Details built into patterns are at the core of each painting. Naturalistic detail forms the vocabulary (leaves, duckweed, stones, clouds, and sometimes frogs, fish, and birds) while juxtaposition determines the degree of abstraction or realism in each painting. The more closely I look, the more abstract the patterns become. Similarly, swirls of pollen and duckweed on a pond’s surface can feel abstract, even when the sun is casting clearly defined shadows across the surface, and the surrounding woods can be inferred in the leafy, dancing shapes in the shadows. I see realism and abstraction as points on the axis of proximity.
I work to master the accidents that are possible when techniques collide. My early study of printmaking, then watercolor, and finally oil painting opened me to new ways of seeing and recording the natural world. I let the medium inform the approach and final result. I know it is at the intersection of these three mediums that my best impulses reveal themselves.
The landscapes and seascapes are layered events, and so are my paintings. The first layer, based on monoprint techniques, uses a soft rubber roller and thinned oil paint to set a value pattern and textures evocative of my subject. At this stage, I am interested in strong contrasts and bold “accidents.” I push the wet paint around with scraps of plastic bags, spritz with solvents, blot, blur, re-roll, wipe and scrape in defining lines. I use anything at hand to create an interesting abstract pattern, one that is sympathetic to my subject.
When the underpainting is dry, I use oil glazes to modulate the color, then bring into focus the major shapes using soft watercolor brushes and primarily transparent or semi-transparent pigments. Sometimes I use soft rubber rollers to apply and distribute the color. I look at the patterns in nature and seek to interweave that information with the abstract gestures found in the first layer of paint. It’s a question of balance – letting the underpainting integrate with facts in a respectful way. Successive weeks, or months, of painting, drying, glazing, and more drying yield a painting. That painting is successful, for me, when all the senses are imaginatively engaged – touch, smell, sound, and memory – and the world beyond the painting also feels present. I delight in attending to every square inch of the painting, making sure that there are delightful surprises for the viewer whether they are scrutinizing the surface from five inches away or from the end of a long hallway.
Low tide can ebb a goodly distance, enough to make one almost think about walking on water…or maybe not. But there is something profound about the simplest things – air, land, water and the space between. Teri Malo