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Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

I have never been able to appreciate the dilemma of individuals who say, “I’d like to write, but don’t know what to write about.”  My answer is, “You have a life!  So write your life!  Write about the people and places you love!”

Over the last six years, since I began painting, I’ve often recalled my own advice!  Although I’d love to paint the people I love, alas.  My skills are inadequate, at least at this point.  But I can, have, and continually do paint the places I love.

You will recognize the above paintings as representative of “Out West”.  That region of our nation is dear to my heart— especially Colorado (my “second home”), plus New Mexico and Northern Arizona (my “adopted second homes”).

Next you will see glimpses of a part of my actual lifelong home, known to most Wisconsinites as “Up North”:

And here is my current home in Southern Wisconsin. ↓ These renderings were inspired by life inside and outdoors in our beloved Nashotah:

So there you have it.  I’ll never run out of excitement over the places I love—past and present!  And “future” is going to be the most exciting of all!  But my finite mind cannot begin to comprehend how to depict the new Heaven and earth!  I’ll just have to wait and see!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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This is the time of year when we’ve occasionally gone to New Mexico in the past.  I am traveling in my mind, and my paintbrush follows—all the way to Santa Fe.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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One point most artists agree upon is the wisdom of painting a favorite subject again and again—as a series or a lifetime of renderings, as evidenced in Monet’s many water lily paintings.  If the subject is something we dearly love, it will always hold our interest and we can capture this love in a plethora of colors, aspects, viewpoints, and styles. 

From little on, I have been fascinated by the vanished culture of the cliff dwellings in the four corners—Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico—and other parts of the “Grand Circle” surrounding Mesa Verde where these states meet.  The history of the area is fraught with enigma, unanswered questions, and infinite speculation concerning how the people lived and why they abandoned their cities in the cliffs.  The area itself abounds in beauty which borders on the bizarre.

Although the term “Ancients” has been applied to many past cultures around the world, and even to fictional space aliens, the “Ancients” who capture me are those historic people who maintained a working civilization in the Grand Circle from approximately 1200 B.C. to 1300 A.D.—the Anasazi (meaning “ancient”), or Ancient Pueblo Native Americans.  Many sites in the Grand Circle are named after these people, who are generally referred to as “The Ancients”.

I have traveled in the Grand Circle, and I never tire of reading about the area—its history, cultural ruins, and theories as to what life may have been like for the cliff dwellers.  In recent years, my interest in the Southwest USA has intensified from reading many novels by Louis L’Amour set in that locale.  Not only does this author describe the region in painterly paragraphs which virtually pop off the page and into one’s imagination, but he creates an aura of mystery about the people who lived there—and fictionalizes this mystery into “cliff-hanging” plots which have kept me reading far into the night on several occasions.

Given my love for the Southwest, and my love for Louis L’Amour’s books, it is not surprising that aspects (usually dreamed up and fictionalized) tend to fall off my paintbrush onto paper.  The above, “hot off the palette” piece is titled Lost Amethyst Mine of the Ancients.  This is pure fiction.  I have no knowledge that the Ancients did any mining, or that there is amethyst quartz in the area.  Thus far I have found no online documentation that mining may have been part of that ancient culture.  I simply capture what comes to my mind when I think of Western mines and the culture of the Ancients.  I also love the color of amethyst!

I’ve been painting the Southwestern theme for months—and my zeal shows no indication of flagging.  Awhile back I produced a “favorite” which I named Lost Canyon of the Ancients. I may have posted it before, and a cropped version of it appears above in the header, but in any event here it is again:  ↓

This above bit of fantasy is now framed and hanging over our (electric) fireplace. 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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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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