Posts Tagged ‘Spring Paintings’

Ice Tea again

It is often said that artists can create the world the way they wish it would be!  This may be true of most of the arts, and many crafts as well—where one is fashioning beauty from ashes—or victory in the midst of something that seems like defeat.  In my poetry, I have often featured the presence of light in apparently dark circumstances.

Without getting more ponderous, when indeed my mood is upbeat as I share with you, the above painting is the world the way I’m eager to experience it—and will in a few weeks.  Having lived in Wisconsin for all but three of my eighty-four years, I should know (and do!) that April in my home state is not like “April in Paris”.

Sometimes we get teased a bit with warm splashes, and these are meant to be savored but not viewed as the permanent seasonal weather change.  Meanwhile, we can paint (sing, write, dance) whatever weather we want—thereby creating our own reality:  our own private world.  A case in point is this painting, titled “Ice Tea Again”, reflecting a pastime which is HUGE in my estimation:  drinking ice tea on our patio beside our pretty little patio garden, while watching the birds and chipmunks that enjoy the hospitality of our feeders.

I have done many ice tea type paintings, but this one is unique.  Were you to actually see the painting, now framed in a 16″ by 20″ softly gilded frame, you would probably observe that something new has been added:  touches of mixed medium accents which add texture and individuality to the piece.

At this moment two amazing British artists—Ann Blockley and Soraya French—are vitalizing, coaching, and inspiring me via books and (in Ann’s case) DVDs to experiment with mixed media.  So “extras” have been added to this watercolor and gouache rendering, including areas of enhanced color on and around the flower shapes made with hard pastel pencils and Derwent Inktense sticks.  The winding vines were formed by streaking India ink from a pipette and letting it ooze around on the damp paper.  You may notice the sketchy lines drawn by oil pastels* in areas alongside the vines.  And, as always, thick applications of gouache have covered a plethora of boo-boos.

The above-mentioned artists, and many others, stress the importance of playing with the mediums, learning what they can do and not worrying about the outcome.  JUST PLAY!  This really appeals to me after a rather dragged out autumn and winter beginning with the loss of my beloved corgi in October and adding a challenging shoulder replacement to the mix.  I intend to play, while drinking volumes of ice tea!

Included in the “play”, is the fact that I am diving into water soluble oils.  This is happening at my newly acquired hardwood easel.  The easel doesn’t work for watercolor painting, as there is not room enough in the bedroom studio to flatten out the surface.  But oils can be done on a tilt.  While watercolors, gouache, and mixed medium play happens at my dining room studio, oils are slowly drying and developing on the easel.

Margaret L Been — April 14th, 2008

*When I received my order from DICK BLICK of a beautiful, magenta colored wood box of 60 oil pastels (Van Gogh brand) I reverted to childhood.  I can’t express the wonder and joy of running my fingers over the surface of these sticks, marveling at the gorgeous color gradations.

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Here is a bold venture:  a painting which turned out to be too large for the ready-made frames at our local craft stores.  I had grabbed an entire sheet of Yupo® and had a blast, painting and thinking I would crop the finished work to fit a 24″ x 20″ frame which I had on hand.  But I was pleased with the entire piece, and couldn’t figure out where, if any, I wanted to sacrifice part of it.

A brainy idea:  custom framing.  This is pricey indeed, and I will not do it very often.  But the result is satisfying.  Below you can see The Big One on a living room wall:

Wall 2


Many layers of gouache were piled onto this painting, over washes of watercolor.  Actually called “Waterfall”, this rendering evokes memories of a real waterfall we had on our 14 plus acres up north, where we lived full time for eight years.

Our land bordered on two roads, one up and one down a hill.  Our home was on the downhill road, next to a lake.  In the spring, snow and ice melted from the above road and roared downhill to our back yard, over boulders and brush.  The sound was stirring, and so loud that it resonated through closed windows.  In the summer, the waterfall morphed into a trickling downhill creek—always refreshing to sit beside on one of the big boulders.

How beautiful to have mellow memories, and then to paint them (and have them framed)!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

NOTE:  Obviously I couldn’t scan this painting on my home scanner, so I photographed it with my cell phone.  Because the piece was framed with non-glare glass I could do that.  But I failed to get the entire bit into the top photo.  In the shot of the painting on the wall with its surrounding environment, you get a better idea of how the waterfall fans out at its base.

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Carmela's Lilacs again again again

What is more enjoyable than coffee or tea and mellow conversation shared with a friend, in any kind of weather?  My friend, Carmela, came for a morning visit last week.  It was warm and sunny, but early enough in the day to sit outdoors yet still savor hot, strong coffee.  Later, we would have switched to iced tea.

