Posts Tagged ‘Watercolors’

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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Ex 4

Ex 2

Ex 3

EX 1.jpg

Years ago I giggled when I heard of art instructors telling workshop participants:  “The paper is talking.  Listen to the paper!”  But now, in my eleventh year of art-making and experimenting with different watercolor grounds, I no longer giggle.  Paper talks!  Paper says different things about the paints and techniques applied.  For a fun demonstration of this fact, I did an almost identical landscape on the above four papers using identical techniques, with a slight variation in my DaVinci artist grade* colors.

First, I applied clear water to a wide horizontal strip at the top, and a smaller swath on the bottom—leaving a dry streak between the wetted areas.  Then the top wetted strips were washed with blends of phalo and French ultramarine blues—and the sky areas were sprinkled with Kosher salt.  Avoiding the dry parts, I added color to the dampened below sections:  red, green, gold, and a bit of blue—while, as always, letting the paints mingle on the papers rather than on my palette.  On each piece, I pressed plastic food wrap onto the bottom area while the paint was still wet.

The papers represented are, from top to bottom:  1) Yupo paper with its especially unique voice, particularly in the way it talks back to applications of plastic wrap; Numbers 2) and 3) 140lb sketching pad paper—American Journey available online at CHEAP JOE’S, and Canson available at many chain craft stores; and 4) Arches 140lb cold press paper by the sheet, available at online art stores (and neighborhood fine art stores, if you have one.)  (Arches is pronounced “Arshe”.  Remember it’s French, and I may scream if you pronounce it like those golden thing-a-ma-jiggies on the MacDonald’s fast food signs!)

Yupo has no tooth whatsoever; rather it has a shiny, slippery surface so it will always make it’s own statement, without even trying to imitate.  You may notice a smoothness because of a lack of tooth on the 2 middle papers as well:  the sketch pad papers.  Also, note that on the 2nd of the smooth-surfaced sketch pad papers the food wrap film caused the paint to slide up and nearly obscure the strip which I had left white and dry.

The Arches 140lb cold press displays more texture around the salt, and somewhat more under the plastic film, due to the presence of tooth.  And on the Arches sample there is a charming bit of “cauliflowering” where wet paint has oozed into the dry area, also caused by tooth.

(Cauliflowers will normally be very prominent on paintings where wet colors collide on Arches 140lb cold press and comparable fine papers—especially when freshly painted strokes touch not-yet-dry parts.  Traditional watercolorists will practically do headstands to avoid cauliflowers, while I perform similar gymnastics just to make sure that I create and preserve them!  “Different strokes for different folks!”)

Different papers have different stories to tell.  By listening (LOOKING!) you can begin to ascertain what more you might want to add or change to complete the work, or do alternatively on another kind of paper.  In the above cases, done mainly for the purpose of illustrating variations in papers, I have done nothing more to any of the samples.

Margaret L. Been —  April, 2017

*My husband and I are blessed with many great-grandchildren.  (Dare I brag?  Well, I’m going to:  we are blessed with 18 of them—so far!)  Frequently, we have art days at our dining room table; what a delight!  Although I sometimes let the very young children slosh around on the economical sketch pad 140lb papers before launching into the high quality “Arshe” sheets which I nearly always use for my own finished work, I am terribly fussy about 2 aspects of art for all ages:  good brushes and artist grade paints.  No matter how young the beginner, good quality brushes and paints are essential.  Poor quality yields disappointing results, and the potential future joy in a pastime of art-making is not to jeopardized:  not at my table!!!

And that’s no April Fool!

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No, I haven’t been lazy since the last entry.  But most recent renderings have been too large to put through my scanner—like 16″ x 20″ and 20″ x 24″.  Large paintings can be photographed, but that never works for me as well as a scan.

Featured above are a couple of little guys that I’ve sandwiched in between the biggies.  In the top painting, the watery effect was achieved with thinned white gouache drifted randomly over the rocks.  The second painting was experimental, with lots of goopy gesso topped with acrylic bead gel.  When the gesso and gel were thoroughly dry, paint was added to drizzle and drip on the textured ground.

Meanwhile, I currently have a hole in my head.  Maybe that’s not so funny as it sounds, but HEY!  Let’s laugh.  Arthritis is the creator of a one centimeter gap, causing (GOOGLE this one!) a diagnosis of Atlanto Axial Instability.  In plain talk, I’m a BOBBLEHEAD—the treatment of which, at this stage and perhaps in lieu of surgery, is a very fashionable neck/head brace fitted for me at our local Hanger Clinic.

The pleasant young man who fitted the brace commented that I have a long neck.  Then he chuckled when I shared that my maiden name is “Longenecker”.  I doubt very much that he caught the double entendre cached in my name; he is too young.  Had he fully grasped the joke, his chuckle might have been a guffaw.  Moreover, unless you readers have connections with the 1930s and 40s you may not realize that once upon a time the word “neck” was a verb as well as a noun—with “necking” being an active, enjoyable present participle!  🙂

Grammar and vintage fun aside, my brace is downright elegant.  With a red tint in my hair, I look something like Queen Elizabeth the First.  So what in the world does this stream of consciousness wandering have to do with art?  Namely, this:  for years I’ve painted standing up, with my head bending over a waist high table.  Now that I’m de-bobbled by a neck brace, this position is no longer comfortable.  When the head falls forward and down, I feel more like Elizabeth the First’s motherthe Unfortunate Anne.

