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Posts Tagged ‘Watercolor painting’

White Roses 3

What do St. Bernard dogs, 911, and gouache have in common?  You’ve got it:  RESCUE.  The above rendering was rescued by gouache from having an unsightly case of the speckles, kind of like art measles.

A rescue job was necessary on this floral because whenever I love something I tend to go over the top, refusing to quit.  This characteristic has resulted in nearly 63 years of a great marriage, a lifelong addiction to maple sugar candy (those little maple leaves obtainable from the Vermont Country Store), and whatever painting trick has captured my heart.

I’d read about “color sanding” in books by Northern Wisconsin fine artist, Karlyn Holman but I only tried it recently.  The trick requires watercolor (or ink) pencils and sandpaper or a fingernail emery board.  When a colored pencil is shaved over wet paint, delightful speckles form—delightful that is until the entire page is covered with speckles.  I managed to do this on the above painting until suddenly the piece was (no kinder way to put it) butt ugly.

Of course great professional artists such as Karlyn Holman always recommend circumspection and moderation when it comes to tricks.  And let’s face it, the great artists don’t even need tricks; they only use them cautiously for a bit of extra fun.  🙂  Just leave it to me, to carry the “fun” to extremes.

But then, there’s always gouache to the rescue!

Margaret L. Been  —  March 5, 2016 

 

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S2

Scarves and shawls, plus capes and sweaters, fulfill as much of my creative energy as do paints.

Above are samples of pure silk blanks (available online via Dharma Co., CA) painted with Sharpies fine (brush tip are great) permanent markers (not the oil base ones).  This is too much fun.  Just color/color/color the scarf to your heart’s content, and when satisfied spray (saturate) with rubbing alcohol.  Allow to dry, then press with a hot steam iron.

These recently sold well at a pre-holiday fair.  Everyone loves them.  The selection of blanks is great—Dharma even has dancing veils.

S1

Here Pinkie is happily modeling the world famous Potato Chip Scarf–so named 1) because it curls and 2) because you can’t just make one.  They are as addictive as the edible, salty variety.

And below we have Pinkie again, cowling it up.

S4

Knitted, of course.  I go on yarn surges.  A few years ago, it was Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino.  Then Cascade 220.  Then Cascade Sunseeker.  Now it is Malabrigo Silky Merino:  49% silk and 51% merino wool.  All are wonderful.  All are unabashedly overflowing and falling out of countless baskets, many of which I have made in former years of “also passions”.

And shawls.  I make long shawls—prayer shawls, gift shawls, and some for myself.  A long shawl is the perfect wrap for our autumn and spring weather, either layered over a blazer and sweater or by itself.  And I love these little guys:

S5

(The borders are crocheted.)  No, I didn’t make the penny quilt.  For me, knitting needles are relaxing—but sewing needles and machines are nerve wracking.  This quilt is a beauty.  It was some unknown artist’s masterpiece, possibly during the Great Depression, as the fabrics are apparently used clothing.  The quilt is huge, even on our queen bed.  We won it at a local auction years ago.  It’s been moved two times, stored on a high closet shelf, and now we are featuring it on our bed.  Things are to be used and enjoyed, especially with a good number of years behind us and not quite so many years left.  Why not?  🙂

spinning in the summer

Finally, spinning.  The basket filled with color contains wool roving, and the white fiber in the pink basket is silk.  Two excellent Jensen wheels, Wisconsin made, grace our living room and in this case one of them is (characteristically in seasonable weeks) working on our patio.  What a joy to make yarn, and knit it.  I still have a lot of gorgeous deep brown Shetland from my last two silly sheep, in the late 1990s.

But the patio leads out to even one more of many passions:

Faithful Bleeding Heart

Coming SOON!  I can hardly wait.  How about you?

Margaret L. Been — February 28th, 2016

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Forsythia

Forsythia . . .

and lilacs.

Lilacs

The sun grows stronger

moving north a little more

each day.

Dreams explode on my art table.

Meanwhile . . . .

Gathering for Change

a cozy winter view

of our park.

 

Margaret L. Been — January 16, 2016

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C'est . . . .

As Joe and I, and our son Eric walked out of our Monday-night-$6.00-hamburger-restaurant, I scanned the crowded block searching for Eric’s car—and I finally gave up.  Where was Eric’s car?  The long chain of sedans looked all alike to me:  black and white and shades of grey.

