Water Music – Composition with White Noise

TM7891 Composition with White Noise 36×36 oil on panel

Some paintings start with one idea then morph toward more complexity. Composition with White Noise began as a close-up view into a crashing wave, and hung on the studio wall for almost two years with the working title Wave for Mark Tobey (Mark Tobey was a twentieth century American artist who created wonderfully abstract, lyrical paintings often exploring the effects of white on white marks).  Then I discovered John Cage’s “Notations” and I knew the white noise of crashing water should be nudged a bit further. The chaos of the splash could  be in contrast with the imposed order of musical notation. Enjoy!

Technical painting notes: The initial painting began with rolling dark paint onto the panel and then spritzing it with paint thinner and blotting the drops. Paper towels and folded plastic was also used to blot interesting textures into the surface. When this initial layer was dry, I started glazing and using a palette knife to develop more detail and substance.  I wanted the paint to feel like the action of a wave, so I varied the thickness of paint used and kept manipulating it with crumpled plastic and even a brush. over several days, the surface slowly lightened in color and developed more sense of depth. I continued to glaze and splash and splash thin paint onto the surface. When it was dry, I hung it on the studio wall to think about the results.

Two years later, new idea!  I hauled out my t-square and a soft sharp pencil and started drawing the staffs, letting them appear and disappear. I sealed the pencil with white and gray glaze, slightly obscuring the lines in some places. I then accented some of the droplets and splashed various colors of additional paint around the staffs. When that was dry, I added glazes of blue-gray and pale beige, then more defined “notes” on the staffs and escaping the staffs. A few more layers of glaze and it was done. The painting now spoke of water, white noise, and the music we love to hear when we’re near the ocean.

TM7891 detail 1 – close up of lower musical staffs with notes/droplets

Detail of musical fragment from upper right center

Detail showing layered paint, with droplets and notes hovering in the vicinity of musical staffs

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