I refuse to stop painting, so what to do?  Joe and I cuddled on the couch with my I-Pad, and scrolled down pages of standing easels.  Unanimously we concluded that spending an arm and a leg just to accommodate my compromised head would be stupid.

Then suddenly a light went on in said head:  my sturdy, adjustable music stand.  Although my violin retired from active duty years ago, the music stand has continually served in the capacity of displaying art.  Now the music stand has morphed into a standing easel.

Voila!  There’s always a way to make minor adjustments—even major ones when needed.  Life is GOOD!  🙂


Margaret L. Been — November 20th, 2016

NOTE:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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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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Flowers in End of Day Glass Vase

The above, “Flowers in An End of the Day Glass Vase” was too large (matted to a 16 x 20 outside mat size) to scan, so I had to prop it on a chair and photograph the painting.  The painting is a combination of watercolor and gouache (love that stuff!) on YUPO® paper—a synthetic, polypropylene surface.

Normally on YUPO, I begin with no idea in mind.  I simply wet the paper, dump paint, and watch the happenings develop.  The subject often presents itself and I go from there.  Even if no pictures appear in the paint, something triggers a memory in my head and voilà:  there is the subject with a title. 

Here, however, I sat down to paint with Flowers in An End of the Day Glass Vase in mind.  I love art glass, especially that made by the American glass companies of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Indiana in the glory days of 19th and early 20th century glass production.* 

In the industries, End of the Day glass was a composite of left over blobs of gathers (those molten mixtures of sand and whatever in the ovens) literally at the end of the day.  These gathers were combined to make one-of-a-kind creations—mottled and streaked with a plethora of colors.

Since I’m frequently tired at the end of the day, that is a perfect time to paint Flowers in An End of the Day Glass Vase!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

* Sadly, people no longer linger much over beautifully appointed, at-home dinner tables!  Elegant home dining is something I grew up with, and have continued to celebrate—but few bother anymore.  Hence, our superior American glass makers have dwindled.  The last one to hold out is Fenton—the only company, as far as I know, to remain in a family for its history—beginning in 1905. 

Beset by financial issues due to the abysmal decline of American elegance and its subsequent dirth of markets for art glass, the Fenton Company has struggled and struggled again, to subsist and continue.  The continuance of a glass industry is a strange thing to pray for, but sometimes I do pray for odd things—especially traditions that say a lot because of their implicit quality of life.  🙂

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Ever since beginning this wonderful pastime of painting, I’ve tried to keep raising the proverbial bar.  Every book I read—as well as every DVD I view—by an inspiring artist provides more to consider and new ideas to try.  I admit that some experiments bomb out, but hey!  We learn from mistakes, right? 

Invariably the second experiment with a new idea (technique, method, material, focus, etc.) works better than the first.  When the new idea involves some of my favorite things, you can be sure I’ll persist until I’m reasonably pleased with the outcome.  Thus, I’m currently in the midst of an ever-expanding series of “Birches”—which are definitely among my favorite things.

A fascination with this delightful way to create a representation of birch trees was sparked via the DVD, A LITTLE WATERCOLOUR, by Canadian artist, Karin Huehold.  This DVD is truly awesome, and I recommend it to anyone (beginning or seasoned) who loves to render natural landscapes in watercolor.

In her DVD, Karin Huehold demonstrates cutting a 22″ x 30″ sheet of 140 lb. watercolor paper in 72 tiny segments in which she illustrates a variety of methods for painting landscapes—lakes, mountains, fields, woods, rivers, the aurora borealis, etc.—as well as abstract designs.  Karin encourages learning in this way.  Nothing is lost when experimenting on a small segment of paper, and when we have built our confidence we can progress to larger pictures.

Hence, my birches—courtesy of Karin Huehold’s technique.  For starters, I covered the areas which would be tree forms (trunks and branches) with masking tape burnished securely onto the paper.  (Although I have used the tan masking tape sold in office supply stores, in the above instances I used painters’ blue tape.  Due to the width of this tape and its fine texture, I can easily cut contours in the trees and curvilinear branches, all of which are not so stylistic and rigid as birches from standard masking tape.)

Next I dampened the upper 2/3rds of the paper—leaving the bottom section dry for achieving a dry-brushed, textured look of ground or snow.  Then I charged several colors into the areas around the tree trunks and branches, varying the hues from bright to more somber and letting the paints bleed and diffuse into each other.  I love this kind of movement and contrast in a painting, and it seems that I never get exactly the same shades twice.  There is always the excitement of variety!

When the paint was dry, I removed the painters’ tape to expose the preserved white areas.  Finally, I dabbed color into the branches and trunks, not only with watercolors but with my watersoluble ink pencils as well.  Any texture you see in the trees was formed by the pencils.  (For the idea of combining watersoluble ink, watersoluble colored pencils, and watersoluble crayons with paint, I have British artist Shirley Trevena to thank.)  

The techniques employed in the above paintings are so easy, so incredibly fun to do, that quite assuredly “a kid could do them”.  And I plan to share the joy of the birches soon, with kids of all ages!

Meanwhile, like Monet and his beloved waterlilies and haystacks, I may continue with the birches indefinitely!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2012

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