Carmela brought an armful of lilacs, white and shades of lavender, from her yard.  I don’t think she realized that lilacs are a huge passion of mine.  She simply and instinctively brought the perfect gift—beautiful, fragrant, and in season.

Later in the day I began to paint the lilacs, which by then were comfortably at home in a vase of cool water.  Since I normally let the paint do a lot of the talking, somehow an illusion of a great blue heron flew into the piece.  Can you see the heron?  His presence suggests that there is water nearby, as the heron lives on fish.

We do have plenty of water here in Lake Country, and great blue herons fly over our roof constantly en route between our myriad of lakes.  But maybe the above painting, “Carmela’s Lilacs”, is a flashback to our home up north where we lived for eight years, beside a bay with plenty of great blue herons in our neighborhood—and huge, ancient common lilac bushes pressed against the front deck of our home.

Margaret L. Been — May 26, 2016


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May Again 2 3

This painting was inspired by the fact that my head is thinking “MAY”, and in this instance I planned ahead—deciding that the use of gouache would be intentional and prominent.  I am getting very excited about the look of oils created by slathering on the gouache.

The piece began with a wash of the primaries, quietly blending on the paper (Saunders Waterford 140# cold press).  Next, the tree and branches were formed with a pipette and P. H. Martin’s liquid watercolor.  I only have these bottles in the primaries, so I blobbed them all on to create a brownish black.

Finally, when all was dry, I applied the Star of the Show, the ever-faithful gouache in increments, letting the paint dry and then touching up with more.   I think the white is so beautiful when dabbed over the blossom colors.

We have hung this May scene over our piano.  But you are seeing only bits (above and also below) of the painting.  It is matted and framed to 20″ x 16″, in a  magenta colored frame.  Even with scanning two sections of the piece, parts of it were sticking out on all sides of my scanner.  So what you see is what you get.  🙂

May Again

The bird in the upper left was not planned.  He just flew in.  I guess it’s really spring, although not quite May.

Margaret L. Been — March 31, 2016

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NIght Blooming 2

. . . is SPRING!  That is enough to spring most anyone out of bed in the morning!!!  When daylight saving starts in a few days, I’ll think I am home free—bounding into my favorite half of our Wisconsin year. 

I have a goal in mind.  I love to walk; my desire is to carry a sketch book, and sketch along the way.  Also, I want to take more photos in my gardens—catching new spring buds, mature flowers, and later in the season those beautiful seedpods.

Suddenly flowers are dominating the art corner in our bedroom.  I’m extra-inspired to do flowers thanks to Ann Blockley’s exciting book, EXPERIMENTAL FLOWERS IN WATERCOLOUR.  For breathtaking views of Ann Blockley’s art, you can GOOGLE “UK Artist Ann Blockley”.  Her blog can be accessed through the website, as well—and it’s delightful to read. 

Along with a focus on flowers, Ann has inspired me to sketch and photograph subjects for painting—landscapes as well as close-ups.  I’ve read the same protocol from other artists, but finally the idea is beginning to make sense to me.  I’m also beginning to keep a log with each painting, listing the colors I use plus additional mediums such as acrylic ink, acrylic paints, water-soluble colored pencils, etc.  You can detect a desire for more discipline in my approach to painting.  Access to galleries has motivated me to make more art more efficiently, while growing and learning.

As for the sketching, I know that I can’t get any worse than I am now at it—so some improvement is bound to follow.  The strolling will be a joy in itself.  And I already have a lot of garden shots to pore over for inspiration.

Below is a favorite one, and someday I hope to be able to paint this little fellow:

Little Treasure

He must have been just out of the nest, with absolutely no fears in his head.  I stroked his back; his fur was like silk.  He sat docilely, as if he enjoyed the stroking.  Then I ran indoors to fetch my camera.  When I returned to the garden he was still there waiting to be stroked again.

Our neighborhood prairie preserve:

My Prairie

And a character who came calling one Sunday afternoon when we lived up north:


I didn’t try to pet that guy.  I took his picture while sheltered by our living room window.

Anyway, if I choose to render any of the above on my Arches or Saunders Waterford paper, the subjects won’t look anything like they did to begin with!  🙂  So why not just dive in?!

Margaret L. Been, March 2015

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Lands Beyond

It took me about 5 years to come up with this one:  another way to be sure of creating painterly edges. 

