October’s many moods include the soft, warm glow of an early morning at the pond. The duckweed lingers, and there’s a subtle hint of sheen on the water from the previous night’s first dip below freezing. A few leaves are falling and floating, reminders of autumn’s transience. Details and technical painting notes below.
Technical painting notes: The painting began with a roll-up of siennas which were wiped, sprayed, and scraped into – all part of capturing the gesture of the place while allowing “happy” accidents to occur. Process continued to dominate, and the painting went through many changes on the way to its present form. The initial idea of a very calm, autumn morning, with reflections and a hint of sheen on the water, and with references to Mark Rothko’s hovering bands of color field painting, remained my operative concept. However, as I worked on the painting I became enthralled with the abstract patterns of the tree limbs reflected in the water. I played with scraping them out, painting them in, and adding extra crosshatched lines. I also played with the color, going for a more brilliant orange tonality, rather than the gold/green hues of the actual day. One thing about a New England October – the reds and oranges will always catch up and surpass the green – golds. I also wanted to contrast the hints of greenish duckweed with a complementary color from the red side of the color wheel. Of course, after two days painting in greenish duckweed the painting looked flat and too “orange-green. I wished the painting a good night and left the studio, hoping that the next morning it would look better. It didn’t. The dominance of the two colors – orange and green – needed to be modified. I mixed three blue glazes, light to dark in value (with the darkest having a touch of violet in it), and began at the top applying layers of the palest blue glaze with a watercolor brush. I tried to vary the density of the glaze so that the underpainting would show through, much as I remembered the hint of freeze on the water softening the outlines and colors of the reflections below. As I moved down the panel, I used darker glazes. Later, while the glaze was wet, I used a silicone scraper to remove marks of glaze. This had the effect of keeping the quiet areas interesting under close scrutiny. I also went back and added a few subtle ripples to suggest a hint of a breeze. Lastly, I added the falling leaves with their hints of shadow. All in all, the painting kept going back and forth between total abstraction and a quite real representation of a specific time of year.