The painting started as an afternoon view from the pond, with tree reflections. Except that as I worked on the image over the summer, the water level kept dropping. When we finally did have a dark deluge in late September, I dashed to the pond to see the changes. This is what I found. Moist mud, slick with its new sheen, and deep shadows. I also found a gorgeous frog, who watched as I took photos of the mud. He didn’t jump away. In fact, he seemed to be posing. I slowly aimed my camera and took his picture. He stayed. I closed in for another shot. He stayed. I was able to hone in on a close portrait. And he stayed! At least until a dog, joyous to be out in the woods with its master, decided to do a belly flop into the mud. My prince left, as did I. Details below.
Technical painting notes: When I went back to the studio with my new photos and impressions, the original painting no longer satisfied me. I wanted to paint my prince. I also wanted to embrace the challenge of finding an interesting way to paint mud late on a September afternoon. At first, I merely added my froggy. But the result felt forced, and stiff. Frogs aren’t static, and neither is their environment. I needed to find a way to imply movement and the deeper colors of dusk descending. I took a plastic bag, dipped it in a dark blue/black/green paint (mixed with Liquin alkyd medium and mineral spirits) and streaked it across the surface. Not bad, so I continued until the entire surface was covered with big, sweeping streaks. I dripped more solvent onto the surface and blotted, then used a rubber roller to redistribute some of the “spots.” Another pass with the plastic streaking added more movement while keeping most of the droplets from the mineral spirits. The colors showing through the streaky paint were between colors – not quite green or red or yellow, but muted.
I let the paint layer dry, then went back in with a soft brush and thin paint to define the pattern of light and sheen. More leaves were added. the frog was developed further, then glazes were applied. I played with violet glazes and ultramarine glazes, letting some of the leaves “sink.” After a couple of weeks of glazing and repainting highlights, the painting’s surface was richly colored yet still muted. Final adjustments to froggy completed the painting.
Note: Some of you may have noticed the painting (and post’s) name change. The working title was “Froggy Bottoms”, a reference to the swampy wetland conditions at the pond and the strong frog population that facinates me every time I visit. “Night Falls – My Prince” replaced the working title temporarily. But it seemed too staid – too obvious. “Froggy Bottoms (My Prince)” says it all, and all is enough. Fini.