The energy of May is astounding. You can hear the songs of peepers, frogs, the melodic chirps of birds, the lilting sound of water rippling through the wetlands. Then there is all that green sprouting and budding. The mix of sounds is spontaneous and jazz-like, which is why Singing May is composed with layers of color and rhythm built over a loose and spontaneously gestural base layer. The images and details are both felt and remembered, based on dozens of photos and an intense familiarity with the place. The paintings are also a way of extending my time in the woods, a way to take it home with me and play with it. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I’ve painted several versions of late May at Hamlen Woods, exploring different approaches. With Singing May, I wanted to emphasize the energetic and musical quality of the season. The first day’s work established textures, staccato rhythms, and basic values, setting up the framework for further work. I used soft rubber rollers and thinned oil paint.
When the base layer was dry, I glazed with transparent color, establishing the primary blue and green areas. From there, I began refining the reflected blues and whites of the sky, then pulling out details of the various greens (warm to cool, light to dark). I tried to keep as much of the accidental quality as possible, taking advantage of the accidents that occur with solvents and re-rolling. With the basic colors down, I added complements of orange and violet seen in the reflections, and used brushes and narrow rollers to paint the reflected branches. The ripples were added using brush and roller.
The final day’s work included strengthening lights and darks, adding highlights to the emerging grasses, and working up more contrasts of warm and cool.