Notes from the Garden – Clematis

TM9664 Notes from the Garden – Clematis 18×30 oil on panel

My dog Boo and I take copious walks around our neighborhood, but one of our most favorite is the walk to the Victory Gardens. Established during the Second World War, the gardens were created to help feed the population during wartime. Now, run by local volunteers, the gardens are still thriving with many more flowers and perennials, along with herbs and vegetables. There are demonstration plots for teaching purposes and a handicap-accessible garden with growing beds on higher benches. Boo knows where to find his friends with water bowls and treats, I know where to find choice opportunities for painting subjects and a chat with friends. Details below. Enjoy.

TM9664 Notes from the Garden – Clematis – detail from left side
TM9664 Notesfrom the Garden – Clematis — detail from center
TM9664 Notes from the Garden – Clematis – detail showing use of layered roller strokes

Technical painting notes: I used Speedball soft rubber rollers to apply the first blocking-in of forms and colors, switched to soft brushes to develop details, then went back to rollers and mostly transparent pigments to finish the painting. Going back and forth between roller and brush introduces some chance effects that work well to suggest movement and the feel of air moving around the subject. Below is a photo showing the result of the first day’s work.

TM9664 Notes from the Garden – Clematis – showing the result of first day’ of blocking in masses and colors with the roller

As I worked on the painting, I found the need to add a hint of the chicken wire fence behind the clematis. The geometric linework contrasted in a subtle way with the organic shapes. One of the things I love about the Victory Gardens is the way everything overlaps, due to the tight quarters.

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 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?


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 Finds a Way

TM9642 Spring Finds a Way 42×48 oil on panel

Toward the end of winter, I find myself craving the bright, almost neon yellow greens of spring. It’s the desire for life and all its energy. This meadow reaching toward the woods is based on memory, invention, and that uncontrolled desire for green. I want to run into that soft grass and do zoomies, just like my dog. Here’s to life! Details below.

TM9642 Spring Finds a Way – detail from field edge
TM9642 Spring Finds a Way – detail from left side

Technical painting notes: The panel was first covered with a wash of warm sienna and a thinned napthol red/sienna mixture with some spatter texture. Once dry, I used a dark greenish black mixture thinned with oil and mineral spirits to roll in the major shapes of dark woodland, scraping out the tree, branch and deadwood shapes. Later work with rollers and brushes defined the grasses and vines. I used the edge of the roller to “draw” fine lines. Interweaving glazes and highlights brought a bit more luminosity to the painting.

One White Cloud

(SOLD) TM9631 One White Cloud 36×44 oil on panel

There are times when I almost can’t believe the day is real, as if all the best of something magical has landed at my feet and I’m afraid to look too closely for fear it will disappear. One White Cloud is from such a day. I thought I would be painting a woodland pond filled with dark tree reflections and an overcast sky, but going to the studio I happened upon a blue sky, wildflowers, and one innocent white cloud reflected in the pond. That changed everything, and this painting resulted. You never know……enjoy. Details below.

TM9631 One White Cloud – detail from upper right
TM9631 One White Cloud – detail from center with small, yellow bladderwort wildflowers
TM9631 One White Cloud – detail showing reflections with overlay of duckweed

Technical painting notes: I used a roll-up of dark greenish black, thinned oil paint for a base, then wiped and scraped away paint to reveal the basic patterns of light and dark. When this layer was dry, I glazed some color and, while the glaze was wet, began defining more detail. The painting proceeded by alternating detailed brush painting with the use of a roller to subdue areas and smudge edges. Some patterns of reflection were completely the result of “dancing” the soft rubber roller over the surface.