Posts Tagged ‘Regional Literature’

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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