“Why are they doing this to us?” I asked Eric who, as a car person, is far more interested in engines than color?  “That’s what the manufacturers think buyers want,” he replied.  And it dawned on me that, in some ways, we live in a comparatively colorless era.

It wasn’t always like that.  Born in the Great Depression, I nonetheless grew up surrounded by color—not only in my parents’ flower garden but in the clothes we wore.  THE WIZARD OF OZ sported a “horse of a different color”.  And Rhett Butler uttered his famous, blasphemous one-liner at the conclusion of a lengthy, super-colorful Hollywood spectacular.

Throughout the 1940s, color ruled*—both in fashion glitz and down home.  The 50s produced the most wonderful lime green, aqua blue, and gold refrigerators—along with a vibrant palette of everything else.  The 60s and 70s wore a lot of orange and gold, along with what I call “Hippie brown”—that mellow shade of soybean fields in late autumn.  And from 1950 at least through the 1970s, the cars were drop dead gorgeous—streamlined gorgeous, unlike many of the butt-ugly new boxes on the road today!

In the 90s all colors prevailed, with kind of a hokey emphasis on pink and blue in family restaurant décor along with geese or ducks parading on wallpaper borders.  But yes, color.  And in the 2000s, Joe and I lived in yet another colorful home in the ever-colorful Wisconsin north woods where even the 7 or 8 months of winter are brilliant with turquoise sky, lots of red dogwood branches, and bluish-purple shadows on snow.

So what is with these depressive car manufacturers?  Do their stats show that buyers really want black and white and shades of grey?  Or are the manufacturers simply watching too much news?

Even if the news were to blame, wouldn’t a large dose of stunning bright paint at least improve the quality of the moment for the driver and passengers in the car—not to mention those viewers surveying a parking area while trying to decide which car belongs to their son?

Meanwhile, throughout history art has come in every color imaginable—as well as in monotones and beautiful subdued tones.  But I don’t think you’ll ever find me painting black and white and shades of grey.  Oh, no!

*Color notwithstanding, in the 40s right up to now the long black velvet gown was and still is CLASSY!

Margaret L. Been — October 8, 2015

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Tissue Paper

A few weeks ago I turned 82.  That was a pile of fun.  My one-liner was:  “Now I can start being eccentric.”  Family members and friends cracked up over that.

To add to the delight a gorgeous flower arrangement arrived from the local florist; the flowers were ordered by our daughter Laura who lives in Bellingham, Washington.  There were 5 lovely scarlet roses in the bouquet, and they are now drying upside down in our home.  (I can’t discard a celebratory rose, and we have them hanging here and there.  Others are dried for the stash of pot pourri.)

As if flowers were not pleasure enough, their vase was wrapped in an amazing tissue paper—much sturdier than normal gift wrap, with a plastic-y feel to it.  The tissue paper went from the vase of flowers on the dining room table to my art table, and the above rendering is the result.

First I sculpted hills (mountains or whatever) and rocky areas onto 300 pound Arches watercolor paper with gesso, and then pressed scraps of the tissue into the textured areas—making sure to cover the tissue paper with the gesso.  (What fun to scrunch around in gesso and paper.  Some people never grow up, and never want to!  🙂  )

When that dried, I painted the scene.  You can see where the gesso and tissue* form lines, rocks, and gullies, but a photo doesn’t adequately represent the piece.  In reality the textures rise and fall, potentially inviting fingertips if we didn’t know that we are never supposed to touch the art.

This is a large painting, approximately 20 x 16,  Finally I’ve learned how to take a photo of a picture too large to scan.  A little pocket camera never did the job, as any white or even light area would turn out to be a huge blob of bleached out nothing.  But my i-Pad takes fantastic pictures.  I can lay the picture flat on the floor or stand it up and the I-Pad photo is as close as I can get to the real thing.

Meanwhile, serendipitous treasures frequently pop up when I remember to keep my eyes open.  What next?  Life is full of surprises.

Margaret L. Been—September 7, 2015

*It’s occurred to me that one might simply walk into most any florist shop, and purchase this exciting tissue paper!

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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:

DIGITAL CAMERA

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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IF

When we lived up north a decade ago, I was part of a local writers’ group.  One of the members was an artist, and he had paintings on display in an area hospital.  At the time I thought that was the ultimate.  How wonderful for this man, how amazing!  I was totally absorbed in writing and self-publishing my book of essays and poems, A TIME UNDER HEAVEN.  It never entered my head that in just a few months I would pick up a paint brush, and consequently begin an entirely new life adventure.

