places and things I love?  Like Georgia O’Keeffe was, I am passionate about New Mexico—particularly the region around Taos, where my husband and I have vacationed several times.  I love my “home away from home”, the state of Colorado:  the high Rockies, the front range and Denver where one of our sons lives with his family, and the artsy atmosphere around Manitou Springs where my husband and I lived in a cabin perched on a canyon many years ago—with our first child.

My family lineage includes centuries of Campbells from Argyll.  That was no more than a fact on paper to me, until 1993 when my husband and I rented a car and toured 2200 miles of back roads in Scotland, England, and Wales.  Our first days and nights in Scotland were spent on a sheep farm in Argyll.  I’m not a “mystical” person, yet I believe there is such a thing as a “racial memory”.  Something intrinsically profound connected me with this country and the history of my ancestors who lived there.  The bleak, rocky, windswept topography of the Scottish Highlands captured my heart.  Scotland is a place I love and would like to paint.

And then there’s Wisconsin.  I love my Wisconsin with its soybean and cornfields, undulating hills, wild forests and rivers, abundance of wildlife (including black bears and wolves in the North), its plethora of inland lakes—and its Great Waters:  the Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior.  With an entire state to love, I’ll never run out of inspiration.

In and around the environment of our home, I’m surrounded by familiar things—things I paint with my whole heart.  “Hydrangeas in Bavarian Bowl” is a case in point.  Hydrangeas have become one of my most beloved flowers—right up there with most wildflowers and roses.  Perhaps it’s because of the way hydrangeas dry, and bring their summer essence to our long winters.  Hydrangeas have no fragrance, yet they’re incredibly beautiful to me. 

In the above painting I combined hydrangeas with another thing I fancy, fine china—either English, Bavarian, or Japanese.  Fine china is one more link with the past; it symbolizes my gracious childhood home—and the slow lane, gracious home I keep to this day.  The diffused soft edges of Bavarian porcelain lend themselves to delicate color—reminding me of quiet afternoon teas with my mother and her friends, in the German-American farming community where I grew up. 

The “Hydrangeas in Bavarian Bowl” painting was done on Yupo® paper.  The rendering was amazingly fast—as if the picture actually painted itself because I’m so delighted with the subject!

There are many places and things that I love—but not nearly so much as I love my people, and animals!  I have tried and I will try again to capture the life and vitality of the people I love, and those critters in my life:  the birds in my garden, the chipmunk on our patio, the cats and dogs I’ve loved in the past— and my precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dylan, who is sleeping at my feet this very moment.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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One of the many delightful adventures involved in finding a new life passion, is researching its history.  Since I’ve been steeped and schooled in literature and the English language from little on, I’m no stranger to the craft of writing.  But art history provides a whole new world for me to explore.

Especially fascinating to me are the various art movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Many of us love the French Impressionists, and the Post Impressionists who followed.  Nearly everyone is familiar with reproductions of Monet’s gardens, Degas’ ballerinas, and Van Gogh’s sunflowers.  The fact that these works have not become clichés testifies to their enduring, classic appeal.

The Impressionists came into being with the advent of photography.  For centuries, the artist (along with the scribe) had been the keeper of documentary provenance and the servant of history.  Painting frequently focused on detail.  In the mid 19th century, Paris was considered to be the art hub of the world.  Art accepted for display by the jury of the Louvres Grand Salon was subject to strict guidelines as to technique and subject matter.  Detailed representations of religious, historical, or mythological scenes dominated—with no room for deviation, individual choice of themes, or experimental methods of painting.

Into this stulted environment came the Impressionists, let by Monet.  Camera technology was capable of capturing detail but at that point photographs were in sepia, or black and white.  The Impressionists were inspired (and also aggravated!) to explode in color.  In contrast to the subdued Northern European palette in vogue at the time, these pioneers introduced a vibrancy of color which shocked and angered the art establishment. 

Freed from the boundaries of detailed representation, Impressionist artists explored the frontiers of subjective creativity.  Painters began to develop the essence and effects of outdoor light, en plein air.  The Impressionists also violated the standards of Parisian exhibitors and patrons by spurning traditional topics and painting everyday life—boating parties, gardens, gatherings at outdoor cafés, etc.

Because the reaction of the Paris art community was so vitriolic and violent, the Impressionists (named “Les Refusés” by their critics) had to stage their own showings which were not well-attended.  Patronage was virtually non-existent for years, and the Impressionists—so loved today—were probably the world’s first “starving artists”.  Judges proclaimed Impressionism to be “highly unsuitable for the public—the result of mental derangement.”

Finally, in the 1870s, the French Impressionists found a kindred soul who believed in them.  Gallery owner/art connoisseur Paul Durand-Ruel began buying and selling Impressionist works, largely to American collectors.  Durand-Ruel is quoted to have said, “The American public does not laugh; it buys!”

The Impressionists were followed by more experimental schools, theories, and “isms”, one of which grabs me by the throat:  Fauvism.  Introduced by Henri Matisse in the early 20th century, the Fauvists emphasized the free and arbitrary use of that element which I love best:  COLOR.  Les Fauvists not only wrenched themselves loose from accurate color representation, but they also forayed into the wonderland of abstract (or at least vaguely recognizable) shapes. 

Again, the Parisian art world reacted in anger.  “Les Fauves” means “The Wild Beasts”—humorous because the initial Fauvist, Henri Matisse, was every bit a conventional, family-oriented, balanced, and stable individual in contrast to many great artists before and since. 

Art and the raging isms . . . such fun to read about!  For the untrained and amateur hobbyist such as I am, one motivation predominates; I will paint what I want, however I want!  I’m not painting for an Academie des Beaux Arts, not for patrons, not for a teacher, but rather for myself.  Whomever wishes to come along and enjoy the results of my freedom is welcome!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  I’ve never had a desire to “copy”, but I’m open to inspiration from some areas of art making.  I identify with Les Fauvists, although I’d never even heard of them when I began sloshing brazen color all over the place!

I fell in love with New Mexico—especially Santa Fe and Taos—years before I’d ever heard of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Above is one of my Southwest-themed renderings—digitally enhanced with suns, moon, poofs of cloud or whatever, and an explosion of light created by a program called Home Photo Studio. 

This software is great for art as well as photos.  Quite possibly, I qualify as a “wild beast” for venturing into digital enhancement! 

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