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Posts Tagged ‘Southwestern Art’

The Cliffs Were Weirdly Lit

I am greatly blessed with the gift of a visual mind.  When I read, the scenes described in a book loom large before my eyes in living color.  Although I dearly love words, it’s actually the pictures which words evoke that thrill me—or terrify me, whatever the subject of the text may be.  Plot and character development are “biggies” in successful fiction, but for me it is a sense of place and the scenery which rise up larger than life.  I’m perfectly happy with a virtually plot-less novel and one with few characters, if the book abounds in adjectives and adverbs which delineate a scene so vividly that I think I am really there—en plein air!

Visually oriented people are tremendously contented with being “armchair travelers”.  I can take extensive voyages, pilgrimages, and treks anywhere in the world—all from the comfort of my sofa or my “read in bed” 1/2 armchair which serves as a sit-up pillow.  (What an economical way to go!!! 🙂 )

One of my favorite American recent writers is Louis L’Amour.  Yes, Louis was tremendously skillful at plotting, and his characters are amazingly individualistic—never the fare of “canned” formula fiction.  But most of all, I love this author for his painterly writing.  And he is my first assignment in my self-programmed Autumn Painting Agenda of painting en plein air via literature.  With words before me, I can pick up my brush and render my take on the scene described.

The above watercolor on Arches (pronounced “ARSH”—it’s French) 140 lb. cold press paper was inspired by the following description in Louis L’Amour’s SACKETT BRAND:  “The sun was just below the horizon and the red rock cliffs were weirdly lit.  Out of the west a tiny puff of dust lifted, grew, and became a fast running horse.”

I’m very excited about painting passages of literature.  Additional Louis L’Amour scenes may be forthcoming, plus quotes from painterly poems—including my own poems.  From long before I found the courage to pick up a paint brush—in fact for most of my life since early childhood—I have happily painted with words.

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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The Haunted Mesa . . . inspired by Louis L'Amour's novel by that name . . .

In the above painting, inspired by one of my favorite novels—THE HAUNTED MESA, by Louis L’Amour—I began with the “dampen the paper/charge the paint/and back off” concept but backing off simply did not work.  Instead, I spent hours letting layers dry, painting new layers, sponging off muddy parts (Arches 140 lb. cold press paper takes a lot of sponging and reworking without falling apart), and much consternation to the point of nearly tossing the whole bit into the waste basket.  Hour after hour and layer upon layer, I just couldn’t seem to make the painting come alive.

Then I accidentally turned the paper (to what I’d thought was) upside down, and voilà—THE HAUNTED MESA materialized before my eyes.  I like this one as much as any I’ve ever done.  I guess my punch line is, in the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in . . . .”

The painting is large enough that it wouldn’t completely fit into my scanner.  (It will be matted and framed to the outside dimension of 16″ x 20″.)  But I was able to scan aspects which especially appeal to me:  the yellow-green sky and the faded background layers, as well as a good amount of the alizaron crimson/permanent magenta/ultra-marine violet foreground. 

The cloudy areas in the foreground were created by randomly rolling a wadded up facial tissue over the freshly painted, wet surface.  I’m just a bag of funny tricks!!!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Variations on a theme can apply to more than music.  Here ↑ is a southwestern scene which I made with Elegant Writer® pens, on 140# greeting card paper—specifically for water media art.  You write with the pen, and then go over the lines with a damp paint brush and wonderful things happen.

Then I ran the scanned and filed picture through a couple of different options on my HOME PHOTO STUDIO® program, an economically priced alternative to PHOTO SHOP®.  Voilà!  Variations on a theme.  ↓

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Those of you who also visit http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/ know that our patio is, for me, a very special bit of Heaven.  It opens through sliding doors right outside our living room, so it seems like we live outdoors year around.  The patio is beautiful in winter, piled with drifted snow, but it’s especially wonderful in spring, summer, and autumn.  It faces due east, and is sheltered by a roof and the rest of our building from all but the east wind.  We face a park and nature preserve—beyond which is the wild end of Lake Nagawicka—so wildlife abounds in the neighborhood. 

Canada geese, great blue heron, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures, and hawks soar across the open sky over our park every day.  We are surrounded by lakes in our corner of the world, so shorebirds as well as field and meadow flyers are at home here.  Occasionally sea gulls venture inland from Lake Michigan, in search of food.  (I often see gulls at shopping centers where people are apt to drop a potato chip or some pop corn.)  Recently a cormorant cruised over our park—exciting, as in the past I’d only seen that large bird in Wisconsin’s far North wetlands. 

To make bird and cloud watching, reading, and sipping iced tea on the patio complete we needed some funky art—preferably with my beloved Southwest flavor.  A gallery wrapped canvas and some acrylic paints did the job, and now we have art for living outdoors.  I sealed my rendering (“My Santa Fe”) with acrylic gloss medium, so barring blizzards it should be weatherproof.  I’ll bring Santa Fe in late next fall.  Meanwhile, the painting is living outdoors—with me!  🙂

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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