Poem from the Shallows looks at the sudden, rapid growth of spring grasses along the shallowest edges of the pond. It is also part of a long tradition of grass painting. I first encountered fabulous screen paintings of grasses in books purchased at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Later, as I explored their collection, I discovered the zen qualities inherent in the paintings – a sense of intense focus until time is suspended, the presence of boldness and fragility, the contrast of open space and dense growth, the gestures of striving….enough for a lifetime of study, and painting. Poem from the Shallows follows the painting Stream Currents in my ongoing attempt to paint my own interpretation of the essential grass painting. Of course I realize there is no one essential painting of anything, only the series that charts the attempt. And I love making the attempt. Enjoy. Details below.
Technical painting notes: I started the painting with a roll-up of dark blue-black and brownish oil paints, as if beginning a monotype. Using a silicone scraper, I “drew” the gestures of grasses and wiped out some areas of light. Spattering solvent on the wet ink, and selectively blotting it away, left an interesting surface reminiscent of a pond in May. When the paint was thoroughly dry, I repeatedly glazed the surface, building up blues and green. Some of the blades of grass were highlighted with more opaque paint. I also rolled on a film of pale blue-gray mixed with an alkyd medium, then scraped away ripple marks to enliven the surface. Additional indications of ripples were painted when the surface was dry, then glazed. I also layered various blue and grey spatters to suggest light reflecting off pollen. FInally, I added the floating leaves to suggest horizontal movement in contrast to vertical growth, and to establish the flat plane. The cool red petals drifting across the lower center of the painting, though tiny, balance the warmer rust and orange of light glancing through the water and illuminating the bottom of the pond. Additional modifying glazes of warm and cool blue balanced the ooverall color.