Painting is an adventure. I started this painting almost two years ago – a somewhat abstract view through trees in early winter. I worked on it off and on all year, tinkering with the mood, the amount of snow. and, finally, the intensity of the wind. Eventually, the painting became a blizzard with white out conditions. I wasn’t sure a white whirling void was really my intent, so I put it away for a few weeks. When I returned to it, I knew the winter had to go. I couldn’t stand looking at the blizzard – so cold. I picked up a roller and started attacking the panel with yellows and grays, greens and blues. It certainly changed the mood! At some point, it struck me that I was painting a brilliant, partly cloudy sky, and at the same time the yellow shapes began to resemble blossoms. Oh dear, I thought. Where did that come from? I took out my collection of photos from the Victory Gardens and shots of my friend Christine’s garden and started to purposely paint the gestures of flowers and leaves. The painting is certainly about transitions and spring, and the joys of looking up and down. I think it also is about learning to trust intuition, letting go, and having loads of fun skiing along the edges of the roller shapes and dancing with the lines. Details below. Enjoy.
With so little snow this winter, and temperatures that feel more like March, I can’t help feeling as though spring is around the corner. Wetland Woods – Early Spring is actually more about mud season, when the ground softens up, and the air feels softer too. There’s still plenty of that white/tan old growth around, but occasionally you can glimpse a blush of yellow green or reddish pink. That, plus the open blue waters, give one’s spirit an excuse to soar. Enjoy. Details below.
Technical painting notes: I started this painting with a roll-up of blackish green and umbers mixed with violet, manipulating the wet paint with paper towels and scrapers, and spritzing the surface with solvents then blotting and re-rolling to achieve textures and blurred edges. When dry, I glazed colors over the entire surface, then began to paint in the reflected sky and brush, sometimes using a brush, sometimes a soft rubber roller. A few days of alternating brush and roller work with mainly semi-transparent colors brought the impression into focus. I wanted the painting to have strong abstract underpinnings while still bringing forth the feel of early spring wetlands (with a few crisp details). Maybe I’m becoming an abstract impressionist?
I never really know what I’ll see when I walk down to the pond, but I always know there will be something spectacular to paint. This past week, everything was glowing gold, a color that signals the end of autumn is close by. Between the trembling and falling leaves, blue sky, and a few scarlet maples hiding(?) behind the birch and willows – well – it was better than fireworks. Returning to the studio I knew I had to find a way to share the experience. Not just the facts, but the feel of all that color and the sense of being immersed in it. Autumn Afternoon at the Pond is my homage to the experience and my way of saying thank you. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: This painting on panel is all about using primarily soft rubber rollers to apply the paint in layers, intermixing a bit of brushwork for variety. I mix a group of colors, add Winsor Newton Liquin Impasto medium to help with the rolling out and drying, then just begin rolling. The paint application is thin, so that colors can blend and show through. Over the course of a few days, the layers of transparent rolling can really start to glow. I’ve found over the years that too much careful detail can interrupt the feeling of spontaneous arrival – as if we are arriving at a place with a magnifying glass. All that matters is the telling detail – the idiosyncratic moment that captures the spirit of what’s going on, and reveals some careful looking but more joy than determination.
There’s a time for drama and a time when quiet is most appreciated. Up on Bass Rocks seems to be a meditative, peaceful morning, with a view out to sea and a retreating fog bank. But in truth, if you love geology, the thrill of touching such an ancient mountain is fantastic. In some ways, the painting is about time – long, stretched out time. The ancient granite, bruised by glaciers and pummeled by the sea, is alive with crystals and abstracted by fractures. To paint it, one’s own sense of time has to slow down as well. The layers of paint and texture can’t be rushed; the tantalizing forms need to reveal themselves. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: The painting was built in layers. The first layer of paint, applied with a soft roller and crumpled (re-used) plastic film, was rough, streaky and transparent. I spattered mineral solvents on the paint and re-rolled the surface repeatedly to achieve grainy textures. I also spattered paint in places, for more depth. The opaque dots of paint contrast nicely with the open spots where the mineral spirits has left deficits of paint. When the first layer was dry, I layered transparent glazes, then painted into the wet glazes with soft brushes and more transparent color. Occasionally I applied paint with the roller, to get more interesting “accidents.” Additional layers of glaze and stippling refined the color and textures.
Wide expanses of sky and a disappearing ocean provide the subject for this large painting from Lubec, Maine. The surprise of seeing what lies beneath the water always rouses my curiosity. Rivulets and pools interspersed with ribbons of sand, slippery green algae, and peat banks form complex patterns across the nearly flat plane. A distant headland is barely visible in the encroaching fog. This is a quiet place. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to lay down a streaky layer of dark reddish brown oil paint, swished a manipulated with mineral spirits to suggest some of the textures I wanted. Later, as I worked up the details from the scene, the painting started to get too fussy, so I took out the roller again and simply re-rolled over some of the wet paint to “disturb” it. Patterns of wet paint repeated themselves as they came off the roller, creating a more interesting effect. I also rolled a semi-transparent layer of the gray/beige to suggest the sand, then let the accidents of rolling determine where the darker wet sand would be. FInal touches were highlighting the ridges of sand with more opaque paint, adding the strips of water caught between the ridges, and introducing a warm light to some of the further sand patches. Multiple grey glazes of fog pushed the horizon into the deeper distance.
Watching the Waves Come In is a long-term series that is always in development. Every time I learn something new I see what effect it will have on my little wave paintings. Or sometimes these small paintings inform my larger work. Either way, they are a delight to paint. I used to use a brush when working on them, but now it is mostly the palette knife, with more attention paid to the viscosity of the paint and the choice of paper – smooth or textured watercolor paper (primed). I look for ways to let the viscosity emulate the action of the water – more like sneaking up on the subject rather than trying to copy a moment or view. This approach, at least for me, yields more of the feel of my watery subject. It also allows for random accidents to influence the painting’s development, and life is certainly about the accidents. Enjoy.
With all the frozen blue violets of winter around me, I felt a sojourn with some camellias would offer some respite. But the colors of winter followed me into this new painting. It was refreshing to paint new forms, but the cold blue sky outside affected what I saw. So here they are, my (almost) icy camellias. You never know what will happen in the studio…details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I started the painting using a 4″ soft rubber roller to “loosely” roll a mixture of blue/black and dark green oil paints onto the panel surface. I used a silicone scraper to draw the gestures of the flowers and leaves, then spritzed the surface with mineral spirits and re-rolled (or redistributed) the paint. I used a rag to wipe out some of the lighter areas, then drew some more with the scraper. At this point, I let the painting dry thoroughly. The next day, I glazed colors onto the surface and started working with a brush and thin paint to define the forms. Alternating use of roller and brush kept it loose and provided many happy accidents. Additional glazes and painted highlights (still alternating brush and roller) adjusted the color harmonies and added unexpected light to the subject.