For starters, you will see blurs around the trees.  These were formed first by charging wet paint onto the clean, wet Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.  Then I washed in the sky and rolled a wad of facial tissue (without lotion) over the blue.  The trees (or whatever they are beyond the sky) were achieved by dropping more color on the wet surface.  I dabbed in the flower type thingies in the foreground, and outlined the tree trunks with a knitting needle.  Finally I filled blank areas with yellow. 

Okay, but not okay.  I felt there was still a harsh, cut and dried look to the painting.  So I ended with my new trick—new to me, that is.  I’m certain that many others have done this trick, but I’m delighted to say I “happened” on it by myself.  Rather than waiting for the painting to dry before wetting the back of it and weighting it face down between paper towels, I ran water over both the front and back and then weighted it.  Additional edges got fuzzy in the process, colors ran into one another, and the paper toweling blotted the diffusing paint.  Voila!  A painterly painting!

Many of my past renderings turned out to be bla/bla/bla to my eyes, due to boring concise edges.  A chair, a table, a bowl of fruit—so what else is new?  Or mountains that looked like paper dolls.  No thank you!  Recently, I’ve recycled some of my former duds, by using the wet surface trick and it seldom disappoints me!

Again and again, I see proof of what my favorite watercolorist artists claim to be true in their experience:  that the medium is the artist.  With a minimum of manipulation, paint and water do their own thing far more beautifully than I could ever dream of doing!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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May in Wisconsin can be as blustery as an icy blast on the North Sea, or it can be an euphoric spell of something like Heaven on earth.  The last week has been euphoric.  My days are spent outdoors—either puttering in the garden, strolling with Baby Dylan (corgi), or reading and sunning.  But evenings are, as always, spent at my messy palette. 

The renderings produced in our bedroom studio are not always indicative of the season at hand.  I have a pleasant enough truce with winter, because it’s inevitable here in the northland.  But when shoved to the wall, I have to admit that I’m not overly fond of near zero temperatures and the color white—except in clouds, flowers, birds, animals, pearls, and bridal gowns.  (I do like all colors of people.) 

Winter scenes (by me or anyone else) rarely hang in our home gallery, although branches laden with fresh snow are exquisitely lovely!  Invariably the seasons I paint are spring, summer, and autumn—and especially SUMMER!

I have a pet theory which probably has no objective research whatsoever behind it, yet it’s my theory:  that contented individuals tend to love the season (and month) in which they were born.  That theory is fact in at least one case—my own!  I’m summer born, August born to be exact.  Having loved living and been a contented person ever since I remember, I love summer with a passion.

Obviously, it’s only May—and May is still spring.  But we are having summer weather, so it’s summer in May.  We wake to birdsong, and sleep to the clicking and clacking of tree frogs under our window.  We steep our tea in the sun, and rejoice on our covered patio in the rain.  We’re overwhelmed by the beauty and goodness of it all—and those qualities are what I want my art to represent:  beauty and goodness!

So happy spring, summer, autumn, and even winter—since we can always celebrate summer in our deepest heart!  Winter is beautiful as well!  And without our Wisconsin winters, our summers would not be so ineffably precious and sweet!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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The Evangelist 

Quagmired in stagnant bogs,

Eons old

And motionless

The cattails stand

Where no wind blows

When—meadow born—

A redwing lights

On solitary reed,

Proclaiming joyously

The news!


 © Margaret Longenecker Been

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I have learned a trick.  I never go to bed at night without something visual on my painting table.  Either it will be a work in its early stage or nearing conclusion, or simply a few random blobs of color such as you see above.  But I will not tolerate a void.  Having something on that table makes me eager to pop out of bed in the morning.  And even an embryo painting can provide enjoyment for those nights when I’m unable to sleep.

With colors down on paper, I have a start.  Watercolor-on-YUPO®-paper-artist Taylor Ikin calls this start the “wallpaper”.  Later one can “hang the painting”.  Colors are easily changed, developed, or eliminated as ideas occur and a plan evolves.  Before going to bed one night this week, I dropped spurts of color on the paper pictured above, thinking I’d advance to a calm lake reflecting a shoreline and colorful sky.  But that simply did not happen.  The water changed its mind, and the next day my lake turned into a river—a turbulent one, at that. 

Now turbulence has two options.  It can be the ominous threat of a violent storm, or the rambunctious joy of a river rushing (but not destructively flooding) in spring.  You can easily detect which option appealed to me.  Since I thought I could “hear” the rushing river, I named the completed piece, “Cacophony in Springtime”.

The picture appears kitty-wampus because I stood over it with my camera as the painting was drying, and I was kitty-wampus

Anything but a void! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

NOTE:  For more about my nocturnal art adventures, see http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/

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