Poem in the Woods is from an afternoon ramble through woodsy swampland. Yes, the ground is spongy, and there are lots of switchbacks when the way is blocked by water that’s too deep, but the the rewards of experiencing the reflected world are worth the slight inconveniences. I love the various dimensions, sky reflections, tree reflections, the leaves floating on the surface of this shallow water….it feels a bit unearthly and yet at the same time so deeply of the earth. Enjoy. Details below.
You can be driving along and suddenly a particular stand of trees catches your attention. This stand of pines, mostly young, reminds me of pictures taken at family reunions, with everyone crowding in and the children in front. While I may not be a portrait artist, I couldn’t resist painting this family. Enjoy.
It was supposed to be a painting
of morning, but when that failed
I reached for indigo, color of night
and obscurity, for when I have
to listen. At night only sounds matter,
their soft edges rippling the water,
their notes reflecting like light.
April brings crystal clear water back to the pond, and a few pine and deciduous trees are boldly mirrored in the water. They haven’t seen themselves in a long time. I can’t help wondering what it would feel like to see oneself for the first time after the harshness of winter. So many broken limbs! What I see are survivors, and the possibility of regrowth and repair, all framed by blue skies and a couple of soft white clouds. There is a slight breeze riffling the water, and the air is filled with promise. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I treated the blank, primed panel like a monoprint plate, rolling thinned oil paint on the surface then manipulating it with solvent, scrapers, paper towels, and assorted “texturizers.” The goal was to achieve rich darks and a range of textures that could “show through” the later layers of paint and glaze. When this first layer was dry, I proceeded to refine the gestures and forms with brushwork, thinking of the sky as negative space to be painted, revealing the forms of the trees. I also used soft nylon brushes to delineate some of the branches. Some branches were revealed through scraping out their forms. After substantially defining all the forms and establishing values and color, I used fairly transparent rolls of oil paint (applied with a soft rubber roller) to unify and soften the feel of the scene, using the roller and short brush strokes to describe the riffles on the water.
A few record-setting warm days last week prompted me to bring out a painting that has been in the works for a while. Based on my delight and sense of wonder whenever I am in the presence of trees, this painting delves into the canopy (again) and ponders what we hear as well as see – the music of trees rustling is present, as is the sense of a community of leaves, each leaf bearing its own song, its own secrets. I imagine all these songs being carried off with the wind. So public. Such open secrets. There is so much we need to learn about trees, their inner life, there deep connection to our own existence. The solace and joy they offer us. Details below. Enjoy
Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to layer dark oil paint onto the surface of the panel, blocking in the pattern of darks and lights and trying to achieve some interesting textures and roller strokes. When dry, I worked up the pattern of leaves, branches, stems, and sky with soft brushes, exaggerating value contrasts with the intent of covering this stage with multiple rolls of fairly transparent oil color glazes. Days of rolling and rerolling wet glazes produced the soft focus I was hoping for, and helped to suggest both movement and the mysterious life of the leaves. Highlighting a few areas with additional brushwork completed the painting.
Late winter can seem so devoid of color, but then one warm day brings a melt, and suddenly that crisp blue sky and reflecting water reveal the poetry of the season. The dried winter grasses along the pond edge seem to dance in the breeze, and a hint of green hovers in the water – where from? I hardly know, but it feels like magic. First Signs is about early spring and its energy. I invite you to join me on this extended walk along the pond path. Enjoy. Details below.
March is a strange month – full of bluster and cold, while at the same time offering glimpses of warmth. Colors are muted, but the varieties of ice can be amazing as ponds and creeks go through cycles of freezing and thawing. Meltwater Season is mostly about the scrims of ice vying with passages of open water, ice floes below the surface, frozen bubbles and air pockets, and the frame of snow and ice retreating along the shore of this glorious in-between season. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I developed the painting in layers, starting with rolls of deep browns and blueish grays. These were followed by some intricate brush work to describe underlying vegetation – which was followed up with more roller work with semi-transparent paint to “bury” the details under snow and ice. Below is the painting at mid-stage in development.
My winter walks in the woods provide a complex feast of interlocking bare branches and tangled vines, all partially adorned with ice or snow. Painting the wild exuberance of all that rhythm can be intimidating. Studies and smaller paintings can help the process, but sometimes it’s a leap of faith that’s required. So dive I must, wielding multiple rollers and a few brushes loaded with paint. It is an invigorating way to paint. I think the result does describe the woods and season I love. Details below.