32 Degrees

32 Degrees 40×36 oil on panel

Water, that elusive substance that changes form so mysteriously. 32 Degrees is about the time in autumn when temperatures keep hovering around the freezing point. As you watch the pond’s surface you can see the film of ice grow, though when it is thin enough it still behaves more like a fluid, even bending with the wind’s ripples. Sometimes there are strips of thin ice interwoven with open water, and you have to wonder how and why? Not only is it strangely mysterious, it is also incredibly beautiful. In October, with warm colors still around, the pondly reflections and crystalline surfaces become magical. Who could not be inspired? Details below. Enjoy.

TM9660 32 Degrees – detail from upper center with reflections and ice forming
TM9660 32 Degrees – detail from right side with reflections and leaves catching in the freezing water

Technical painting notes: Knowing that this painting would be about thin ice overlaying a pond with reflections, I started with a bold underpainitng, using blackish browns to strongly indicate the major tree trunk reflections and massing branches. I wanted lots of texture to suggest leaves and debris in the reflections, so I manipulated the wet paint with my silicone scraper and drips of solvent. I used a narrow roller to draw some of the branches. With a solid lay-in, I let the paint dry. Coming back later, I glazed color onto the panel and started painting the negative spaces of the sky, working intuitively to create interesting patterns. Modelling the major branches with highlights, and using a 1/4″ roller to add more branches, provided the density of tangle I wanted. When this layer was dry, I used fairly transparent gray-blue or warm gray rolled glazes to control the ice film, then went back and color corrected some areas, adjusting values in other areas.

Poem in the Woods

TM9659 Poem in the Woods 36×48 oil on panel

Early April is full of the promise of spring but still has its starker aspects, like dark shadows and the brisk, cobalt blue of newly melted water. The strengthening sun lends some warmth, as shown in Poem in the Woods. Last year’s wetland grasses are just below the surface, though one or two blades are waking up. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9659 Poem in the Woods – detail from left of center
TM9659 Poem in the Woods – detail from lower right
TM9659 Poem in the Woods – detail from lower center with emerging blade of grass

Technical painting notes: It was the grasses just below the surface of the water that inspired Poem in the Woods, and at first, I thought they might form an all-over pattern. I blocked in the vertical tree reflections and drew dozens of the sword-like grass shapes laying horizontally across the surface, As I worked up the details and color harmonies, it felt too busy. April is about anticipation; too many details can obscure the imaginative leap that April requires. Emphasizing the shadows and sunlight with repeating rolls of fairly transparent color broke up the grass blades and submerged them, which is closer to the actual condition of grasses below the surface of the water. Accenting just a few blades where I needed a shot of color worked.

A Slice of the Pond

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

The title says it all. It’s about looking at slices of the pond and focusing on the abstract relationships. In this case, a pattern of blue sky and cumulous clouds underneath emerging duckweed and reflections of scrub along the pond edge. Spring is fully here, finally. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower left

A Deeper Look

TM8494 A Deeper Look 30×54 oil on panel

Studying the pond, I am constantly surprised by what I see. This time it’s the reflections of cumulous clouds underlaying reflections of stalks and other growth, then superimposed with emerging duckweed. It all seems so abstract and unreal, but it is there. So are the seasons – new growth next to last year’s floating leaves. Each day brings its own presence. Detail below. Enjoy.

TM8494 A Deeper Look – detail from lower left

Technical painting notes: This painting was begun using monoprint techniques on a primed and sanded panel. Thinned, dark oil paint, applied loosely with a soft rubber roller was then manipulated with solvents (streaked, spritzed, etc.) to achieve a textured and interesting base. Next came transparent glazes, then wet into wet brushwork to define major sky areas and bring out the detail in the reflected vegetation and stalks. Once this layer was dry, additional layers of detail work brought the “place” into focus. I used thinned applications of semi-transparent paint applied with the roller to bridge some of the masses. THe floating leaves were last, scraping out the center veins with a silicone scraper.

Ode to a November Pond

TM9658 Ode to a November Pond 36×40 oil on panel

November is a dark month at my pond. Everything goes silent, the days shorten, and films of ice form and reform on the water, obscuring and blurring both reflections and the mysterious shapes beneath the surface. I love the quiet colors of November and the mood of introspection. Even the pond seems to be looking within. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9658 Ode to a November Pond – detail from upper edge
TM9658 Ode to a November Pond – detail from lower edge

Technical painting notes: The painting is based on sketches and photographs from the site, but once the painting was underway, I let my intuition and memory lead. The accidental dark shapes and textures on the base layer (achieved using monoprint techniques) were so interesting I decided not to bury them under leaves. The pond revealed itself through the process of painting – who am I to interfere?

Frozen

TM9655 Frozen 30×36 oil on panel

The rapid cycling last winter between frigid temperatures and thaws produced incredible patterns on the pond. I did many photographic and oil studies of the ice as it melted and reformed, embracing and embedding leaves in its surface. The results are both terribly abstract and exactingly realistic – a hybrid condition that I love. The painting was constructed using many techniques, starting with monoprint-based rolls of thin, dark paint which were spritzed with solvents, re-rolled, scratched and wiped into, then glazed. I was looking for a few bold, dark shapes that would anchor the composition – dark enough to glow through the later layers of transparent ice. The base layer also set the ground of textures. Details suggesting leaves were developed with soft brushes; additional glazes introduced more color. While the paint was wet, I used a roller loaded with transparent soft grays, off whites, and blues to subdue the detail and suggest the ice layers. A few final edges were delineated with more brushwork, layered spatter, then more rolls. The process was partly intuitive, partly based on myriad photos and studies. In many ways, the painting has a strong kinship with pattern painting. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9655 Frozen – detail from center bottom
TM9655 Detail showing ice forming at center
TM9655 Frozen – detail from lower right side

Spring Reaches the Pond

TM9657 Spring Reaches the Pond 30×40 oil on panel

April seems so slow to arrive, then suddenly the pond is filling with movement and sound. Daily, I see something new to paint and share. Enjoy. Details below.

TM9657 Spring Reaches the Pond – detail from upper left
TM9657 Spring Reaches the Pond – detail from lower left
TM9657 Spring Reaches the Pond – detail from upper right

Vernal Pool – Tadpole Hatch

TM9656 Vernal Pool – Tadpole Hatch 3ox30 oil on panel

I’ve been hanging out watching vernal pools, a favorite spring activity of mine. So much is happening below the surface. This painting is based on a vernal pool in Concord, Massachusetts shortly after a tadpole hatch. The little swimmers are darting all over the pond agitating the water. So cool. Detail below.

TM9656 Vernal Pool – Tadpole Hatch – detail

Fenway Open Studios April 30 and May 1, 30 Ipswich Street in Boston, Massachusetts I will beopen noon to 5pm both days. Masks needed to visit studios, plus an outdoor tented exhibit, bands, ice-cream truck, and grand opening of the non-profit Fenway Gallery. Hope to see you!