I’d always enjoyed visual art and thought I would love to paint, but I kept telling myself I didn’t have any talent.  Upon mentioning this to my friend Dee, she said “Why don’t you just do it?”.  Something snapped that day, and I decided who cares about “talent”?  I’m just going to have fun!

When we moved to Southern Wisconsin, I joined PAAC—the Pewaukee Area Arts Council, a group which promotes many disciplines including photography, creative writing, and music.  I had thought my thrust would be what it always has been, writing and especially poetry.  But one meeting called for participants to bring paintings for Show and Tell.  A couple of artist members honed in on my watercolors and urged me forward.  To this day, I’m grateful for that encouragement*—and to my friend, Dee, who gave me an initial shove!

Currently, along with other PAAC visual artists, I have paintings on exhibition in four locales:  a chiropractic clinic, a bank, a family restaurant, and an area hospice.  We change our work every three months, to accommodate the new season.  This miracle (I will always consider it that!) benefits me in two ways:

1)  The gallery opportunities keep me painting purposefully nearly every day, a work which I enjoy immensely and find infinitely refreshing.  My desire is to hang something new every single time, in every place, rather than rotate a painting from one site to another—something I could do if necessary but would rather not.

2)  The paintings are growing larger!  Whereas my max was previously 16″ x 20″ (outside mat size), I’m now venturing into 20″ x 24″.  One of the gallery sites contains a long, high wall.  The 11″ x 14″ renderings which I happily hang in our home might get lost in that exhibition.  Larger pieces are appropriate for the other galleries as well.  And BIG is FUN!

Were paintings to exceed 20″ x 24″, I could work at our son Eric’s office in nearby Waukesha.  There I have a door on filing cabinets, all to myself.  So far I’ve used that resource for messy acrylics, collages, and water soluble oils, which I do very sparingly in the limited space at home in our carpeted bedroom.  Eric has hung a couple of the collages on his theretofore bare walls, to my great satisfaction.  (The approval of one’s family members is best of all!)

The above watercolor and gouache, “Sunspeak”, is “hot off the palette”, and framed in a 20″ x 24″ ready-made dark blue frame.  Beautiful ready-made frames are available at the BEN FRANKLIN store a few miles from our door.  Colorful frames have consistently dominated our walls at home, but suddenly I began to crave the mellow warmth of wood—maybe because we’ve had winter/winter/winter around here since early November.

Now my husband and I have begun to explore the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store (actually there are two of them close by) where we find lovely wooden frames for the proverbial song.   A measuring tape has taken up permanent residence in my handbag, and we search and measure at least once a week.  Joe removes the backing—paper or thin board, staples, whatever, and secures the hanging wires on the frames.  I line each frame up in Joe’s work area—either vertically or horizontally so he knows which way to attach the wire.

Here’s a sample of a recent painting presented in a St. Vinnee’s frame:

Wood Frame 1

My art is a series of baby steps, I know.  There are real artists out there with real training and real ability!  But every little baby step is a MIRACLE!

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

*NOTE:  I can’t say enough about the value of encouragement.  I’m continually amazed by the generosity of artists I’ve met—people whose work far exceeds my wildest dream.  Quite honestly, I didn’t always experience encouragement from fellow writers; my writing approbation came from contests, sales to magazines, and from people who enjoyed reading what I wrote.

I’ve often pondered why that should be so.  Perhaps writers tend to be more introspective than a lot of people and thereby preoccupied with whatever they are thinking.  I admit I’ve been that way at times—especially when processing the deeper things in life.  But to encourage another person is such a joy!  I’ve basked in that joy through teaching writing classes over the years.

Like writers, visual artists are tuned in to the world around them—to seeing and experiencing.  But then writers must retreat into the process of distilling their gleanings into words.  Words are miracles too,  But writing is a LONELY craft, at best—and it does demand periods of detachment.  We may be satisfied with our words, while wondering if anyone else will ever read them.  And maybe no one ever will—thus the conduit to sharing is severed.

Conversely, artists translate their impressions into explosions of shapes and color.  Regardless of level of expertise or lack of it, these visuals provide gratification.  We are tremendously fulfilled when we are pleased with our colors and shapes.  We can SEE our work, and others can see it as well.  Varieties of art are endless; each one of us is unique.  This very fact, plus the perk of seeing with our eyes, may create a glorious freedom to encourage others, and be encouraged!

