Posts Tagged ‘Summer Art’

A Quiet Place

Our oldest daughter, Laura, took a watercolor workshop a few months ago with a friend whom she was visiting in Texas.  After they had applied some color in an initial wash the instructor said, “Listen to the paper.  The paper is talking to you.”

I love that, and think of it constantly.  When wet watercolors hit wet paper, the paper does indeed “talk”.  This is the stage where beautiful things happen, if we stand back and let them.  It’s human nature, at least my human nature to get involved, and try to fix things.  As a child I was diligently taught to think before doing—a survival skill necessary, or at least helpful, in most areas of life.  But when painting I still want to blunder in, and superimpose some preconceived concept on the wet paper.

Meanwhile, Laura’s workshop instructor and many other artists realize that each painting can be unique and exquisite if we just let the paper talk.  The delicate feathers and cauliflowers that form on wet paper were once spurned by watercolorists; now those same marks have come into favor.  They are treasured.

In her books and DVDs, British fine artist Jean Haines stresses the fact that many beginners tend to race into a painting with an agenda in mind, failing to relax and let things happen.  Jean paints practice washes on small scraps of watercolor paper at the beginning of every day in her studio.  She experiments with different color combinations and observes the hints of a possible subject created when the colors blend.  Sometimes these “practice” washes morph into a finished painting; otherwise, Jean saves them as inspiration for her larger work.

So I am learning!  After all, it is enjoyable to relax and let the paper talk.  And this one-way conversation in never boring.  Unlike some people, paper and paint never say the same thing twice.  They always have something fresh and spontaneous to share.

The above rendering is an example.  While the paper was talking I sprinkled salt in the sky area, knowing that the salt would enhance rather than interrupt the spoken message.  With my rigger brush, I lightly dropped colors into the foreground—letting them bleed onto the talking paper—and I streaked the point of a wooden knitting needle through the wet foliage which was forming on the lower left.  Then it was time to retreat to the kitchen, and hit our Keurig for a cuppa Joe.

When all of the above was dry, I seriously thought of trying to add more—perhaps a tumbledown fence in the foreground, or traces of a castle in the clouds.  But NO!  The paper had spoken, and I had nothing more important to say!

This painting, “A Quiet Place”, has been framed for the next exchange of work in local exhibits.  Now you are thinking, “She was supposed to be displaying winter scenes.”

Yes, but “A Quiet Place” will be hung in a hospice.  If I were in a hospice (as any one of us may someday be) I most certainly would not want to view any art depicting winter!

And you can be certain that as soon as my winter display quota has been filled I’ll go back to painting flowers, patios, ice tea pitchers, green mountains, and castles in the clouds—preferably after the paper has had a chance to talk.

Margaret L. Been — October 28. 2015

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Summer Saturday

Many of us who love to make art will invariably respond to the season we are in and what is going on outdoors.  My most beloved seasons are Summer, Spring, and Autumn.  There is a fourth season in Wisconsin which I really don’t care much for.  I have lived with Number 4 most of my life, and compensate by concentrating on its pristine beauty.  But beauty devoid of bodily comfort can leave one cold, and that’s exactly what a Wisconsin Winter does to me when I am out in it—at least on days below 20 degrees and especially during those spells of 10-20 degrees BELOW ZERO.

I’ve painted some winter scenes, but quite honestly they make me shiver when I look at them.  Consequently indoor still lifes make a better alternative from November through March (sometimes overlapping at each end).  There is something about rendering tea cups and a vase of flowers on a wrinkly table runner (no matter how abstract) that warms my heart on a chilly day.  Or I’m also apt to paint an outdoor patio and iced tea scene smack in the bare bones of winter as a kind of escape, much more pleasant to me than the concept of traveling on a cruise ship carrying hundreds of noisy people engaging in mindless “vacation fun”.  Better to be at home with silence, solitude, and a depth of life quality (even when cold) than warm and jammed in a vacationing mob—or any other kind of a mob for that matter.

Meanwhile, outdoor living in my good seasons offers plenty of subjects for art.  A favorite subject—especially toward autumn—is local produce.  We have a farmer’s market just 6 minutes from home.  A delightful Summer Saturday morning begins with coffee and rolls, quiche, or whatever, at a bistro in Delafield—followed by a short (less than one block) stroll to the market.  Along with produce, some cutesy craft items are sold there—and a local guitarist strums and sings, adding an extra dash of ambience to the morning.

Voilà the above watercolor on YUPO® paper, titled “Summer Saturday”.  Small town living is hard to beat in any season!

Margaret L. Been, 2013


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If you follow my http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/  blog, you will see that I’m on a water kick.  In all seriousness, I know that “water on the brain” is a very crucial condition—but I think I have the mild form:  thinking about lakes, rivers, and oceans.  Even our little pond with a fountain in our community, even my indoor fountain and the larger one on our patio, even our fresh well water from the tap—all are very exciting to me at this moment.  Must be spring.

Here is a poem to go with today’s watercolor on Yupo (which I’ve posted before, but maybe not on this site):

The Earthen Vessel

I like to think the Potter made

this earthen vessel from Iron Country clay,

mixed with sand from Superior’s shore,

studded with agate for Beauty’s sake,

timeworn smooth in the tumbler of the lake . . .

then thrust upon a bank, to dry

in sun and wind ‘neath a pine-splashed sky,

and settled at last—and silently—

in a driftwood house, for Eternity.

©Margaret Longenecker Been

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