Now isn’t the introspective writer coming out in this discourse?!  Gnawing, ruminating, analyzing, processing thoughts into intangible words?!  No wonder we writers can become ingrown toenails, even oblivious.  Time to go back to the palette and let the colors fly.  🙂

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Up North 4

Our Christmas Day celebration was memorable with a great blend of good company, good food, and—as usual when we gather with family and friends—loads of laughs, some of which erupted from a series of hilarious selfies.  Our family tends to goof it up when posing for pictures, and when you can see the results instantly it’s all the more fun!

The only thing missing here in Southern Wisconsin was snow.  Instead we had something which has not happened very often in recent weeks:  a day of welcome sunshine.  But we love a beautiful snowfall, and in Wisconsin we think “Christmas and snow”.

Lately I was especially thinking snow, due to a photo in a holiday greeting from a friend, professional artist, and fellow poet Diana Randolph, who lives way up where we natives call “Up North”*.  The individuals in the photo are set in that incredibly pristine landscape of Up North snow.

So for days I went around remembering Joe’s and my eight years of living full time, UP NORTH.  I kept seeing our Northern home in my mind’s eye**.  There is a kind of light Up North even on overcast snowy days, until night—and then one frequently sees what appear be a million stars.  My mind’s eye was visualizing that light in the process of the above painting in watercolor and gouache.

So thank you, Diana, for your inspiring photo and Christmas greeting—and for your encouragement as well!   You can meet Diana and view her beautiful art on her website.  Just GOOGLE Diana Randolph, Northern Wisconsin Artist.

Margaret L. Been, December 2014

*Roughly speaking, in Wisconsin we consider “Up North” to be most anywhere north of Highway 10.  But for me the term has also become symbolic of a contented way of living and the quality of experiencing a “whole” life wherever we live.  Some day I may develop this theme on my everyday life blog:  Northern Reflections.

**Like so many commonly used expressions, “the mind’s eye” comes from The Old Bard—this phrase via Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 1, Scene 2.  Shakespeare is indeed immortal, with countless figures of speech and phrases enduring through the centuries—along with wisdom, wit, and insight concerning the human heart and mind.  🙂

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Textured Scenery

Watercolor painting has undergone a revolution in recent decades.  Once the stuff of faint, delicate washes and flat photographic detail, watercolor has become a medium of vibrant shades and palpable textures.  This is somewhat due to a plethora of new paint colors by many manufacturers plus products which add granulation, impasto, and crackles to the paints—and the liberating relaxation of what is acceptable:  including the use of salt, cling film, and tools for scraping.  (The most commonly used scraping tool seems to be a defunct credit card.)

I am grateful for the revolution.  As exquisite as they may be in the hands of a pro, those faint and delicate washes with photographic detail have never appealed to this amateur.  Much as I respect the age-old skill of the traditional watercolorist, I do not want “faint and delicate” on the walls of my home!  And I would not be true to myself if faint and delicate were my only options to paint.

Along with the watercolor revolution has come a fondness for the diffusion which occurs when wet paint is applied alongside semi-wet:  those beautiful “cauliflowers” and “blooms” such as you see in the upper right corner of the above rendering.  Once considered to be terrible, these blooms are now cherished by many artists.  Sometimes the blooms occur accidentally, but often they are intentional.  They can also be achieved by spraying water on semi-wet paint.  Actually I think that’s how I got the one pictured above.

I am going batty over texture.  The ethereal white streaks just left of center were made by wisping a layer of white gouache over paint which was dried under cling film.  The weird trees or whatever along the background were salted.  Table salt is okay, but since I love most everything Jewish I prefer Kosher salt.  The wildish plantings springing up on the right were done with a new kid on my art block—Indian ink.  And of course the green area was cling filmed while drying.  Not featured in this example are watercolor crayons and water soluble ink pencils which I frequently apply for texture.  And a great way to create speckles is to sprinkle sand-papered shavings from the end of a water soluble colored pencil, into wet paint.  Too much fun!

Up until now, all of my paintings have been done on either Arches 140# cold press (as above) or slippery YUPO paper.  I have held off ordering rough textured paper due to the accelerated price thereof—feeling that I should wait until I have a reasonable idea of what I am doing with my paints.

Well, I’ve been sloshing around in the colors for eight years now and recently I decided it was time to move on.  I ordered one sheet of Arches 140# rough surface, to see if I would like it.  Today I began to work on that first sheet.  Ha!  It was love at first brush stroke.  The rough texture causes far more irregularities with its crevasses and gullies, than one can possibly achieve on other papers.  So I just ordered three more sheets.  The sheets are 22″ x 30″.  I get a lot of paintings out of the big sheets, and these will go along way toward making our Wisconsin winter more pleasant.

Also, I really took a plunge, and ordered one sheet of 300# cold press.  Again, a price leap.  A sheet of 300# rough texture paper would have been even more pricey.  One step at a time.  The 300# papers do not buckle, no matter how wet they are.  So there is no need to dampen the back of a 300# painting and weight it down between paper towels and plastic mats laden with my huge atlas.

Little by little I am getting spoiled.  But I’m into painting for the long haul.  As long as the Lord keeps me on earth I hope to dink around with my brushes and explosions of color and texture!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, December 2014

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Swamp Fire

Awhile back I experienced a kind of “painter’s block” where I felt like I would never again be able to paint anything which might serve to slightly elevate my very low blood pressure, let alone anyone else’s.  This has happened to me fairly regularly over the past six years in which I’ve been making art.  Because I love art with a passion, I refuse to give up where my painting is concerned and I’ve discovered ways to boost my psyche out of any potential creativity block.

Along with “keeping on keeping on”, it helps immeasurably to add a new medium or avenue of expression to the art-making so that the process never becomes routine.  I have no desire to become stylized by reproducing cookie-cutter, look-alike work; hence I’ve added gouache to my watercolor stash and periodically I produce collages from a large collection of saved “everything” in terms of visual appeal, textural quality, and treasured memorabilia.  A new-to-me paint color, often from a new-to-me manufacturer, is another exciting form of recharging my art batteries and crashing through the artist’s block.

DVDs and books by artists are an ongoing source of inspiration to me.  I view and read them over and over, constantly finding something fresh and applicable.  Hence I have not one but many teachers.  Recently I received an absolute no-fail “block-buster” via a new-to-me DVD, by a new-to-me artist/art instructor:  British watercolorist, Ann Blockley.

Ms Blockley’s love for nature springs to life through her exquisite paintings achieved with a variety of methods.  She uses acrylic ink, oil pastels, and other materials in her work, reflecting a vitality and sense of beauty in the smallest details of nature alongside a background of landscape bordering on abstract forms which I find tremendously compelling.

Ann’s color choices leap over any possible boundaries which might threaten to confine a painter enamored with, or driven by, objective realism.  Much as I appreciate the incredible skill represented in realistic art, my head and heart are stirred by work that overcomes those boundaries—work that embodies mystery and stirs the imagination.  If I want realism, I enjoy photography—another fantastic art.

In her DVD, Ann Blockley stresses what most artist’s value:  painting what we love, from our experience.  Although Ann paints in her studio (a charming antique outbuilding surrounded by her lush garden on her English country property) she gathers inspiration in time spent outdoors with nature in all seasons.  She sometimes sketches details which capture her interest when walking, and gathers information concerning subject matter to develop in her studio—along with branches of seed pods, leaves, and flowers which bring nature indoors.

I feel akin to this artist, as I never never can go for a walk without bringing in something:  pine cones, some fallen nuts (even just nutshells cleaned out and abandoned by squirrels), stones, leaves, dried on the branch flowers, etc.  Our visiting great-grandchildren love to sort through my numerous stones and rocks—plus shells that I’ve collected myself on inland beaches along with gorgeous ocean shells which have been given to me by friends who spend time on ocean beaches.  Thus, after viewing the Blockley DVD a few times, the above rendering of a swamp emerged.  Like THE GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST, I have always loved swamps, and Joe and I were privileged to live overlooking a Northern Wisconsin swamp for several years.

So thanks to one more British artist, I have leaped over another incident of artist’s block and I’m re-energized—raring to go on.  My list of favorite and most inspirational water media teachers, through books and DVDs, has grown again.  The list includes one Canadian artist, one American, and four from Britain.  Those stats tell me that since the venerable art of watercolor painting (or rather watercolour) was long-ago perfected in England, we “colonists” can be eternally grateful for our heritage!!!  I know that I am!!!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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